| The underlying premise of Watershed Watch is that much of the best learning is derived from doing, that science, like art, is most inspiring when experienced.
The University of New Hampshire (UNH) and Elizabeth City State University (ECSU), in collaboration with regional two-year colleges propose to develop Watershed Watch (WW) as an exciting, inquiry-based experience that will make science more accessible, authentic, and socially-relevant to 1st- and 2nd-year undergraduates. WW will be designed to recruit entry-level undeclared four-year degree students, as well as encourage enrollment of two-year degree students from local community and technical colleges into STEM majors at UNH and ECSU. In particular, we will design WW to engage students in hands-on use of geospatial technologies (GST) in an integrated, multidisciplinary study of two very different watersheds: the Merrimack in NH and the Pasquotank in NC. The WW will incorporate: 1) the lessons learned from previous inquiry-based projects (Forest Watch, Project SMART, and Project Lake Watch) at UNH; 2) the expertise in working with entry-level undergraduates at the Center of Excellence in Remote Sensing and Research (CERSER - http://cerser.ecsu.edu/). at ECSU; 3) the research expertise in GST at both UNH and ECSU; 4) an exceptional faculty selected on the basis of their commitment to innovative teaching methods, integration of scientific disciplines, and an embracement of diversity; and 5) the expertise in curriculum development and assessment of the UNH Joan and James Leitzel Center for Mathematics, Science, and Engineering Education http://www/leitzelcenter.unh.edu). This partnership between UNH and ECSU, based on a unique combination of expertise, mentoring skills, and faculty research, will form the basis for development of an effective model to increase STEM majors for national dissemination in Years 4 and 5.
The overall goal of the Watershed Watch project is to increase STEM recruitment rates at UNH and ECSU, particularly among under-represented groups, by involving them at an early academic stage in exciting, hands-on authentic research focused on scientific problems of societal relevance. Undergraduates often are frustrated because their first two years are spent satisfying mostly general graduation requirements, and they only begin to take relevant coursework in their intended fields in their junior year (NSF, 1996a). Other students enter college as undeclared because they are not certain about their academic focus. We will recruit "rising" sophomores in an intensive, field-oriented and technology-rich Summer Research Institute between freshman and sophomore years, led and mentored by STEM faculty from both UNH and ECSU. Following the Summer Research Institute, student research teams will design and implement authentic watershed research, or educational outreach projects, conducted as part of a weekly WW academic year seminar. We will design effective faculty development workshops that will focus both on mentoring students, and on developing appropriate research and education/outreach projects. All of these approaches have been shown to be effective in attracting and retaining STEM majors (NSF, 1994, 1996b, 1998; NRC, 1996).
We will build on our experience in three successful hands-on, inquiry-based research and outreach programs developed at UNH. Forest Watch, a highly-successful K-12 environmental outreach program now in its 15th year, has trained teachers and their students to conduct authentic research across the New England region. Project Lake Watch has developed similar methods involving undergraduate students in an on-going assessment of water quality in New Hampshire. Project SMART (Science and Mathematics Achievement through Research Training - http://www.smart.unh.edu/), offered every summer since 1991, is a month-long residential program for high school students. The two-week long WW Summer Research Institute will build upon the lessons learned in Project SMART and Project Lake Watch. WW activities will utilize GST tools [Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Global Positioning System (GPS), and satellite remote sensing], as well as field and laboratory measurements of terrestrial and aquatic components of the two watersheds, based on activities piloted in these programs. WW students will conduct land cover mapping, learn dominant forest species, and assess microbiology, water quality and local/regional geology (see section 4 for detailed descriptions). The history, social relevancy, and past, present, and future human impacts of these watersheds will be integrated into the science.
The use of GST is a uniquely valuable tool for integrating scientific disciplines and societal impacts, facilitating WW student comparisons of both watersheds and the impacts of climate and human factors as they change over time. The watersheds will become a conceptual framework on which participating WW students will build a detailed understanding of a wide range of scientific and mathematical concepts. Integrating the science with the human dimension of past and present land use, patterns of urbanization, and air and water quality, will allow WW students to see "the big picture" provided via GST tools. In the process, the students will develop a genuine connection with their subject. Science and mathematics will be presented as tools that enhance understanding rather than stumbling blocks that impede understanding.