- Education and outreach is a critical component of IGWMC research
- Engaging the public at all levels is one of our duties as scientists
- Teaching at all levels is one of our duties as educators
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 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.
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.
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. 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.
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 educational resources online.