Watershed Trustee Greg Hunter, a STEM facilitator at Toll Gate Grammar School in Pennington, recently won a “Talented Trios Award” for his stormwater teaching module. He created the program in collaboration with scientists and educators at The Watershed Institute.
Middle school students were given a chance to do hands-on data collection in a natural setting as they identified and investigated problems caused by polluted stormwater runoff, a serious problem facing the state of New Jersey that is expected to become more severe as a result of climate change.
The 7th-grade students and teachers took water sample collections at two stream sites and used the data to analyze and identify the problems caused by polluted stormwater runoff in local communities. While the field samples were gathered, the Watershed staff and teachers captured the activities with drone footage, videos, and photos for later use in the classroom. The students analyzed these samples and gained a greater appreciation of how polluted stormwater harms biodiversity in local streams.
The second stage of the project had the students assess the stormwater runoff systems currently being used at Timberlane Middle School and design improvements to these systems. The teams explored various solutions for enhancing the capture of polluted stormwater that engineers call “Green infrastructure.” Green Infrastructure, which includes rain gardens and bioswales, uses plants and soil to soak up and cleanse the polluted water that runs off of parking lots, roads and other hard surfaces.
The teams of students designed initial concepts to mitigate the runoff problem and then built and tested their structures during rainfall simulations.
“The project was a great way to figure out our waterways and what they do,” said one student. “This project taught us a lot about pollution and how to avoid it in our waterways.”
Along with acting as the Watershed’s Teacher-in-Residence in 2017, Greg also participated that summer in the Watershed Science Teacher Academy, a weeklong session for science teachers that focuses on experiential learning.
“We congratulate Greg for his award,” said Jim Waltman, Executive Director of The Watershed Institute. “This is a great demonstration of why the Hopewell Valley Regional School District and The Watershed Institute are both very fortunate to benefit from Greg’s talents.”
The $1,000 award was given by Project Arc with support from Educate Innovate and several key sponsors, including Ed2Go, AGC-NM, and Jaynes Construction, according to Tim Kubik, the founding partner of Project ARC. His Colorado-based organization facilitates partnerships between teachers, community organizations and businesses to create authentic project experiences that promote and assess complex learning.