Middle-schoolers work with university researchers in water quality

Contact: Maridith Geuder

Water sampling, turtle studies and global positioning research are all in a day's work for more than 30 Delta teachers and middle school students involved in a Mississippi State University summer program.

Ten teachers and 22 academically talented students from Sunflower and Leflore counties were part of a recent four-week program designed to bring environmental research into middle school classrooms.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the Student and Teacher Research Institute-the Delta Experience (STRIDE) takes participants into university laboratories and field settings to learn how to collect and evaluate scientific data.

In turn, they teach scientific processes to other students and teachers.

More than 14 agencies and nearly 50 researchers are participating the program, said physics professor Sandra Harpole, director of Mississippi State's Center for Science, Mathematics and Technology, and one of five faculty members coordinating STRIDE.

"The project involves middle school students in ongoing research for the Mississippi Delta Management Systems Evaluation, or MSEA project," Harpole explained.

Directed by the Water Resources Research Institute at Mississippi State, MSEA is a research project focused on improving water quality in the Mississippi Delta, said institute director Jonathan Pote.

"Among the goals of our project is to encourage that good water practices are more generally adopted," Pote said. "In particular, we want to involve more young people through expanding our educational outreach."

For three consecutive summers, STRIDE participants will work on real-life research projects. In addition to collecting scientific samples from three Delta lake sites, the group also visited the National Sedimentation Laboratory at the University of Mississippi and the U.S. Geological Survey in Pearl.

During the school year they will share information in workshops and Internet exchanges. Additional Delta students will be invited to participate in the future.

"These students are getting an early exposure to issues of importance to our state and nation," said Harpole. "They're learning firsthand about scientific processes that will benefit them as they continue their education."

Other Mississippi State researchers directing the project are Lynn Prewitt of the Forest Products Laboratory, Giselle Thibaudeau of biological sciences, and Taha Mzoughi of physics and astronomy. Also participating is Frank Gwin, project coordinator for the MSEA project at Mississippi State.

Thu, 08/20/1998 - 05:00