Program will help state's science teachers with water system literacy

Program will help state's science teachers with water system literacy

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Craig Chandler | University Communication

A new program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will provide the state's science teachers new approaches to teaching about water. The Water Education Leaders for Secondary Science program is designed to foster science literacy about water resource issues.

The 15-month continuing education program, led by Cory Forbes, associate professor of science education in the School of Natural Resources, will focus on supporting teaching that links food, water, climate, energy and environmental challenges related to questions of water quality and quantity.

Forbes said the goal is for teachers to develop stronger knowledge of water and water resources that can be translated into their curriculum. The project will also contribute to statewide efforts, led by the Nebraska Department of Education, to review and revise standards for science teaching and learning in Nebraska.

"There's a lot of content out there to help people learn about water, but oftentimes they're not suitable for classroom learning or teachers are unsure of how to use them," Forbes said. "This program will fill that need and provide a variety of engaging and interactive resources to teachers."

Thirty middle- and high-school teachers from across the state will have the opportunity to participate in the program. Teachers will participate in water literacy workshops; water science research projects conducted by water scientists in Nebraska; and online coursework through the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources Masters of Applied Science, Science for Educators degree program.

The kickoff workshop, scheduled for June in Lincoln, will focus on state and national science standards related to water, including the Next Generation Science Standards. The workshop will also feature the Groundwater Foundation's Hydrogeology Challenge, a computer tool that introduces students to basic groundwater modeling techniques.

"One of the objectives of this project is to develop formal curriculum around existing resources and get them into the hands of teachers so they can be used in an everyday classroom setting for all students," Forbes said.

The full course is worth the equivalent of 125 hours of learning support, and participating teachers will receive the WELS2 certification.

The program aligns directly with the Science Literacy Initiative at the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, which aims to foster a scientifically literate society capable of making effective decisions grounded in STEM-informed analysis of real-world challenges associated with food, fuel, water, landscape and people issues.

"Supporting teachers to be innovators in the classroom is one of the focal points of the Science Literacy Initiative," said Forbes, who is also the IANR Science Literacy coordinator. "This program will support teachers to try new approaches in their classroom that will help students learn about the water system."

The program is a partnership among the School of Natural Resources, the Nebraska Collaborative for Food, Energy and Water Education, and water scientists, all at Nebraska; the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute at the University of Nebraska; the Groundwater Foundation; and several school districts, including Lincoln, Omaha, Grand Island, Hastings and Millard.

Funding for the program is provided by grants from the state's Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.