College of Science Outreach helping sixth graders live-stream (literally) along the mighty Wabash
Every year, sixth graders from the Greater Lafayette area get hands on experience with scientific research along the mighty Wabash River. Students are encouraged to go with the flow as they raft down a 4.5 mile stretch of the river from Tapawingo Park to historic Fort Ouiatenon. This program, called Wonders on the Wabash, was created by the Tippecanoe County Partnership for Water Quality and is aided by K-12 outreach coordinators from the Purdue College of Science. This year’s event will happen over the next two weeks.
Along the fun-filled waterway, students have opportunities to participate in educational sessions to test water quality, study native mussels, observe the fish of the Wabash, and learn the history of the river. Each raft is equipped with a tablet so that students can take notes, collect data, and capture photos of their educational journey. The floating classroom exposes the students to the wonderful Wabash and all it has to offer while teaching them the importance of water quality and how people impact the water and environment.
The Wonders on the Wabash website credits its amazing volunteers for making this event possible. Sarah Nern, K-12 Outreach Coordinator for the Department of Chemistry, and Steven Smith, K-12 Outreach Coordinators for the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences (EAPS), serve on the planning committee, teach along the way, integrate educational technology, help prepare, give testing, coordinate volunteers, and help with each day’s events. If those names sound familiar, it may be because Steven and Sarah are hosts of a popular podcast, Superheroes of Science. Their YouTube channel for Superheroes of Science has also produced hundreds of educational content videos for teachers, students, and science enthusiasts. The team also facilitates teacher professional development workshops yearly, and work with state, national, and international programs. They host student groups on campus to experience learning opportunities in a college setting.
“Many of the students have never been on a raft or in a river,” says Steven. “It is always fun to see their amazement of floating and paddling on the river. There are 3 educational stops along the way including water quality, mussels, and an electrofishing boat. Sarah and I teach students about water quality at the first stop.”
This fall, the event will host sixth grader participants from area schools including East Tipp Middle School, Faith Christian, Lafayette Christian School, Central Catholic Junior High School, and Wainwright Middle School.
“While teaching students about collecting data from their environment is important, it is exciting to help students understand what happens to their data once it is collected,” says Nern. “Steven and I have defined the site used for water quality testing during Wonders on the Wabash. Student data, collected during Wonders on the Wabash, is uploaded to GLOBE Data Entry where it becomes freely available to researchers around the world (including teachers, students, research scientists, and citizen scientists).”
Wonders on the Wabash depends on community volunteers and is always looking for volunteers to help with the event. Visit here for more information and to sign up to volunteer at the next event.