MDI Biological Laboratory and Dartmouth College, in collaboration with multiple partners in Maine and New Hampshire, are launching a new project called: “Data to Action: A secondary school-based citizen science project to address arsenic contamination of well water”.
We are seeking High School and Middle School science teachers from Maine and New Hampshire who are interested in engaging their students as citizen scientists by integrating well water monitoring into their science curriculum.
Our 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.
Teachers are required to participate in at least one DataLit Institute at MDI Biological Laboratory before initiating classroom projects. Apply now for participation during the 2018-2019 school year. Please contact the Education Director at MDI Biological Laboratory if you have not previously been in contact regarding participation in this project.
The DataLit Institute will provide time to engage in developing research and data literacy skills as well as developing a groundwater curriculum with a focus on arsenic monitoring.
As part of their experience at the Institute, teachers will have the opportunity to collect water samples, run water quality tests in the laboratory, and learn about quality assurance/quality control of data, and responsible conduct of research. They also will hone their data visualization and data analysis skills using Excel and 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 local scientist mentors.
- Teachers will integrate monitoring well water for arsenic into new or existing watershed curriculum.
- Students will collect well water from their tap and/or distribute project information and water collection containers to community members. Teachers will ship samples to the Trace Element Analysis Core at Dartmouth and receive data in return.
- Parents/community members will receive data reports on their samples; anonymous data will be uploaded into our online data portal, Anecdata.org.
- Students will learn to use Tuva Data Literacy software to interpret and display data for sharing with their communities.
- Teachers and students will host a public meeting and share data with parents and community members.
This workshop is pending funding from NIH.
Teachers receive a $500.00 stipend for the week, housing on campus and all meals. There is no tuition charged.
Why focus on arsenic?
Exposure to arsenic is one of the most pressing public health issues in both Maine and New Hampshire. Most residents in these states derive their drinking water from private wells, which often, due to bedrock composition, are contaminated with arsenic, in many cases far exceeding the EPA limit of 10 ppb. Addressing this issue in secondary science classrooms in these two states provides context for students to engage in scientific inquiry, and motivation for them to construct knowledge and meaning through the process of discovery. The following information is highly relevant for students involved in the proposed project:
- 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% respectively.
- This represents approximately 725,000 individuals on private well water in Maine and 536,000 in New Hampshire.
- Private domestic wells are largely unregulated and the burden is solely on homeowners to test their well water and mitigate any health hazards.
- Lab testing of private wells is uncommon in both Maine and New Hampshire and standard assays do not test for arsenic. The vast majority of well owners are not aware of the arsenic problem or the level of arsenic in their water.
These facts are especially problematic since 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, cardiovascular, pulmonary, immunological, neurological, reproductive, and endocrine problems.
Teachers reside in shared cottages on campus.