MDI Biological Laboratory and Dartmouth College, in collaboration with multiple partners in Maine and New Hampshire, are leading an NIH Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) project called: “Data to Action: A secondary school-based citizen science project to address arsenic contamination of well water”.
High school and middle school teachers from Maine and New Hampshire, along with scientist partners from neighboring institutions, work collaboratively to engage their students as citizen scientists by integrating well water monitoring into their curriculum.
The overall goal is to provide teachers and students with the tools, skills and support to make sense of well water data so that their analyses can inform actions at the community level, resulting in positive public health outcomes.
The DataLit Institute will provide time for teachers and scientist partners to collaborate on developing research and data literacy skills, create a groundwater curriculum with a focus on arsenic monitoring, and generate a basis of ongoing partnership with each other and other participants.
As part of their experience at the Institute, participants will have the opportunity to collect water samples, run water quality tests and bioassays in the laboratory, and learn about quality assurance/quality control of data, as well as responsible conduct of research. They will hone their data visualization and data analysis skills using Excel and the Tuva data literacy software with data literacy experts from Tuva.
After completion of the DataLit Institute, Maine and New Hampshire teachers will implement arsenic monitoring projects in their classrooms, with support from their local scientist partners.
- Teachers will integrate monitoring well water for arsenic into new or existing watershed or other curriculum.
- Students will collect well water from their private wells and/or distribute project information and water collection containers to community members. Samples will be analyzed at the Trace Element Analysis Core at Dartmouth.
- Anonymous data will be uploaded into our online data portal, Anecdata.org. Parents/community members will access their data reports via the project website: All About Arsenic.
- Students will learn to use Tuva data literacy software to interpret and display data for sharing with their communities.
- Teachers and students will conduct public outreach and share data and solutions to well water contamination with parents and community members.
Teachers are required to participate in the DataLit Institute at MDI Biological Laboratory before initiating classroom projects. Apply now for participation during the 2020-2021 school year. Please contact the Education Director at MDI Biological Laboratory if you have not previously been in contact regarding participation in this project.
- Cait Bailey, BASystems DeveloperMDI Biological Laboratory
- Anna FarrellSEPA Program CoordinatorMDI Biological Laboratory
- Molly Schauffler, Ph.D.Science CoordinatorUniversity of Maine
Why focus on arsenic?
Exposure to arsenic is one of the most pressing public health issues in both Maine and New Hampshire.
- Maine and New Hampshire have among the highest per capita reliance on private wells for drinking water in the U.S. at 56% and 40%. This represents approximately 725,000 individuals on private well water in Maine and 536,000 in New Hampshire.
- 1 in 5 wells in New Hampshire and 1 in 10 wells in Maine exceed the federal Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for arsenic in drinking water (10 ppb). In 2019, the state of New Hampshire lowered the MCL for NH to 5 ppb.
- Private domestic wells are largely unregulated and the burden is solely on homeowners to test their well water and mitigate any health hazards.
- Numerous studies associate exposure to inorganic arsenic with health effects. Long term exposure to water with arsenic can cause numerous severe health problems, including cancer of the bladder, lung, liver, prostate, and skin; diabetes; heart disease; reproductive and developmental problems; and cardiovascular, pulmonary, immunological, neurological, reproductive, and endocrine problems.
Addressing these issues in classrooms provides context for students to engage in scientific inquiry and motivation for them to construct knowledge and meaning through the process of discovery.
Stay tuned for a workshop schedule!
Teachers and scientist partners reside in shared cottages on campus.
Funded by the NIH SEPA grant, grant number 1R25GM129796-01.
Project title: Data to Action: A Secondary School-based Citizen Science Project to Address Arsenic Contamination of Well Water.