Check out the newest Forbes Group publication in the Journal of Geoscience Education, led by masters student Holly White, which reports findings from a study of 7th-grade students use of the Hydrogeology Challenge to investigate groundwater. The study focuses on how students map elements of the HGC onto real-world, groundwater-related phenomena to reason about groundwater flow in the context of a groundwater contamination scenario. This research, undertaken as part of the WELS2 project, was made possible by a partnership with the Groundwater Foundation and teachers participating in a multi-year teacher professional development program focused on water education.
For the past 4 years, with support from the NSF and now USDA-NIFA, we have developed and offered (annually) a new interdisciplinary, introductory-level undergraduate water course for UNL students – Water in Society (SCIL 109). The 109 course is highly innovative and touches on many of today’s most pressing water-related challenges in Nebraska and beyond. Now, through through the Big Ten Academic Alliance Online Course Sharing Program and Nebraska Now programs, we are excited to be able to offer an online version of this course to undergraduate students from other institutions and upper-level high school students in spring, 2021. Through Nebraska Now, current high school students are able to enroll in the course for a significantly reduced tuition rate ($330) and, if they receive a B or better, will be eligible for a $1000 merit-based scholarship to UNL. Completion of the Water in Society course will also help students meet UNL undergraduate general education requirements (either ACE 4 or 8). As part of BTTA, undergraduate students at Indiana University, the University of Maryland, Michigan State University, Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, and Rutgers University-New Brunswick may enroll in this UNL-based course with all associated tuition and fees waived. In spring, 2021, the 109 course will be 100% online and asynchronous, giving students maximum flexibility to complete the course at their own pace from anywhere with support from a fantastic instructional team.
New funding from a USDA-NIFA C1 Higher Education Challenge grant (grant no. 2020-70003-30928/project accession no. 1021842) will provide continued support for the WELL project, SCIL 109, and our team’s work in undergraduate education. Over the next 3 years, in collaboration with a team from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette led by Emad Habib, we will develop, implement, and evaluate a new undergraduate curriculum module grounded in an innovative, online, data-driven tool – HydroViz – through which undergraduate students use national water datasets to explore, explain, reason, and make decisions about contemporary socio-hydrological challenges in the Food-Energy-Water-Nexus (FEW-Nexus). The pilot-tested, research-based instructional module will then be disseminated to undergraduate instructors nationwide (Year 3) in the form of faculty development workshops, designed around core tenets of effective undergraduate STEM instruction, to support their implementation of these new resources in their own undergraduate courses. The new USDA-NIFA funding reflects the next phase of our ongoing work supporting undergraduate students socio-hydrologic reasoning through the use of data-driven, computer-based water systems modeling tools as a core feature of the SCIL 109 course. Check out the SNR media release about the new project!
Congrats to current doctoral student Diane Lally on publication of WELL project research from the SCIL 109 course. In this study, Diane investigated undergraduate students’ use and evaluation of a data-driven, computer-based modeling tools developed by Co-PI, course co-instructor, and SNR colleague Trenton Franz. The study, which compares student outcomes over the 1st and 2nd year of the course, also provides evidence for the impact of ongoing course refinement we have been engaged in over time as part of the project. The study adds to a growing number of publications from our project work with the 109 course, as well as broader efforts within my research group focused on model-based teaching and learning. It’s great to have empirical evidence in support of our team’s hard work on the 109 course over the last 3 years and kudos to Diane for her significant contributions to this work!
The final, capstone study from the MoHSES project has been published in the May issue of the Journal of Research in Science Teaching. This comparative research investigates the implementation and 3rd-grade students’ model-based learning associated with two versions of the FOSS Water unit. The study provides evidence that students experiencing the project-developed, model-based version of the curriculum showed greater gains in their model-based explanations for water-related phenomena than did students experiencing the standard version of the unit. These findings reflect many years of hard, collaborative work with truly amazing elementary teachers to develop effective resources to support model-based science teaching and learning. This manuscript was a significant team effort that I am very pleased to see in print.
Congrats to former Masters student and WELL project team member Destini Petitt on publication of her thesis research conducted as part of the WELL project. Destini’s study explored how undergraduate students from developing and developed countries leveraged their values to reason about socio-hydrological issues. Published in Natural Sciences Education, the article illustrates students’ priority values, alignment between these priority values and their proposed solutions to water-related challenges, as well as similarities and differences in both between the two groups of students.
Congrats to Diane Lally, doctoral student with the WELL project, for being selected by the National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT) for a 2019 Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award. This award recognizes outstanding teaching assistants in geoscience education. Diane is currently a 4th-year doctoral student who, for the past 3 years, has served as a graduate teaching assistant for the SCIL 109: Water in Society course. Her research focuses on scientific modeling and systems thinking in undergraduate geoscience courses, including work in the 109 course develop and study the impact of course modules in which students use data-driven, computer-based water models to investigate water-related phenomena (e.g., groundwater, regional water balance, etc.).
An article describing our NSF-funded SCIL 109 Water in Society course, part of the WELL project, and its first implementation appears in the September/October 2018 issue of the Journal of College Science Teaching. In the article, we describe core tenets of the course design, present some findings from research conducted during the first year of the course, and share some ongoing questions and challenges associated with the course. This was a great team effort and it’s fantastic to see this manuscript in print. We look forward to building on this work with subsequent publications focused on students’ model-based reasoning about socio-hydrologic issues conducted in the context of the course.
In June, the WELS2 project team held our second 1-week workshop for more than 45 Nebraska middle- and high school science teachers from over a dozen school districts at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Innovation Campus. Building on the previous summer workshop, teachers learned groundwater quality sampling techniques, used a computer-based, data-driven water balance model to explore regional water challenges, toured the Nebraska Water Sciences Laboratory, and developed curricular resources to use these tools in their own classrooms. Teachers also had the opportunity to participate in the workshop as part of a UNL graduate course – SCIL 800 Experiential Learning in Food, Energy, & Water II. A special thanks goes out to colleagues Trenton Franz, Dan Snow, and Dana Divine for working with teachers to utilize extraordinary UNL resources and tools, as well as to Tina Vo and Kate Gibson for helping plan and coordinate the workshop. We greatly appreciate funding from the USDA-NIFA PD-STEP program and Improving Teacher Quality (ITQ) grant program through the Nebraska Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education, both of which have made this program possible.