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Superfund Holds Teacher Workshop on Water Quality

By Rebecca Wilson
August 2009

Mariel Meadows and Joanne Altendorf
Teachers Mariel Meadows of Granite Falls Middle School, left, and Joanne Altendorf of Southwest Guilford High School, right, perform a serial dilution experiment at this year's Environmental Education Teacher Institute. (Photo courtesy of Dana Haine, UNC)

Hundreds of middle and high school students will be learning about the latest advances in water quality research and remediation this academic year, thanks to the NIEHS-funded University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) Superfund Research Program (SRP). Their teachers attended the third Environmental Education Teacher Institute, "Environment & Health: Making Connections Through Water Quality Investigations," co-hosted by the UNC-CH SRP in Salter Path, N.C. July 12-17.

The weeklong workshop ( Exit NIEHS was an opportunity for twenty three teachers to learn about environmental health, science and civics issues related to water quality in North Carolina. The workshop featured individual hands-on classroom sessions and field experiences led by UNC-CH professors and staff.

Science Educator Dana Haine ( Exit NIEHS, a UNC-CH SRP staff member, conducted activities with teachers addressing several topics related to environmental health, including chemicals in the environment, toxicology, point and non-point source pollution, hazardous waste, the EPA's Superfund Program, remediation, and environmental justice. Environmental microbiologist Fred Pfaender, Ph.D., ( Exit NIEHS joined meeting participants during a field trip to give a presentation about bioremediation.

As part of their professional development activities, the teachers completed exercises from the Focus on Risk Module by Project Learning Tree ( Exit NIEHS, which includes a chapter that enabled them to investigate hazardous waste sites in their local community. They also viewed the Frontline documentary "Poisoned Waters ( Exit NIEHS" and discussed how to incorporate civic action into their science curriculum.

Teachers will be able to use the workshop materials to enhance their curriculums, taking water sampling and other activities back with them into the classroom. Sarah Lancaster, a middle school science teacher, said that the material would be helpful for planning lessons. "I feel like I just audited six graduate classes and left with materials developmentally appropriate for my middle school science students," she noted. "So many of these activities and labs will provide wonderful opportunities for students to analyze, evaluate and synthesize crucial scientific information."

(Rebecca Wilson is an environmental health information specialist for MDB, Inc., a contractor for the NIEHS Superfund Research Program and Worker Education and Training Program.)

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