Author Archive

Next Generation Science Standards

Monday, May 14th, 2012

posted by: Carrie

I received an email today from the American Geophysical Union education group which I felt others may be interested in seeing so I’ve copied it below.

“Dear AGU Members,

The first public draft of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) is now available at Feedback on the standards is sought from individuals who have a stake in science education—including the K-12, higher education, and research communities.

There is no doubt that science—and, therefore, science education—is central to the lives of all Americans.  To that end, we must ensure that all students have a solid education in science.  The recent NAEP science scores show we have a long way to go to ensure all of our students have the science education they will need for college, careers and life.  That’s why 26 states are working together to develop the NGSS—internationally-benchmarked and rigorous state science education standards.  As part of that development process, there will be two public comment periods where all interested parties are invited to give feedback. The first one began 11 May 2012.

NGSS have been written as student performance expectations grouped by topics and can be viewed in the topical groupings or individually. The draft performance expectations are composed of the three dimensions from the NRC’s Framework for K–12 Science Education. These draft performance expectations describe how students will demonstrate their understanding.

To review the draft standards, go to  Comments can be provided by clicking on any of the links that say “Go to the NGSS Survey.”  The deadline for comments is 1 June.

We hope that you will consider sending your feedback on these standards,

AGU Education Staff”

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Resource for Teachers – SciNews

Sunday, December 11th, 2011

posted by: Carrie

While at AGU, I found myself standing next to another ex-GK-12 fellow from Arizona State Erin DiMaggio (as well as a Michigan alum!).  Erin was presenting a poster about SciNews a monthly ‘publication’ in which she uses current news to develop short science lessons which use real data sets for teachers of multiple grade levels.  I thought it was such a great project I just had to blog about it. On the SciNews website you can sign up for monthly emails containing a short one page newsletter about the new lesson.  All of the previous lessons can be found on the website.

The lessons cover a full range of science topics – some topics include:

World Population reaches 7 Billion

Hurricane Irene hits Eastern US

Student Health Issue: Should we tax sugary drinks?

Kepler Mission Identifies Potential Exoplanets in the Habitable Zone


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A little humor…

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

posted by: Carrie

So at times working with groundwater and human cancer risks can be a downer… here’s a comic I found today (ahhh Calvin and Hobbes)

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NDeRC will have a poster at AGU

Friday, September 16th, 2011

posted by: Carrie

I just wanted to let the collaboration know, the American Geophysical Union has accepted an abstract regarding the Groundwater Sampling Activity.  We’ve been given a poster on Dec 9th(presentations are hard to come by in this category and I sort of wanted a poster so I can share more information and have informal discussions) .  All I know is everyone better have their coffee ready because I’m going to be doing some fast techno talk (wikis, google forms, mapalist, and online collaboration) as well as emphasizing how to utilize local communities for collection of scientific data bright and early at 8am.

I also received a presentation for my research connecting reliability, resilience, and vulnerability criteria to management of contaminated groundwater systems with the overall goal of reducing health risks on Dec 5th.  Anyway, I’m off to finish my presentation – I’m in Stuttgart Germany next week and Tuesday I’m presenting an overview of my work.

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Tsunami module from COMET

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

posted by: Carrie

Interested in teaching your students about tsunamis (or any geoscience related issue)? I recently received an update from the K-12 group of the American Geophysical Union mentioning this new module for ~13-17 year old students.  Here’s a description:

The COMET Program recently published a series of lessons on tsunamis for middle school/high school students called Tsunami Strike! Pacific Edition. Tsunami Strike! Pacific Edition is a scenario-based learning experience for kids from middle school through high school (approximate ages 13-17). The scenario tells the story of four main characters at different locations in the Pacific basin who are each impacted by a major tsunami that originates in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. Over the course of the story, learners not only view the unfolding events and how each of the characters responds, but also observe how warning scientists analyze and communicate the tsunami threat. Fourteen short lessons provide interactive instruction focused on the science, safety, and history of tsunamis. In total, Tsunami Strike! Pacific Edition is more than 3 1/2 hours of interactive instructional content aligned to education standards. A Caribbean Edition will be published this fall. For more information, contact Dr. Pat Parrish (
The site is available at

This website also has many additional modules (something like 350!) many shorter that are connected to the geosciences.

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Hot day in the news for an ENVIRO blogger!

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

posted by: Carrie

Here’s a local article about the sewer vs. septic debate in Granger.  They’re trying to take care of some of the water quality issues due to septic byproducts and specifically mention our favorite little contaminant Nitrates (which 800 K-12 students in the area should know about!)  While their monthly cost estimate seems high, it can’t be directly compared to the city because I would guess the waste has to pumped over to another city for treatment.  To my knowledge Granger itself does not have the facilities and treatment plants aren’t cheap.  However, as more and more septic tanks start to fail the water quality is only going to get worse – something should be done now before there are health risks associated with the contamination.,0,773367.story?track=rss

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Sewage to drinking water

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

posted by: Carrie

I wish Texas the best of luck in conveying to it’s population that their water will be safe to drink.  What people often don’t realize is that the water they get is generally already used, treated and released somewhere up stream of them.  Think about the Mississippi, how many towns/cities pull water from there and release their treated water back.  It’s essentially the same thing, but with a much ‘tighter’ loop and therefor less dilution.  But when water resources are scarce and countries like the US have the technology for water reclamation, they should go for it.  We aren’t limited by our technology, we’re limited by money and public perception of the process. 

Link below:

Around here we’re lucky to have large quantities of easily accessible groundwater; that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care about how much water we might be wasting every day.  Here are 25 ways to conserve water taken from

1. Check faucets and pipes for leaks
A small drip from a worn faucet washer can waste 20 gallons of water per day. Larger leaks can waste hundreds of gallons.

Every time you flush a cigarette butt, facial tissue or other small bit of trash, five to seven gallons of water is wasted.

2. Don’t use the toilet as an ashtray or wastebasket

3. Check your toilets for leaks
Put a little food coloring in your toilet tank. If, without flushing, the color begins to appear in the bowl within 30 minutes, you have a leak that should be repaired immediately. Most replacement parts are inexpensive and easy to install.

4. Use your water meter to check for hidden water leaks
Read the house water meter before and after a two-hour period when no water is being used. If the meter does not read exactly the same, there is a leak.5. Install water-saving shower heads and low-flow faucet aerators
Inexpensive water-saving low-flow shower headsor restrictors are easy for the homeowner to install. Also, long, hot showers can use five to ten gallons every unneeded minute. Limit your showers to the time it takes to soap up, wash down and rinse off. “Low-flow” means it uses less than 2.5 gallons per minute.
You can easily install a
ShowerStartshowerhead, or add a ShowerStart converterto existing showerheads, which automatically pauses a running shower once it gets warm.
Also, all household faucets should be fit with
aerators. This single best home water conservation method is also the cheapest!

6. Put plastic bottles or float booster in your toilet tank
To cut down on water waste, put an inch or two of sand or pebbles inside each of two plastic bottles to weigh them down. Fill the bottles with water, screw the lids on, and put them in your toilet tank, safely away from the operating mechanisms. Or, buy an inexpensive tank bank or float booster. This may save ten or more gallons of water per day.adjustable toilet flapper that allow for adjustment of their per flush use.  Then the user can adjust the flush rate to the minimum per flush setting that achieves a single good flush each time. insulate your water pipeswith pre-slit foam pipe insulation. You’ll get hot water faster plus avoid wasting water while it heats up.There is no need to keep the water running while brushing your teeth. Just wet your brush and fill a glass for mouth rinsing.

11. Use your dishwasher and clothes washer for only full loads
Automatic dishwashers and clothes washers should be fully loaded for optimum water conservation. Most makers of dishwashing soap recomend not pre-rinsing dishes which is a big water savings.
With clothes washers, avoid the permanent press cycle, which uses an added 20 liters (5 gallons) for the extra rinse. For partial loads, adjust water levels to match the size of the load. Replace old clothes washers. New Energy Star rated washers use 35 – 50% less water and 50% less energy per load. If you’re in the market for a new clothes washer, consider buying a water-saving
frontload washer. compost pile as an alternate method of disposing food waste. Dual-swivel aeratorsare available to make this easier. If using a dishwasher, there is usually no need to pre-rinse the dishes.dual-setting aerator.
Running tap water to cool it off for drinking water is wasteful. Store drinking water in the fridge in a
safe drinking bottle.water conservation in the yard and garden… “Eco-Lawn”.
Many beautiful shrubs and plants thrive with far less watering than other species. Replace herbaceous perennial borders with native plants. Native plants will use less water and be more resistant to local plant diseases. Consider applying the principles of
xeriscape for a low-maintenance, drought resistant yard.
Plant slopes with plants that will retain water and help reduce runoff.
Group plants according to their watering needs.

Mulch will slow evaporation of moisture while discouraging weed growth. Adding 2 – 4 inches of organic material such as compost or bark mulch will increase the ability of the soil to retain moisture. Press the mulch down around the dripline of each plant to form a slight depression which will prevent or minimize water runoff.
For information about different mulch materials and their best use,
click here.
When watering the lawn, do it long enough for the moisture to soak down to the roots where it will do the most good. A light sprinkling can evaporate quickly and tends to encourage shallow root systems. Put an empty tuna can on your lawn – when it’s full, you’ve watered about the right amount. Visit our
natural lawn care page for more information. ; avoid watering when it’s windy
Early morning is generally better than dusk since it helps prevent the growth of fungus. Early watering, and late watering, also reduce water loss to evaporation. Watering early in the day is also the best defence against slugs and other garden pests. Try not to water when it’s windy – wind can blow sprinklers off target and speed evaporation.
soaker hoses
- installing a
rain barrel water catchment system
- installing a simple
drip-irrigation system
Avoid over-watering plants and shrubs, as this can actually diminish plant health and cause yellowing of the leaves.
When hand watering, use a
variable spray nozzle for targeted watering.waterless car washing system; there are several brands, such as EcoTouch, which are now on the market.Leaks outside the house may not seem as bad since they’re not as visible. But they can be just as wasteful as leaks indoors. Check frequently to keep them drip-free. Use hose washers at spigots and hose connections to eliminate leaks.

Be sure at least 3 gallons of water remain in the tank so it will flush properly. If there is not enough water to get a proper flush, users will hold the lever down too long or do multiple flushes to get rid of waste. Two flushings at 1.4 gallons is worse than a single 2.0 gallon flush. A better suggestion would be to buy an

For new installations, consider buying “low flush” toilets, which use 1 to 2 gallons per flush instead of the usual 3 to 5 gallons.

Replacing an 18 liter per flush toilet with an ultra-low volume (ULV) 6 liter flush model represents a 70% savings in water flushed and will cut indoor water use by about 30%.

7. Insulate your water pipes.
It’s easy and inexpensive to

8. Take shorter showers.
One way to cut down on water use is to turn off the shower after soaping up, then turn it back on to rinse. A four-minute shower uses approximately 20 to 40 gallons of water.

9. Turn off the water after you wet your toothbrush

10. Rinse your razor in the sink
Fill the sink with a few inches of warm water. This will rinse your razor just as well as running water, with far less waste of water.

12. Minimize use of kitchen sink garbage disposal units
In-sink ‘garburators’ require lots of water to operate properly, and also add considerably to the volume of solids in a septic tank which can lead to maintenance problems. Start a

13. When washing dishes by hand, don’t leave the water running for rinsing
If your have a double-basin, fill one with soapy water and one with rinse water. If you have a single-basin sink, gather washed dishes in a dish rack and rinse them with a spray device or a panful of hot water.

14. Don’t let the faucet run while you clean vegetables
Just rinse them in a stoppered sink or a pan of clean water. Use a

15. Keep a bottle of drinking water in the fridge.

16. Plant drought-resistant lawns, shrubs and plants
If you are planting a new lawn, or overseeding an existing lawn, use drought-resistant grasses such as the new

17. Put a layer of mulch around trees and plants

18. Don’t water the gutter
Position your sprinklers so water lands on the lawn or garden, not on paved areas. Also, avoid watering on windy days.

19. Water your lawn only when it needs it
A good way to see if your lawn needs watering is to step on the grass. If it springs back up when you move, it doesn’t need water. If it stays flat, the lawn is ready for watering. Letting the grass grow taller (to 3″) will also promote water retention in the soil.
Most lawns only need about 1″ of water each week. During dry spells, you can stop watering altogether and the lawn will go brown and dormant. Once cooler weather arrives, the morning dew and rainfall will bring the lawn back to its usual vigor. This may result in a brown summer lawn, but it saves a lot of water.

20. Deep-soak your lawn

21. Water during the early parts of the day

22. Add organic matter and use efficient watering systems for shrubs, flower beds and lawns
Adding organic material to your soil will help increase its absorption and water retention. Areas which are already planted can be ‘top dressed’ with compost or organic matter.
You can greatly reduce the amount of water used for shrubs, beds and lawns by:
- the strategic placement of

23. Don’t run the hose while washing your car
Clean the car using a pail of soapy water. Use the hose only for rinsing – this simple practice can save as much as 150 gallons when washing a car. Use a spray nozzle when rinsing for more efficient use of water. Better yet, use a

24. Use a broom, not a hose, to clean driveways and sidewalks

25. Check for leaks in pipes, hoses, faucets and couplings

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What gives data?

Monday, July 11th, 2011

posted by: Carrie

So after running through a few graphs of final data I was mildly disappointed.  I decided to break the data by the 6 schools it was collected from to see what the break down in each school was.  The following plot has 4 subplots, and each plot has the 6 schools.

So the main thing I noticed is that the data is pretty consistent from school to school except for one – New Prairie HS.  Unfortunately, New Prairie dominates the majority of my data, with almost half the gender specific data being from New Prairie.  So what’s causing the difference mainly in the last 2 questions?  Unfortunately we’ll probably never know but here are some things that were different from other schools:

1. Location: New Prairie is the only school outside of the South Bend/Mishawaka area that completed the survey.  I have no hypothesis to why they would have different results due to this.

2. The amount of time/interaction:   With John being more than capable to run this week on his own, as well as my sudden sickness sunday night I was only out at New Prairie for 2-3 days compared to the 5 I spent at the other schools.  While this wouldn’t impact their confidence in the material, it could influence the environment of the class where the teacher is still “teaching” resulting in a less peer to peer teaching.

3. Biology class:  John connected the week with the health impacts of what we were testing for in their water.  I thought he did a fine job, however it did not fit as directly with Biology as it did in other classrooms (General science and Environmental Science) nor is freshman biology an elective.

4. Age: This is the only freshman data I have.  If you look at Q3 and the New Prairie HS trend, the Adams HS trend and then the St. Joe HS trend you see, in that order, an increase in feeling more confident in teaching science.  What you can’t see is that New Prairie consisted of freshman, Adams had a mix in the middle and St. Joe had primarily older students (but also a mix).  Perhaps we’re seeing some delineation based on their High school level.

I’m sure its a mix of 20 million different factors, but there are the 4 I’ve identified.

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Enviro happenings

Friday, July 8th, 2011

posted by: Carrie

Thanks to Kate for sending this along.  The city of Elkhart has been busy with all sorts of environmental happenings.  Today specifically is Envirofest at the wellfield botanical gardens, more information can be found at the link below.

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Plot #2 – edited

Monday, July 4th, 2011

posted by: Carrie

Original post:

I was curious if grade level would influence their responses to the pre-survey questions.  Here’s our answer:

The only thing that stands out in these plots is the higher level of confidence when it comes to leading your peers through an activity (top 2 plots) for High School students.  I hope to combine this plot with the last and make proportioned bars based on gender for a final super pre-survey plot.

So after I wrote this I thought, wow that’s odd I don’t remember the High School students being the most comfortable leading their peers, so I double checked.  I had a typo in the code and what I had plotted instead of [Elem. Interm. High] was actually [Female,  Male,  unspecified gender].

All the data with no gender came from the first survey conducted at LaSalle Intermediate Academy.

I left the original post because it shows something interesting.  Students from LaSalle are more comfortable leading their peers then the rest of the bulk data from the other schools.

Here is the actual plot based on grade

We see a drop in the confidence of high school students in leading their peers through activities (science or other).

There is also a drop from Intermediate to High school with regard to answering questions but I would doubt it is statistically significant.

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