Future water stewardship and fact-based water policy: an aquatic science education pathway model
Texas Aquatic Science originated from a project called Headwaters to Ocean (H2O) to connect students to water science for life through technology enhanced, experiential, place-based education. The funder, a private foundation in Texas, was seeking better ways to educate students about water, because of concern that current education was failing to promote good decisions about water by adult citizens and political leaders in Texas.
Initial work focused on developing means to integrate use of new mobile and interactive technologies into curricula about water. Review by middle and high school teachers of initial work products revealed a need for a context for use in order to allow for integration of the materials into classroom practice.
After our uncertain start, we developed a comprehensive curriculum to engage learners from middle school through university. The thesis was to design an education pathway to create water-savvy citizens of tomorrow who will take personal action to ensure effective stewardship of water and evidence-based policies on water. This paper will briefly describe the curriculum and present the results of research on its effectiveness in Texas middle and high school classrooms.
Work expanded through support from over 20 partners and multiple funders to develop a comprehensive context for water (aquatic) science education. This resulted in a comprehensive curriculum adhering to state teaching standards and providing multiple avenues for aquatic science instruction, both in and outside the classroom. Included is a comprehensive textbook in print and on-line versions, a teacher guide with instructional and assessment materials that support integration of technology enhancements, chapter summary videos, over 225 lesson videos, and certified field sites connecting aquatic science in the classroom with informal educators and outdoor place-based experiential learning. This provides a comprehensive context for instruction of middle and high school students, and also serves as a basis for aquatic science instruction at the college level for non-science majors, in the home-school environment, and through on-line opportunities available to anyone.
In order to assess effectiveness and usability, research-oriented workshops were held for 167 middle and high school teachers representing 4,500 students from schools in all major areas of Texas. Attendees were instructed on use of the curriculum and its implementation into their classroom and teachers were invited to participate in a pilot use research project for the 2015-16 school year. Initial analysis of results indicates students did significantly better on tests covering knowledge of aquatic science after having been exposed to the curriculum (p<0.05). Teachers said they believe the curriculum enhances student learning and teacher ability to provide meaningful instruction. Complete results will be presented.
We believe this model can be used for developing water education curricula for other places and for specific areas of instruction, such as for watershed science or coastal areas management. Most importantly, the original objective of the initiating funder was to develop an education pathway to empower future citizens to personally take action to conserve water and engage in policy debate which now appears underway in Texas.