Research Focus

The goal of the TES-MMW project is to provide students and teachers access to scientifically valid and easy-to-use watershed tools to accurately examine their own neighborhoods (place based), to define local environmental problems or challenges (problem based) and develop solutions to improve their environment.  Efectiveness of the project is measured by the curriculum’s ability to promote critical incidents for students in terms of their engagement with watershed ideas and concepts both inside the classroom and outside of the classroom in their personal lives. 

What are critical incidents?

Specific events, situations or influences that lead people into certain educational and career paths or prompts other changes in behavior (Flanagan, 1954).

Curriculum designed as a vehicle toward a critical incident will empower users with the tools necessary to:

  • learn about watershed science.
  • explore their local watershed.
  • evaluate local watershed conditions.
  • design and test solutions to current watershed challenges.
  • engage in watershed activities/groups/causes in their neighborhood.

Our research is guided by three questions.

  1. Are Resource, Models and Tools (RMTs) designed with a local, problem-solving emphasis, using real data and authentic analytical tools effective in teaching broader science content?
  2. Do authentic RMTs designed with a local, problem-solving emphasis encourage students to explore local resources and activities both inside the classroom and in their personal time that promote environmental sustainability?
  3. What role does the local emphasis of instructional materials have in promoting characteristics of grit, tenacity and perseverance in students as assumed by their persistence with the content both inside the classroom and in their personal time?


Data collection will include a pre-post content knowledge assessments, a modified version of the Relevance of Science Education (ROSE) survey, a data logo of students online interaction with the watershed model and curriculum, a critical incident exploratory survey with a purposeful sample of follow-up interviews.

In 2015, the project recruited 75 teachers from five states: California, Iowa, Kansas, Pennsylvania and Virginia.  Teacher training will begin in summer 2015 and classroom implementation will start in the fall of 2015.  Over 5,500 students will use the six-hour TES-MMW curriculum unit during the first year alone.

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