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By Alexandra Grant

dsc029361The Institute for the Environment’s Environmental Resource Program (ERP) recently hosted Follow That Drop!, a weeklong summer science enrichment program for 18 middle school students. The program provided outdoor science learning experiences to students who are underrepresented in science careers and taught them about the value of water as a resource, watershed science and ecosystems, and environmental issues affecting water.

“The goal of the week was to teach kids about water and the way it’s useful to humans and nature, helping them understand the value of water, the amount of time and energy that is dedicated to water, and how important it is as a resource for a whole lot of stakeholders,” said Grant Parkins, IE’s watershed education coordinator, who led this year’s program.

Follow That Drop! was based at Central Carolina Community College in Pittsboro and participants came from local dsc028261schools within a 25-mile radius of Pittsboro. Participants had to apply for the program and be sponsored by a teacher.

“My hope was that the students would learn the concept that we all live downstream from somebody and we also live upstream from somebody, so the decisions that we make that affect the water where we live impact people in other places too.”

During the program students participated in hands-on lessons and conducted individual research on their own watershed. The students also went on field trips to Jordan Lake, the Pittsboro Water Treatment Plant, the Central Carolina Community College farm, and various smaller watersheds such as Morgan Creek and Chapel Creek. Throughout the program, guest speakers from diverse backgrounds described issues facing local waterways and emphasized solutions to these challenges. For example, dsc02805students heard from a local Riverkeeper about the importance of healthy rivers and streams, and an engineer who helps operate the Jordan Lake hydropower dam.

Parkins said that there was a notable transformation throughout the week of the students’ understanding of water and what a watershed is.

“One of the things that was striking to me was on the first day I asked the students to raise their hands if they lived in a watershed,” Grant said. “Everybody lives in a watershed, but none of the kids raised their hands.”

“Then when we did this on the last day of the program, and we asked what watershed the students lived in, all eighteen img_20160620_1417051of the students named the watershed they lived in, such as the Cape Rear River Basin or a small creek.”

For the past 12 years, Parkins’ career has focused on science education and outreach. He has been with the Institute for the Environment since March 2016.

Follow that Drop! was made possible with funding from the Duke Energy Foundation.

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