The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is partnering with the American Ground Water Trust (AGWT) to offer "Ground Water Institute for Teachers," a workshop that educates teachers about ground water and hydrology. The goal is to further the public's interest in and understanding of issues concerning water resources (see related Sound Waves article, "USGS and the American Ground Water Trust Expand Teacher Institute Program").
USGS scientists participate in these workshops by presenting their research, leading field trips, and providing educational materials. Teachers and educators learn about ground water's vital role in sustaining many aquatic ecosystems. Attendees also learn how to include the subject matter in their curriculum.
"Each workshop provides an increased understanding of ground-water-science concepts through a set of hands-on experiences that the teachers can take back to the classroomas reality checks and exciting touchstones for their students to enjoy above and beyond the printed word in the curriculum textbook," said Garret Graaskamp, a ground-water specialist at AGWT. "Many examples of the ground-water issues and concepts presented at the workshops can be used as platforms for real-life projects and assignments in English, civics, statistics, physics, chemistry, and biology courses."
A workshop was held June 9-10 in St. Petersburg, FL, and another June 13-14 in Fresno, CA. The St. Petersburg workshop included field trips to Withlacoochee State Forest, Wall Springs Park, and a cave. Basic information about wells, cave ecology, and sources of ground-water contamination in Florida were some of the topics discussed. The Fresno workshop included a field trip to some of Fresno's water facilities. Geology basics, California water problems, and new water-pump technologies were some of the issues covered.
Even before the formal partnership, the USGS participated in the workshops that AGWT has held since 2000. "The purpose of the partnership is to expand the outreach and enhance the synergy of the previously informal arrangement between the AGWT and the USGS," Graaskamp said. "The partnership creates increased recognition and opportunities among the professionals of each organization to bring forward and showcase ground-water-science concepts in exciting forums that teachers can use to stimulate the awareness of their students to the importance of understanding, protecting, and sustaining our water resources." An attendee at the St. Petersburg workshop gave an example of how the partnership benefits teachers. "I have always felt that ground water is important. Now I feel I have the cool facts that will make students remember why it is important," said Jessica Frankovitch, an environmental science teacher from Florida's Crystal Springs Preserve.
One of the main goals of USGS involvement is to get USGS resources, science issues, and findings to the public. "Teachers are the best link to the public in terms of ground-water awareness," said Ann Tihansky, USGS hydrologist. Teachers attending the workshops receive a science message and a package of USGS materials that are consistent across the Nation. "The partnership is also a way to link teachers to all USGS resources, not just ground water," Tihansky said. Long-term goals are to hold these workshops in every State, to create a teacher network, and to obtain feedback from educators about what they need and what kinds of materials and formats they find most effective.
Workshop topics range from general hydrology in a specific region to technical analysis of ground-water flow and applications of geophysics in ground-water studies. Commonly, local ground-water issues are incorporated into the program. "Ground water is an out-of-sight, out-of-mind kind of resource, so no one thinks about it. But it's a critical resource," Tihansky said.
Along with the Ground Water Institute for Teachers, the American Ground Water Trust sponsors several technical programs aimed at raising public awareness of ground-water issues and sharing expertise among ground-water professionals. These programs include:
The AGWT also has hosted four separate conferences on Aquifer Storage and Recovery and is currently planning its fifth, ASR-5, to be held in Tampa, FL, in fall 2005. Since 2000, more than 30 USGS scientists nationwide have contributed to the AGWT's programs, sharing their expertise and familiarity with local ground-water topics. More than 20 USGS scientists have participated in the teacher institutes nationwide.
in this issue:
Ground Water Institute for Teachers