Education: K-12 Applications of the Report

E1. Introduction

The State of the Lower St. Johns River Basin Report can support teaching approaches advocated by the authors of major policy documents including the National Science Education Standards (NRC 1996a), Science for All Americans (Rutheford and Ahgren 1990), the Florida Sunshine State Standards (FDOE 2010), Common Core Standards (CCSSI 2012), and the Next Generation Science Standards (NRC 2013). The Report can provide a resource to support real-world curricular connections and critical thinking — areas that are central components of the Next Generation Science Standards (NRC 2013) and connected to the Common Core Standards (CCSSI 2012).

In an effort to make components of the Report more accessible and useful to educators, the team has developed educational materials to be used by teachers in K-12 classrooms. The team’s objectives for these educational resources include:

  • Improving scientific literacy
  • Improving understanding of challenges facing management of the Lower St. Johns River Basin
  • Creating structured narrated interactive lessons
  • Sharing lessons with primary and secondary school teachers and the general public

To find the educational resources, click on the tab on the Report home page found here, as seen below in Figure E1.

Figure E1. State of the River Report for the Lower St. Johns River Basin Home Page.
Figure E1. State of the River Report for the Lower St. Johns River Basin Home Page.

From there, educational resources can be found in the drop-down menu and include:

  • Educational Video Clips
  • Data Visualization
  • K-12 Lesson Plans
  • Service Learning Example
  • Resiliency Teaching Resources

These Report-informed educational materials provide elements useful to K-12 educators. The educational materials offer a resource for background information (for teachers and their students) about content such as biological and chemical measures of water body health and the use of these data as evidence to support assessments. Examples of these indicators include K-12 lesson plans that address parameters including dissolved oxygen, nutrients, turbidity, and biological assays.

Additionally, the classroom materials can help students develop their scientific literacy. For our team, scientific literacy entails:

  • Collaborating to discuss and interpret data
  • Representing data in different ways
  • Interpreting data to make judgements and claims
  • Developing evidence-based recommendations

Resources like the K-12 lesson plans and service learning materials use scaffolded data from the Report to provide students an opportunity to develop their skills in examining and interpreting data.

Finally, the educational materials can help build relevance and real-world connections within the K-12 science curriculum. With a focus on local tributaries and social factors in watershed management and se (i.e., Aldo Leopold’s “sense of place”), students can become more connected with the natural surroundings of the watershed. This focus helps students connect the K-12 science curriculum to their neighborhood and is intended to build awareness of the watershed and that inter-connectedness of the components in the ecosystem. Through these materials, students will hopefully find science and nature in their everyday environments. Resources like the data visualizations and the service learning materials can help students see the impacts of phenomena like runoff and how they can take action to positively influence their communities.

The purpose of this chapter is to describe each of these educational resources and how they can be used in K-12 classrooms.

E2. Educational Video Clips

The team has developed video clips that can be used as educational resources. As a key feature of these videos, experts share their insight and understanding of topics important to understanding the state of the river. The content provides local connections that make the material more relevant and offers students examples of working scientists.

The video clips can be found here and include the following topics:

  • Algae
  • Manatees
  • Microplastics
  • Bacteria
  • Fish
  • Plankton
  • Trash
  • Environmental history

These videos provide brief (most are 2-3 minutes in length), student-friendly overviews of topics that are included in the Report and can be used as an introduction to these topics. The videos include local experts like Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens staff and Jacksonville University. They show authentic examples of how researchers and staff work and examples of local rivers organisms and phenomena. In a particularly engaging video, Zoo staffers describe how they provided treatment to a cold-stressed manatee named Vilanzo. In the video, the staff show the pathology around cold-stress treatment, and release process.

E3. Data Visualization Examples

The data visualizations provide educators with a resource to help their K-12 students make important connections between human activities and the watershed and how these activities may affect quality of life and the ecosystem. These data visualizations can be found here and include:

  • Sanitary Sewage Overflows (SSOs)
  • Impaired Waters, Septic Tanks, Aquifer Vulnerability
  • Soil Drainage Classifications
  • JEA’s owned properties

The data visualization below indicates sanitary sewer overflow as reported by the Jacksonville Electrical Authority. These data include the total gallons of overflow at each point and the water bodies showing biological, chemical, and/or physical impairment.

Figure E3. Sanitary Sewer Overflows Data.
Figure E3. Sanitary Sewer Overflows Data.

Visualizations, like the one above, provide teachers with localized representations that can be used in class to help students understand how to interpret data and connect to their local neighborhood. This provides a valuable local connection that can help students see the relevance of the curriculum content they are learning about.

E4. Service Learning Examples

The service learning materials provide an important resource for teachers to make important connections between the science curriculum and the students’ immediate environment. These materials can help make science more concrete and engage students in real-world problem solving. The service learning materials can be found here. Each resource was developed by Dr. Nisse Goldberg’s Jacksonville University students and includes:

  • Hook with photos
  • Background information
  • Data interpretation
  • Test understanding
  • Summary of information covered with quiz
  • Next steps: Citizen Scientist opportunities

Lesson hooks often provide images of the river that relates to river health that elicit an emotional response. An example can be seen below.

Figure E4. Example Hook of Algal Bloom.
Figure E4. Example Hook of Algal Bloom.

From this hook, students connect the image to a particular watershed health indicator that might include: Water Quality, Fisheries, Aquatic Life, Contaminants. Students are then provided an information background used to explain the science in a clear way that is student-friendly and includes river status and data trends. The figure below shows how data interpretation can be supported.

Figure E5. Box and Whisker Plot Example.
Figure E5. Box and Whisker Plot Example.

The lesson also helps support students’ work interpreting data, as can be seen in Figure E5.

Figure E6. Example of Data Interpretation Exercise.
Figure E6. Example of Data Interpretation Exercise.

This aspect connects to the data presented in the Report. Teachers can use this information to help their students understand how phenomena are described and generated through empirical observation and evidence collection and are used as indicators of watershed health. As an example, data in the Report are presented, and based on defined water quality criteria or benchmarks, assessments were made for the tributaries within the SJR watershed. Students can see how data are represented to make a case of the health indicators of these tributaries. They can also use these data to make their own calculations, representations, and conclusions.

Citizen science opportunities provide students with contact information and agencies to help them get involved with in preserving the river.

Figure E7. Example of Resource for Student Engagement.
Figure E7. Example of Resource for Student Engagement.

These connections offer a resource for cross-disciplinary curriculum development. Topics such as geographical history and human impact on the watershed are logical areas to make connections between the social studies and science subject areas. Through the use of the background information and data in the Report, students can better understand issues facing policy makers and the public when they try to understand and suggest management strategies for the watershed.

E5. Lesson Plans

As part of the Report, lesson plans were developed for elementary and secondary students. The lessons focus on approaches that include teaching through inquiry, where students are active learners through posing questions, examining data and finding patterns, and creating, examining and revising models, explanations, or solutions to issues. Both the report and these lesson resources can allow students to investigate questions that are relevant to their community and bring their understanding to bear when devising solutions to local LSJR watershed problems (e.g., saltwater intrusion, water conservation). One example could include striking a balance between the positive economic impact of expanding shipping in Jacksonville with the needs of suitable habitat for wildlife.

As part of the efforts to help K-12 teachers utilize the resources from the Report, ten lesson plans have been developed for classroom use. The overall aim of these lessons is to help students develop a deeper appreciation of the Lower St Johns River Watershed through a better understanding of the complexity of the relationships between biotic and abiotic factors within the ecosystem. They are also intended to help students understand that they are part of the watershed ecosystem with the natural environment between closely linked to the human environment.

Each lesson (found here) includes:

  • Connection to the standards
  • Intended Learning Outcomes or Objectives
  • Rationale for Lesson
  • Power point presentation
  • Teacher notes

The lessons are categorized by age for use in primary and secondary settings (five lessons in each category) and include both a teacher plan that details instructional notes and a Power point for classroom use. Each plan is intended to serve as a stand-alone lesson to be completed in one class period; however, the timeframe can be extended or shortened based on student background and interests and curricular considerations. All materials are editable and are intended to be modified for student and school context. These lessons are supported by the Report that provides authentic data and presents important issues related to management of the watershed. Lessons are either drawn from, or are linked explicitly to, appropriate sections of the Report — a feature designed to either be used in support of teacher background knowledge or used as a student resource for classroom activities.

The lessons cover a range of topics including:

  • The History of the Lower St Johns River Basin
  • How to assess the state of an aquatic ecosystem
  • Developing a remediation plan that balances the social, ecological, and economic needs of the community
  • Finding patterns in nature

These topics are intended to tie into multiple standards and encourage students to engage in inquiry-oriented activities.

The Report materials offers a potential resource related to the “Nature of Science” components of the state and national standards. These components are central for students to understand how science is practiced. As an example, a lesson for elementary students supports students’ science literacy by developing skills like defining what natural patterns are helping them see examples. An important skill for scientists is the ability to observe patterns. Patterns can take many shapes and sizes and often repeat in nature. The primary grade lesson about patterns aligns with the Florida Sunshine State Standard:

Nature of Science: Big Idea 1 SC.K.N.1, SC.1.N.1, SC.2.N.1, SC.3.N.1, The Practice of Science

Scientific inquiry is a multifaceted activity; The processes of science include the formulation of scientifically investigable questions, construction of investigations into those questions, the collection of appropriate data, the evaluation of the meaning of those data, and the communication of this evaluation.

To support this standard, the lesson helps students identify some common patterns include spirals, symmetry, waves, branching, stripes, etc. The lesson includes a Power point that provides the teacher the opportunity to support student pattern finding as can be seen below:

Figure E8. Example Power Point Slide.
Figure E8. Example Power Point Slide.

The purpose of this lesson is to help students see different patterns and begin to identify them—a key skill practiced in science.

E6. Resiliency Materials

Flood resiliency has become an important consideration within the watershed and can provide an important topic for K-12 students in the curriculum. As part of the educational resources, the team has provided resources useful in teaching about resiliency. These materials can be found here. A key resource related to resiliency includes the video: Keeping Florida, Florida: Jacksonville Provides a Path for Equity and Flood Resilience by the Environmental Defense Fund.

The video helps define flood resiliency, why it is important, and what can be done. What is especially powerful is that these materials are centered on both Florida and Jacksonville contexts, adding important relevance to instruction, as the video includes local residents and experts, locations, and history. Teachers can create authentic connections around curricular concepts like ecosystems, natural cycles, weather, and human impacts on the environment. This resource also provides an opportunity to make important cross-curricular connections between history and science.

Additionally, the video discusses how flooding impacts all populations, providing an opportunity for K-12 students to discuss actions that can be taken to protect their own neighborhoods. These discussions can lead students to take an active role in developing resiliency plans for their own neighborhoods and to push local leaders for greater natural infrastructure elements that support resiliency, help build community, improve water quality, and create habitat.

E7. Conclusion

Used as individual items or together in combination, the educational resources described here can provide teachers with materials to connect students with science curriculum and the Lower St. Johns River Basin. These resources can be modified to support science learning at multiple curricular levels.

In addition to the Report educational materials, the Report itself can be useful in K-12 classrooms. Discussion of limitations of water quality assessments are found throughout the Report, which provides students an authentic example of scientific uncertainty and the limits of available data. The Report authors provide students a clear rationale for their uncertainty (e.g., due to differences in sampling methods, changes in definitions due to public policy, and ongoing questions of causation). These examples could provide useful points for teachers when discussing their students’ own empirical work or current topics like global climate change or natural selection.

The Report team hopes to help teachers in these endeavors. Please contact us if you are interested in seeking guidance and support.