Alabama Water Watch helps 4th grade win state environmental education award

Huntsville’s Highlands School Fourth Graders Win Statewide Environmental Education Award by Sampling Local Waters Using the Alabama Water Watch Test Procedure

Among the winners of 2006 Best Environmental Education Project (BEEP) Awards were 12 students from Mrs. Linda Hardee’s fourth grade class from Highlands School in Huntsville, Alabama. The awards program is a state-wide competition sponsored by Troy University’s Center for Environmental Research and the Environmental Education Association of Alabama, and is open to K-12 public and private schools, nature centers, zoos, museums, community groups, organizations, and individuals working toward educating our young people and the general public about the environment.

Ms. Hardee is the ‘Special Programs for Academic and Creative Education’ (SPACE) teacher at Highlands School, and was one of 17 citizen volunteers attending a watershed workshop held at Camp McDowell in Nauvoo, Alabama in 2005. The workshop was sponsored by the Alabama Chapter of the Sierra Club and Sierra Water Sentinels. As part of the training, the attendees were certified as Alabama Water Watch (AWW) water quality monitors. Mr. Bryan Burgess of the Sierra Water Sentinels Program provided standard AWW water chemistry test kits to the newly certified monitors for water testing and classroom teaching tools. Teachers were asked to take their students to the field at least once in the fall and spring, demonstrate the use of the kits in water quality testing, teach about the importance of clean water and pollution prevention, and report their findings to the AWW Program.

After participating in the workshop, Ms. Hardee demonstrated water chemistry testing using the AWW kit to her class, but wanted to do more. She came up with the idea of developing a video of water testing that could be used by other students, and applied for a grant to purchase a video camera. She then set her fourth graders to writing a script, developing a PowerPoint slideshow, and starring in their video entitled “How’s the Water Testing?” The video was submitted to the state-wide BEEP competition, and the Highlands fourth grade project was chosen as Number One in the state in the ‘Best School Project’ category. The class is very proud of the award and considers it a crowning achievement of their environmental education efforts.

The AWW Program, based in Auburn University’s Fisheries Department, conducts training workshops across the state to certify volunteer monitors in water chemistry testing, bacteriological testing and stream bioassessment. AWW maintains a statewide database of volunteer monitor water quality data. Since its beginnings in 1992, the AWW Program has conducted more than 1,100 workshops and trained 4,500 volunteer citizen water monitors throughout Alabama. The AWW database currently contains more than 49,000 water quality records from 2,100 sites on about 700 waterbodies across Alabama. To learn more about AWW, go to www.alabamawaterwatch.org.

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