An innovative learning module that paired young students with STEM majors at UCF to study water quality has earned a team of UCF educators recognition from the journal Science.

“An Inquiry into the Water around Us,” was published in the August issue of Science and earned the Science Prize for Inquiry-Based Instruction. It was authored by Erin Saitta, assistant director of UCF’s Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning; Tamra Legron-Rodriguez, a UCF alumna and faculty member at Rollins College; and Melody Bowdon, director of the FCTL.

The learning module and its supporting materials are intended to provide science instructors across the nation with a valuable teaching model that will develop students’ abilities to think critically in the scientific process and become more civically engaged.

The team’s module matched STEM majors from UCF with middle and high school students to study the issue of local water quality.  Teams were assigned key questions regarding water quality and tasked with designing the necessary methods to experiment and make claims in response to the questions.

Collaboration and communication between the students was a critical element of the project. After class, students continued to analyze experimental results; delve deeper into the chemistry content and its civic and political implications; and focus on communicating the information to a non-scientific audience.

The UCF team hopes that the interactive nature of the module will encourage more middle and high schoolers to pursue degrees and careers in STEM and more STEM professionals to consider the value of civic engagement.

“I am proud to have our UCF students, who have demonstrated a commitment to excellence and civic engagement, featured in such a prominent journal,” Saitta said. “One of the most rewarding aspects for me is that with the publication of the supplemental materials, the module will able to be utilized and adapted by educators around the world, hopefully inspiring the next generation of inquisitive and engaged scientists.”