The IGWMC is committed to supporting a robust education and outreach program, promoting the education of K-12 students and teachers, as well as community members, through STEM fairs, classroom lessons, field trips, workshops, and educational partnerships. These community events provide our students with the opportunity to expand their skill set and experience through broad perspectives how their research is relevant to society.
Water and Climate Academy
The IGWMC has an ongoing partnership with the Watershed Institute, an organization in Pennington, New Jersey, that supports a wealth of community focused education, advocacy, and stewardship initiatives. Through the Watershed Institute’s Watershed Academy program for high school students, researchers from IGWMC were given the opportunity to host a week-long educational camp, focused on water and climate. During this week, participating high school students engaged with scientists, engineers, graduate students, and undergraduate students to learn about and engage with water and climate topics. Each day, students learned about existing issues that speak to the urgency of our situation, while the content delivered focused on strategies and technologies that are being used to understand and apply solutions to these complex problems our world faces. This collaboration with the Watershed Institute provides students in the region the opportunity to attend this week-long learning experience, many of whom are provided scholarships that include transportation, food, and funding to attend. This supports a community of students from diverse backgrounds and experiences, which adds to the richness and impact of the programming. The IGWMC has participated in the Watershed Academy program in 2021, 2022, and 2023; this partnership will continue in summer 2024.
The IGWMC participates in a number of community engagement events throughout the year, supporting the efforts of several of our educational partners. World Water Day, a day of observance to celebrate water and raise awareness about the sustainable management of freshwater resources, was initiated in 1993 by the United Nations. The IGWMC participates in
an annual World Water Day event held on March 22 at the Watershed Institute, where the public is invited to learn all about freshwater hydrology, access, management, and sustainability from volunteer organizations. The IGWMC participates in a variety of other community events, where students and researchers have the opportunity to teach in K-12 classrooms, communicate their science to the public, and engage with a number of other groups from the community.
Educational Resource Development
Historical datasets traditionally used for modeling, prediction, and decision-making related to water are no longer adequate for understanding future conditions. This drives the need for new technologies and approaches to understand, model, and predict hydrological conditions in a way that enables effective management of water resources. Despite the increasing importance of machine learning (ML), interviews conducted by our project team with educators and hydrologists indicated there are few accessible educational tools and resources that engage with ML in general and even fewer at the interface with hydrology. To address this need, our team has developed a web-based educational application, Sandtank-ML, that allows users to gain an understanding of basic ML concepts, as well as the way in which ML can be used to understand and address water challenges of the future. We believe that supporting ML understanding requires not only the development of robust technologic tools and approaches, but educational strategies and tools capable of building confidence among diverse users. Please visit sandtank-ml.hydroframe.org to learn more and engage with Sandtank-ML and our guide, Dr. Sandy Loam. To learn more about the application check out the associated publication.
HydroFrame is a project motivated to make national hydrologic simulations and associated educational resources more accessible. Our project team recognizes that groundwater plays an integral role in the hydrologic cycle, but it is difficult to see and therefore often misunderstood or ignored. We hope to change this by developing and making available tools and lessons that allow students to explore how water behaves in the subsurface and beyond. We have developed an interactive computer simulation of a physical groundwater model for students and educators. This simulation has a web browser-based interface, utilizes open-source software components developed by our partner Kitware, executes the integrated hydrology model ParFlow, and is built using Python scripting language. Users can run the simulation using a familiar web-app-like interface with sliders and buttons, yet still learn real hydrologic concepts. You can find the ParFlow Sandtank and other free, open-source, educational resources on our project website. To learn more about the ParFlow Sandtank, check out the associated publication.
Communication is a vital part of what we do at the IGWMC. We make every effort to engage with our community on a local and broad scale in order to educate and inform community members about what we do. Our education and outreach team presents ongoing research annually at both the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and the European Geophysical Union (EGU) conferences. We also publish our education-focused research in open-access journals (see ParFlow Sandtank paper and Sandtank-ML paper links above). In fall 2019, we were honored to work with AGU TV to produce a short film highlighting the research and education and outreach programs of the IGWMC.
Student mentoring at the IGWMC is a dynamic and enriching experience that aims to foster growth and development of undergraduate interns. We support undergraduate students from the Princeton community and beyond, partnering interns with seasoned researchers who provide guidance and support for their mentees through the intricacies of academic research. Mentors provide valuable insights, share their expertise, and encourage interns to develop and explore their own research interests. This collaborative environment not only helps interns gain hands-on experience but also cultivates a sense of engagement with their community and teaches critical thinking and communication skills. At the IGWMC, we believe student mentoring plays a vital role in shaping the future generation of scholars and scientists.
Mining for Talent
Field trips are another example of education and outreach at the IGWMC. The Mining for Talent field trip works with high school students predominantly from underrepresented populations to provide an opportunity to experience what being a scientist actually looks like. Students who apply to attend the event are hosted on campus for a day of learning and exploration, taking tours of cutting-edge lab facilities and exploring associated lab activities. Additionally, the focus was on providing students with a better understanding of the college experience — from campus dining and dorm living — to what courses you would need to apply. IGWMC partnered with the campus chapter of the Society of Hispanic Engineers, which provided student volunteers to serve as campus guides for the day. This allowed the high school students to talk and learn about life on campus with a student peer. Participants have found this event very rewarding, and we hope to continue to offer this and other field trip experiences moving forward.
Water quality and supply impacts from climate-induced tree mortality and resource management in the Rocky Mountain West
This NSF-funded Water Sustainability and Climate project provided the opportunity to establish a pipeline to develop, play and evaluate geoscience teaching modules and activities. The initial piece of the pipeline was the design of an undergraduate course on science communication and the impacts of bark beetle infestation on water in the Rocky Mountain West. In this course, project researchers taught undergraduate students about the various climate drivers that lead to bark beetle infestation, the connections to climate change, and various impacts to water resources. The students were then asked to develop educational modules to communicate the concepts they learned. As a capstone to the course, undergraduate students delivered these lessons to middle school students at Windy Peak Outdoor Lab. These lessons have been incorporated into Outdoor Lab’s curriculum, which reaches around 6,000 students per year. These activities and lessons were then evaluated and refined using classroom lessons, STEM fairs, and other events as opportunities to edit in action.
This work resulted in the delivery of a teacher workshop over a weekend at Windy Peak Outdoor Lab. This workshop was modeled after the undergraduate course on a condensed timeline. Educators were given lessons from project researchers, interacted with the undergraduate-developed activities, and provided us with formal evaluation of the tools. We hosted 18 teachers representing seven districts, spanning grades 2–12. This culminated in a collection of educational modules addressing climate change, hydrology and social science that specifically target Next Generation Science Standards.