2010 Enviro Summer Institute

Monday -

We used a groundwater system to model how groundwater is affected by contamination. A spray pump was used as a model well. As the contaminated groundwater spread throughout the model, we could see it come through our model well. Since our well was placed away from the contaminated area, we felt that if we sprayed the water onto another filter, we could see even trace amounts of contaminates. Discussions about how "run off" from farms that are down gradient affect groundwater. Also discussed city wells and well head protection areas. We also looked at a model of all the water in the world vs. how much is actually potable. Great demonstration idea using 50 2-liter bottles of water, only 1 bottle is fresh water, only 1 tbs. of that water is drinkable.

I actually enjoyed the scavenger hunt in the afternoon. I can see how we could incorporate an activity like this for our prairie.

Tuesday -

We completed Day 2 and 3 of the Class Unit. We used test strips and LabQuest to test controls and our well sample. It was interesting to see that while the readings varied, the trends in the data (with the exception of the LQ hardness reading) stayed true to the expected outcome of the control. Discussion about how this would work in the classroom revealed several concerns about students reading strips accurately, accessibility to well water, the overwhelming number of photos that were originally asked to be collected for the project. The photo of the collection of the water and the well head was determined to be the most important photos.

The tour of Stinson-Remick was interesting, but most of it was way over my head since I had no basic knowledge of the technology being used in this building. I couldn't really see how this related to our study.

Wednesday -

We reviewed our data from the previous day. We entered our data on the Wiki pages. This brought to light several concerns about students using these Wiki pages. Some adults had difficulty downloading the pictures, entering data, etc. Availability of computers and difficulty downloading data became a major concern in regards to students.

The tours this afternoon were much more applicable to my experiences and what I can use in my classroom. It was very interesting to see these research projects and hear the grad students/professors talk about their hypotheses and processes to draw conclusions. I immediately thought about my own attempts to teach the scientific process in my classroom...and how a field trip to these labs would make it so much more clear!

Thursday -

I completely enjoyed the presentations today on Place-based Learning. This has always been a passion of mine....outdoor education experiences such as 5th grade camp and a Yosemite trip with 5/6th graders have always inspired me as I watch students connect with their environment. As I listened to the presenters, I had a million ideas about how to implement this at Prairie Vista. With our access to the prairie, we have the perfect opportunity to develop a curriculum that utilizes it for maximum place-based learning projects. We plan to organize a multi-grade level committee to investigate refurbishing our prairie and to develop a school wide curriculum. I also had a brainstorm for how to involve graduate students with 5th grade students for Learningsphere projects. Our Learningsphere(science fair) needs a new breath of life when it comes to 5th graders. I envision introducing various science disciplines to students, and then, based on interest, engaging small groups in a long-term research project led by a grad student. Their research findings will be presented at the Learningsphere in February.

Friday - Reflections and Images

Symposium Presentation
Place-Based Learning was the topic of Thursday morning's discussion. The idea behind place-based learning is to get kids outside in their own envirornment to learn and play. Jessica Mikels-Carrasco gave a brief presentation about the benefits of PBL and also her SEEDS project, a community outreach project for inner city kids in South Bend. John Gensic talked about the apple orchard he created with a grant from the Hoosier Environmental Council. This project gave his students many opportunities for hands-on experience in his freshman biology class. We also heard about local projects in Juday and Bowman Creeks. Charlotte Wolfe spoke about Prairie Winds Nature Farm and opportunities for field trips and farm experiences. Presentations led to discussion about implementing this kind of learning in our schools. Several schools mentioned that they have outdoor gardens or nature areas available to them. Some concern about maintaining these environments was discussed. Possible solutions for these kinds of problems include involving the entire staff, getting administrative support, and giving students ownership in the project. Another problem with this kind of learning experience is access to certain locations. Finding transportation for place-based learning field trips may limit accessibility. Prairie Vista has a great opportunity for an outdoor classroom with their 10 acre prairie which includes a meadow, pond, and forest. Teachers there are beginning investigations to garner community support to refurbish the prairie and maximize it's educational use. As school corporations begin investigating new science curriculums for this year's adoption, they should be encouraged to consider environmental education as part of the curriculum. It was suggested that the university become involved in evaluating text choices, and also sharing ideas and research that supports a place-based learning approach.


Prairie Vista Elementary

Grade Levels

5th grade

No. of Students




Links to Well Reports





Teacher Comments/Reflections


ENVIRO Educator Comments/Reflections


Parental Feedback


Colleagues Participating in ENVIRO

At Our School

Debbie Baughman
Peggy Peak
Vicki Topolski

At Other Schools