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Anderson, Lemme assist with STEM project at local school

Students at the Morgantown Learning Academy (MLA) and Mountain Stewardship and Outdoor Leadership School (SOL) got a messy and immersive lesson in national, regional and local water quality issues as part of a yearlong “Science and Stewardship” class about national, regional and local water quality issues and how to address them.

(Top) Dr. Jim Anderson with students and SOL School teacher Hannah Spencer. (Bottom) Dr. Jim Anderson and Dr. Brian Lemme with Mountain SOL students, teacher and parent volunteers.

During the class’ first trimester, students studied physical science including how to test and understand water quality parameters such as pH, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, and salinity; sampled two streams (West Run and Lemon Creek) that run through the school’s property; and learned about local water pollution issues and the water chemistry associated with pollutants. The class’ second trimester focused on life sciences, including the bioindicators associated with water quality; studied benthic macroinvertebrate sampling protocol and identification while learning pollution tolerance within collected insects; and learned about fish anatomy and pollution tolerance during a hands-on dissection lesson.

During the third trimester, students learned about watershed management with lessons on

hydrology, soil and water conservation. As part of their final projects, students used what they learned to design and present a proposal that would provide solutions for an area with water drainage issues on the MLA campus. Students researched topics for the project, consulted with local experts, organized and presented proposals at a judged fair. The students and West Virginia University (WVU) experts Dr. James Anderson, Professor of Wildlife and Fisheries Resources, and Brian Lemme, Environmental Health and Safety and Stormwater Specialist, chose the best solutions for the flooded area and built a pond in the academy’s garden.

“The best ideas were rolled together into a comprehensive plan to create a wetland that will hopefully serve to store and clean water and create a habitat for amphibians,” Anderson said. “They turned a poorly drained area that was causing a fence to rot into a potentially valuable asset for the school.”

“This STEM project was student led, student designed and built with their own hands,” said Jen-Osha Buysee, director of Mountain Stewardship and Leadership and instructor at Morgantown Learning Academy. “The final result has exceeded my expectations both as a learning experience and as a new habitat here on campus.”

The research highlighted in this story is based upon work that is partially supported by the National Science Foundation under Award Number 1458952.