The Harte Research Institute and River Systems Institute recently submitted a proposal to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Integrated Water Quality Program for a grant under USDA’s Integrated Research, Education, and Extension Competitive Grants Program. The USDA expects to issue a single grant, under the nationwide grant program.
The proposed $2.5 million USDA project will pilot, then implement experiential water education activities for youth focusing on the interface between people, water and agriculture in South and Central Texas watersheds. Real-life water quality monitoring by Texas Stream Team in the project area already involving school and youth groups, such as 4-H, will be adapted to enhance the connection between youth and water by improving curricula and incorporating new technology into instruction as described by Water=Equals (www.waterequals.org) an initiative supported by the USDA’s National Water Program.
Enhancements to standard water education methods will include expanding stakeholder involvement in water education, support to instructors and stakeholders, support for transporting youth to monitoring locations, connecting youth to community water issues, improving instructor education resources, and use of mobile online technology and youth-oriented social media. For groups unable to access field locations, a mobile water education facility is proposed to provide a virtual multimedia water experience. Technology would include Wi-Fi, hand-held devices and interactive online teaching resources to help simulate actual water quality sampling.
Stakeholders will be involved in planning, curricula, before/after surveys, and evaluations. Independent reviewer evaluations will ensure enhanced activities are implemented and that application of new and adapted curricula and technology is effective.
Project partners have established regular experience-based youth water education opportunities, teacher training and networks involving school districts, youth organizations, and agencies delivering water education. By improving and aligning education resources that heretofore were largely disconnected, the project will bring added focus and synergy to youth water education that will help our future citizens better contribute to the improvement of quality of water resources in an underserved, semiarid region, rich in agriculture, energy development and support to U.S. military base operations.
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H2O (Headwaters to Ocean) is a cooperative project sponsored by the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University and funding partner, the Ewing Halsell Foundation which supports the project H2O. H2O is an experiential, technology-enhanced education program focused on water, from headwaters to the ocean (http://www.water-texas.org)