posted August 12, 2009

Watershed Research Leads to High School Lab Manual

Collaborative research by a team of educators studying the local watershed has led to the publication of a lab manual that will enable high school students to conduct explorations of their own.

The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) Press of Arlington, Va., has published "Watershed Investigations: 12 Labs for High School Students."  The book is co-authored by Dr. Graham Peaslee of the Hope College faculty; area teachers Jennifer Soukhome and Carl Van Faasen; and William Statema, a recent Hope graduate now teaching in the Chicago area.

The lab manual's exercises have been inspired by the authors' experiences working together to understand the Macatawa Watershed, but are designed to be used in any high school experiment-based environmental science curriculum.  The projects are designed to be open ended, with students tasked with developing hypotheses and designing experiments to test the problems presented.  The approach is intended to teach both about issues related to watersheds and the methodology of scientific inquiry.

The experiments cover multiple disciplines, including biology, chemistry, earth science and geology.  The 12 labs are "Modeling Glacial Features With Sand," "Glacial Features of a Watershed," "Plant Identification," "Wetland Delineation," "Measuring Plant Allelopathy," "Stream Channel Morphology," "Calculating Stream Discharge," "Flood Frequency Analysis for a River," "Comparison of Phosphate Levels in Stream Sediments," "Aquatic Macroinvertebrate Identification," "Factors That Affect Eutrophication" and "Groundwater Contamination."  The book also includes an appendix that provides an overview of the Macatawa Watershed for teachers who wish to use it specifically as a case study.

Peaslee, who is a professor of chemistry and chairperson of the department of chemistry and also a professor of geology/environmental science at Hope, has been conducting research focused on the watershed for more than a decade.  Soukhome has taught biology and environmental science at Zeeland West High School for 12 years, and Van Faasen, who is a 1991 Hope graduate, has taught chemistry at Holland High School for 15 years.  Reflecting their own longstanding and ongoing interest in the watershed, which has included integrating related lessons into their teaching, Soukhome and Van Faasen each spent multiple summers working with Peaslee, from 2004/05 through 2007.  Statema, a Zeeland native who graduated from Hope in 2007, became involved in the team's work as a HHMI Science Education student in the summer of 2006.  He is now a chemistry teacher in the NilesTownshipSchool District in Illinois.

Peaslee, Soukhome and Van Faasen previously collaborated on the book "An Environmental History of The Lake Macatawa Watershed," which was published last year.

The NSTA is the largest organization in the world committed to promoting excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.  The NSTA's current membership of 60,000 includes science teachers, science supervisors, administrators, scientists, business and industry representatives, and others involved in and committed to science education.  To address subjects of critical interest to science educators, the association publishes a professional journal for each level of science teaching; a newspaper; and many other educational books and professional publications.

Additional information about "Watershed Investigations," including the table of contents and a sample version of the "Plant Identification" chapter, may be found online at www.nsta.org/store.