Voices from the Field
For the past two years, Lacey Huffling, Ph.D., and Heather Scott, Ed.D., have used the Okefenokee Swamp as a placebased, immersive training ground to model for middle and high school science teachers how to develop
community-based watershed projects for their schools’ grounds in order to help students understand how local Georgia watersheds affect the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean. The project, named OUR2SWAMP (Okefenokee: Understanding Real-world Relevance Suwanee Watershed Assessment and Monitoring Project), is a capacity-building grant funded by the Gulf Research Program of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (project number 2000009821)*. In addition to Huffling and Scott, the project team includes: Checo Colon-Gaud, Ph.D., co-principal investigator, biology specialist and Adopt-AStream trainer; Shainaz Landge, Ph.D., co-principal investigator and chemistry specialist; Kania Greer, Ed.D., project evaluator; and Mary Thaler, project administrator. During the first year, the project team partnered with 20 teachers from across Georgia and spent a week in the Okefenokee Swamp at the Stephen C. Foster EcoLodge. All participants became Adopt-AStream certified, participated in birding and phenology community science projects, and explored the Okefenokee Swamp at Stephen C. Foster, Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, and Okefenokee Swamp Park. Participants received classroom supplies to implement
community-based science projects in their schoolyards.
With the onset of COVID-19 in Spring 2020, the
team had to quickly adapt plans for the summer. The professional development was shifted to be fully online to ensure the safety of our participants and to follow state and university guidelines. Though moving a field-based program to an online environment was challenging, it was also rewarding and freed up funds for an additional year of professional development. Thus, this summer Huffling and Scott will partner with 20 more teachers to continue developing long-term community-based watershed monitoring projects on school grounds. As one participant shared, OUR2SWAMP is providing “our students opportunities to contribute to science and our community, which will maybe help pique their interest which in turn will help pique their families’ and friends’ interest in our local watershed.”
*Disclaimer: The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the Gulf Research Program or the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
Last updated: 3/28/2023