Model My Watershed: Using Place-Based Education to Promote STEM Learning and Watershed Cit

Saturday, 14 February 2015
Exhibit Hall (San Jose Convention Center)
Tara K. Muenz, Stroud Water Research Center, Avondale, PA
Alterations we have made to the landscape have caused dramatic changes in both the local and global water cycle. As we clear forests, drain wetlands and bury streams beneath our cities, we change the natural processes of infiltration, evapotranspiration and stream hydrology. The Model My Watershed® web application (NSF DRL ITEST #0929763 and DRK-12 #1418133 and William Penn Foundation) is an online, interactive, place-based hydrologic modeling tool that uses research-grade models and authentic data that allow users to model both runoff and water quality in their neighborhoods and in their watersheds.  Furthermore, it allows students, and more recently, watershed professionals, not only to model current watershed conditions but also to implement best-management practices to illustrate how such strategies can reduce impacts to natural hydrology. The theoretical framework within which we investigated whether an interactive, online hydrologic model is an effective education tool is based on the assertion that place-based education provides relevance and the potential to increase users’ involvement in community action. Nineteen teachers and 851 students participated in the initial project’s evaluation, although only 11 teachers and 588 students completed both pre- and post-tests. Students ranged from middle school through college age. Tests administered included Career Inventory Scale, Careers in Science, Sense of Place and Peer-to-Peer Communication. Students were also tested on watershed knowledge, based on an instrument developed by the project team. Students scored significantly better on the post-test than on the pre-test (9.11, SD=3.56 vs. 6.05, SD=3.15). In addition to student outcomes, we measured teacher satisfaction with the application. Teachers all agreed that the Model My Watershed technology integrate well into their curriculum, but did feel that there were so many resources available in the application that it took considerable time to make use of them all. Many of the teachers said that they would expect to use it over several years because the application was so flexible. The original Model My Watershed project was developed for Southeastern Pennsylvania. As a result of the effectiveness of this project, not only has the National Science Foundation funded expansion of the project to the continental United States, the William Penn Foundation has funded the project, at a higher resolution, to support their watershed restoration efforts in the Delaware River Basin.