students better comprehend the impact of their actions on the downstream watershed when following the four-phase program process
than through traditional lecture-style teaching alone. Among the
108 participants, 83.8% noted that they became more conscientious
about their individual impact as well as the human population’s
impact on water quality, 81.4% felt that the hands-on fieldwork
helped them better understand what was taught in the classroom,
and 45.3% would take personal action following the program to preserve water quality.
The LCRC framework, combining hands-on learning with opportunities to engage with professional scientists, has impacts on students’ understanding of the environment and the research process
as well as providing experiences that can lead to higher enrollment
and retention in the field of science. While we used the topic of
water quality as a model for the LCRC program, investigations of
other fields (e.g., species distribution, the spread of invasive species, fire ecology) are also possible. Creating partnerships with local
community science projects can provide excellent opportunities for
K–12 students to engage with research, especially under the guidance of a mentor.
This program was designed for use in an AP Environmental Science
course but can be modified for middle school students or for use in a
university setting. In our case study, we were able to associate each
program section with one or more of the defined AP competencies,
allowing teachers to easily include this program in their yearly lesson
plans. The interdisciplinary program is adaptable to the needs of
individual classrooms and can be tailored as needed, based on locality and available resources. Opportunities include the following:
• Emphasis on the scientific process, proper research methods,
and science communication can be reduced or increased.
• If student access to local surface water is not possible, water
samples and macroinvertebrates can be brought into the classroom to provide testing.
• The focus of the four phases can be directed to a specific topic
or lesson as needed by the instructor (i.e., agriculture impacts,
land-use change, aquatic communities).
Figure 2. Sample poster for the communication phase of the Learn, Collect, Report, and Communicate framework.