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Highlights Archive
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GRANTEE:Schoodic Education and Research Center (SERC), Acadia B-WET Project

Published July 2013

The Acadia B-WET project, implemented by the Schoodic Education and Research Center (SERC) Institute, engages teachers and students in the study of living marine and watershed resources; contributes to data collection for scientists in support of studies on human impacts on watershed ecosystems; and serves NOAA's trifold mission of Science, Service and Stewardship. Acadia B-WET is part of the larger Acadia Learning program led by the SERC Institute at Acadia National Park, in collaboration with Maine Sea Grant and the University of Maine George J. Mitchell Center. Acadia B-WET provides professional development for teachers and works with students to conduct citizen science research in Gulf of Maine coastal watersheds. Through fieldwork and data collection, students in grades 6-12 gain an understanding of the interconnectedness of coastal watershed ecosystems while engaging in authentic scientific inquiry.

Supported by a New England B-WET grant, Acadia Learning implements research projects that successfully pair student inquiries with scientists' data needs. Teachers and students learn sampling protocols from partner scientists and sample watersheds at field sites in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. The students gain first-hand experiences with their local watersheds and then use these field studies to develop research questions that are answered through analysis of data collected across the network of field sites.

Photo Credit: Hannah Webber, SERC Institute
Photo Credit: Hannah Webber, SERC Institute
In addition to acquiring field sampling skills, students learn about watershed systems and macro-invertebrates and gain habits of scientific practice associated with collecting, organizing, and analyzing high quality data. Working side-by-side with scientists, students collect data to pursue their own inquiries while also providing samples and data that are useful to the scientist. For example, in one study, scientists and student partners collected dragonflies to support a student investigation of mercury concentrations in different local watersheds. The same data supported the scientist's research on two questions; whether dragonflies could be used as reliable proxies for overall mercury concentrations, and identification of watershed factors related to differences in mercury concentrations. Because Acadia Learning's citizen science programs require students to develop and research their own scientific questions rather than just collect samples for the scientists, academic curriculum content knowledge is easily integrated into the projects.

Bill Zoellick, Acadia B-WET project lead, along with project partners, articulated some of the challenges and successful elements of their program in a recent article; Participatory science and education: bringing both views into focus, in the Ecological Society of America's Journal, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. In addition to relating their success in helping scientists and educators collaborate to design and implement a program that respects the two groups' different desired outputs and outcomes, the authors present an elegant logic model summarizing the process.

The B-WET best practices of the meaningful watershed educational experience (MWEE) are fully implemented in Acadia B-WET; the students' watershed experiences are investigative and project oriented, integrated into instructional programs, sustained, include preparation, action and reflection phases, and investigate the watersheds as interconnected systems. For more information about B-WET and MWEEs, see our website.

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