“Science is more than a school subject, or the periodic table, or the properties of waves. It is an approach to the world, a critical way to understand and explore and engage with the world, and then have the capacity to change that world…” said former U.S. President Barack Obama. When people think of environmental education, they typically think of taking nature walks, exploring habitats, or traversing ecosystems. In our eyes, environmental education focuses on driving individuals, communities, and organizations to learn about the environment and motivate action to address global environmental issues. During FOR field trips and classroom visits, our education team strives to promote the environmental movement to encourage a future for a more environmentally and sustainably-focused community. The education programs we provide focus on the complexities within ecosystems. With the addition of technology to our programs, students can apply scientific knowledge to practical challenges.
In recent years, FOR has added various forms of technology into our education programs. iPads and probeware technologies, for example, gives instant data for testing samples of water chemistry. Studies have shown that the use of technology for data collection, analysis, and visualization increases students’ interest, motivation and engagement in understanding scientific concepts. Over the course of days, weeks, and months students can visually see how the water chemistry of the Rappahannock varies in dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature, and salinity over time, and discuss what factors may contribute to the changes.
While students have the opportunity to measure numerical changes via probeware technology, incorporating STEM into lessons encourages innovation by students to solve scientific issues pressing the world today. With STEM, our goal is to guide students to practice science through hands-on experiences using tools resembling those used by scientists and engineers. Applying science and engineering principles is the concept of environmental engineering–a recent branch of engineering created to protect the human population from adverse effects from degradation of the environment. In building barges, windmills, wind turbines, solar panel boats, sail cars, and sediment catchers to name a few STEM programs we offer, we hope to encourage students to think critically and solve problems so that they can learn to adapt and succeed in an ever-changing world.
Meredith Palumbo, FOR Field Trip Coordinator