What's in Our Waters A water quality educational outreach program

The What’s in Our Waters (WOW) program was designed by graduate students from the Biology and Environmental Toxicology programs at Clemson University in June 2013. WOW has established a successfully running model with the AP Environmental Science class of a local high school in Central, SC. and has since expanded to other local districts. The programs’ success and the collected data are useful for both educators working to evolve environmental education and as well as researchers working to increase interest in citizen science. The structure of this program brings attention to South Carolina’s water resources and alters students’ perceptions of science and scientists. Short-term benefits of this program include teaching local students about the importance of water quality, and factors that can impact the health of their local streams and waterways, as well as contributing to the long-term monitoring data for an Adopt-a-Stream site. Long-term benefits include instilling environmental conservation values in the importance of land and water stewardship in the next generation of community members.

WOW Goals

The goals of this project are to educate high school students about waterways and water quality, demonstrate how to conduct proper scientific research, and improve participants scientific communication skills, while providing mentoring and teaching opportunities for college graduate students. Individual objectives include:

  1. Teach students the importance of responsible citizen science
  2. Familiarize students with real-world environmental problems
  3. Introduce high-school students to jobs within the environmental science profession
  4. Provide students with hands-on open-ended water quality research
  5. Assist the students to convey the relevance of science communication with the public
  6. Offer high school students the opportunity to present findings at a local symposium or conference

Below is a short overview of the project:

In the classroom

The graduate student mentors first introduce the high school students to citizen science, watersheds, water quality measures, and field testing through an in-class introduction.

This introduction includes background on watersheds, how human activity impacts water quality, and how to design a scientific research project. The students then participate in a role-playing exercise where they form teams representing environmental consulting companies evaluating potential recreation sites impacted by different pollution sources.

In the field

The following class period, the high school students are taken to field sites to conduct experiments and gather data on local streams. These field studies include chemical, bacterial, and macroinvertebrate sampling.

Science communication

The high school students work with their teacher and graduate student mentors to develop collegiate level laboratory reports and analyze the data they collected in the field. Finally, students synthesize their research into a poster presentation with the help of the graduate student mentors and present these during a poster session at a scientific conference to the faculty, graduate, undergraduate students from Clemson University and to the general public.

Please contact the program directors below if you are interested in incorporating a similar program into your school. In addition, the materials needed to conduct the role-playing exercise developed as an in-class activity for this project can be found at the link below.

More information contact: Lauren Garcia-Chance (lgarci3@g.clemson.edu), Christie Sampson (csampso@clemson.edu), or Erica Linard (elinard@g.clemson.edu)

Thanks to all of our mentors, past and present WOW committee members, and Creative Inquiry students!

  • Brett Frye
  • Maria Rodgers
  • Austin Wray
  • Chad Mansfield
  • Allison Schmidt
  • Katherine Johnson-Couch
  • Michael Carlo
  • Ramiya Prakash
  • Namrata Sengupta
  • Sarah Au
  • Kim Newton
  • Jason Coral
  • Nikeetha Dsouza
  • Kaleigh Sims
  • Sukhpreet Kaur
  • Chelsea Pennington
  • Lauren Stoczynski
  • Ray Jui-Tung Liu
  • Allison Acosta
  • Cathy Reas
  • Charly Mcconnell
  • Chuck Conrad
  • Mallory Ware
  • Delaney Lann
  • Snehal Mhatre
  • Lauren Sweet
  • Melissa Heintz
  • Lauren Garcia-Chance
  • Erica Linard
  • Christie Sampson

Thank you to our sponsors: The Biological Sciences Graduate Student Association, the Environmental Toxicology Graduate Student Association, Pickens County Stormwater Partners, Clemson Extension Office, Anderson Joint Regional Water Systems, 4H, Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Society, the Clemson University Graduate Student Association


Photos belong to the WOW team including: Charles Conrad, Cathy Reas, Erica Linard, Christie Sampson, and Lauren Garcia-Chance

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