Providence teacher and students test the water at
Roger Williams Park
KINGSTON, R.I. -- August 5, 2002 -- Bruce Le Blanc, a science teacher at the Alternative Learning Project School in Providence, was looking for an activity that would show his students the real life applications of science. He wanted a project that would answer the much asked question, "How am I going to use this in the real world?"
Through Le Blancs work with the University of Rhode Islands Master Gardener Program he learned about the URI Watershed Watch Program, where URI trains volunteers to monitor the water quality of ponds and lakes around the state.
For the past two years Le Blancs students have been monitoring and testing the waters at Rhode Islands number one outdoor tourist attraction, Roger Williams Park. The man-made ponds are seen by 650,000 people a year and are fed by Mashapaug Pond, a site with high metal content according to a 1998 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report.
Students spend about two hours a week throughout the year collecting data for the program. This summer only three students are involved, because many must take summer jobs. "I wish more students could be involved with the program because the park is such a wonderful environment to do work in. It shows the students the practical side of science while instilling in them the spirit of community service," said Le Blanc.
Students receive elective credit for participating, but more importantly Le Blanc has seen the program spark an interest in science for many of the students. "The program helps them to see science in terms of a possible career," he said.
Le Blanc has worked at the Alternative Learning Project School for three years. The school has 150 students and 12 teachers, allowing for small classes and more student/teacher interaction. "The school is a nurturing environment for students to learn in and programs such as this one allow us to interact with students outside of the classroom," Le Blanc said.
The URI Watershed Watch program is in its 15th year of monitoring approximately 120 water bodies in the state. The program began to combat a lack of knowledge about water quality in Rhode Islands lakes and ponds. It now has close to 300 volunteers and 30 sponsoring organizations. Locations are selected based on areas of interest to local groups. "These tend to be active public usage areas or areas where there is a visible decline in water quality," according to Linda Green, Watershed Watch program director.
The monitoring season begins in late April and ends in early November. At the end of the monitoring season, a report is written and distributed to the volunteers and the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. This report is used to assess whether the water bodies are meeting state standards.
This program helps to create citizen scientists that have a personal interest in the work they are doing. "The program allows us to track problems, document high water quality, and assess possible solutions," said Green. "Without the help of volunteers this would not be possible."
According to Elizabeth Herron, program coordinator, "Roger Williams Park is a relatively new testing site that reflects its urban setting. We have not yet collected enough data to tell if there have been any improvements in water quality."
Those interested in becoming Watershed Watch volunteers should contact Green at 874-2905 or Herron at 874-4552.
For Information: Todd McLeish 874-2116, Nicole Duguay 874-2116