Geoscience Environmental Education — Web-accessible Instrumented Systems

Environmental Laboratory for Undergraduate Courses,
Undergraduate Theses and K-12 Instruction

Thomas Torgersen
Dept of Marine Sciences

Micheal Young
Neag School of Education

University of Connecticut

Storrs, CT 06269


Geoscience Environmental Education — Web-accessible Instrumented Systems, or GEE-WIS, is an NSF Geoscience Education grant (NSF 00-38) funded for the period Jan 2001 - Aug 2002. The project established the instrumentation of two small lakes on the UConn Storrs campus, Mirror and Swan Lake, and the gaging of the North Campus outflow stream with data made accessible via the Web in real time stream at MyPond ( A team of marine science, biology, engineering and education faculty installed YSI probes (with pump trees for profiling) to obtain profiles for temperature, O2, conductivity, pH, turbidity, NO3, NH3, and Eh at 30 minute intervals. Two anchored learning scenarios and a companion educational website, GEE-WIS ( are being tested to provide a rich realistic context, standards-based curricula, and supporting contextual data for undergraduate, middle, and high school instruction to take advantage of this streamed real-time water quality data.

The purpose of the project is to provide undergraduate and high school students a rich realistic context in which to acquire an understanding of the coupled interactions of physical, chemical, geological and biological as well as social processes related to water quality. The object is for students to engage in hand-on, minds-on activities that enable them to see the non-linearities and the dynamics of the coupling among and across these subsystems that control the temporal response of the pond system (How quickly...?) and the magnitude of the response (How much...?) to various insults/remediations (system dynamics).
In this report, we document our progress to date, and establish a basis for requesting an extension of the project through Summer 2003.

While NSF provided the money that made the GEE-WIS project possible, it was the coupling of this educational effort to the scientific effort (NSF/GEO/Hydrologic Science; Systems Dynamics of Detention/Retention Ponds) that enabled greater strides. This overall project has come about through the coordinated efforts and support from two Deans (LAS, Eng. ), three UConn departments (Marine Science, Educational Psychology, Civil and Environmental Engineering), Environmental Research Institute, and UConn campus Facilities Office. In addition, the project has worked closely with other NSF-funded initiatives including the Center for Innovative Learning Technologies (CILT)'s SYNERGY project & SCALE (see ). SCALE is itself a collaborative of water quality related educational research projects that include:

Through the grant-related activities of project staff, and related collaborations within the University and with other NSF grants, principally the SCALE project), we have created a water quality learning environment that allows students and teachers to access real time campus water quality data online. This should enable educators and the public to acquired a deeper understanding of the day-to-day dynamics of the pond and aqueous systems related to wind and rain (and other physical conditions), runoff from streets and field, 20 years of sedimentation, use by geese and ducks (and other biological elements), drainage basin, bedrock geology, and other geological factors. The dynamics of such coupled systems is made "visible" in the real-time data stream, thus enabling learners to understand these system dynamics in a rich realistic context.

This project is the fusion the authentic scientific investigation of physico-chemo-biologic feedback systems in the context of ponds, and educational efforts to enable K-12 students to become legitimate peripheral participants through online real-time data streams. These efforts go forward together and rely on one another. The scientific value of the project stems for the fact that ponds are a microcosm of environmental events-- the general processes that happen over a year in a lake or over a millennium in the ocean happen over the course of a day in a campus pond.