Students Explore the Importance of Water

Students Explore the Importance of Water

The importance of water should never be understated! It is a vital component of all life-sustaining processes and integral to chemical reactions. The human body is made of up nearly 60-70% water by body weight, with a decrease of 4% causing dehydration and losses of 15% becoming life-threatening or fatal. Drilling down further, water is considered a universal solvent, it plays an important structural role in our cells as it regulates their shape based on water concentration in various environments and facilitates biochemical reactions by being directly involved in dehydration synthesis and hydrolysis reactions. And this is only at the cellular level. As water crises and droughts highlight the lack of consistent water access around the globe, we know that water is essential for life.  

Our Headwaters Research Experience students recognize the importance of water quality to aquatic systems, and we help students create projects centered around the analysis of water quality in their neighborhoods and watersheds. These types of water quality studies are simple to conduct, but can yield impactful results  and raise awareness among local community members. 

Ethan Liu was curious about water in NYC and focused on comparing water quality between the neighborhoods of Chinatown and Bayside, which have a sizable difference in average household income. Ultimately, Ethan found that there was no significant difference in pH or total dissolved solids (TDS, like inorganic salts and some organic matter) for water sampled from restaurants in these regions. Ethan, and the community members who allowed him to sample their water, were reassured by his findings.

Ethan’s presentation is the first of our student presentations featured here if you’d like to learn more:

Katie Chen wanted to research the effects of fertilizer on the water quality of Saratoga Creek. Many land managers use fertilizers to increase crop yields, but nitrogen runoff can cause significant damage to the watershed and harm water quality in the area. Through her experimental research design, Katie found that the fertilizer significantly reduced the pH and increased the TDS of Saratoga Creek water. Katie did a great job designing, conducting, and analyzing her research and the Journal of Emerging Investigators accepted her write up for publication!

Read Katie’s paper here!

This week for Headwaters’ Back to School Fundraiser, we’re highlighting water! Donating to Headwaters helps us plan and run the Research Experience and students like Ethan and Katie pursue projects that impact their communities and contribute to science. Your support also helps us provide Lunch with a Scientist talks, like Dr. Tonya Shearer’s on coral reef health, to students around the country. Thank you!

Creating Opportunities for Science Education Outside of the Classroom

Creating Opportunities for Science Education Outside of the Classroom

Science isn’t simply the memorization of information out of a textbook but is an entire process of how we expand our understanding of the world around us. We challenge each other’s ideas, gather data, statistically analyze data to ensure the assertions we are making are valid, and ultimately disseminate that information. What students read in a textbook is the current consensus of that ongoing debate. But in classrooms across the country, there’s a lack of hands-on research opportunities for students to get involved, develop critical thinking, and foster an overall understanding and interest in the scientific process.

We developed the Headwaters Research Experience to supplement what students learn in school and to enrich science education, inspire curiosity through student-led research, address the wealth inequality of education, and prepare students for the future. Our program offers an affordable hands-on research experience where students are able to explore what they are curious about and design a project around that topic. We supply participants with an in-depth understanding of the scientific method and take them through all stages, starting with the question-asking process and ending with the dissemination of their results via live oral presentations and peer-reviewed manuscripts. No matter what the topic is that they wish to research, we help them design a project around the question and pair them with a professional science mentor who has experience conducting research. Students experience the ups and downs, pressures, and other difficulties that exist with conducting their own novel research but emerge with a more robust understanding of science and a satisfying sense of accomplishment. In the end, students join a growing network of alumni and mentors which will aid in their professional growth and can potentially lead to career opportunities in the future. Everyone needs help navigating the path of pursuing a science-related career, and our network helps connect students.

Headwaters Science Institute is proud to offer our student-driven research experience regardless of location. This spring we had the opportunity to work with Angelina, a student in South Korea, over 5800 miles away from the California coast. Angelina looked at differences between compost and synthetic fertilizer and her research is a prime example of using interests to drive science. Like all of our research experience students, Angelina was able to work with a professional mentor and she will be published in our journal. One of the benefits of having a professional mentor is that the students are supported in their efforts and not experiencing the ups and downs of conducting a research project alone.

Check out Angelina’s presentation:

Angelina felt a sense of relief and accomplishment after conducting an intensive project that truly embodied the scientific process. She also researched a topic close to her and her father’s interests which made the process of science more impactful in her life.

The Headwaters Research Experience is not meant to replace current science education but instead supplements students’ education by connecting the dots between the scientific process and the published results. Students like Angelina are able to design and direct their own research, and are rewarded with the accomplishment of conducting a feat the majority of students today wouldn’t complete until the end of their Bachelor’s degree.

Registration for our Fall Research Experience is still open until September 18th. Please find more information on our website and contact dan@headwatersscienceinstitute.org with any questions.

Back to School Fundraiser

With your support, Headwaters can fund more scholarships, provide more Lunch with a Scientist talks free of charge, and supplement the costs of bringing programs to schools, which all means more science for more students! If you are able, please support our Back to School Fundraiser:

Dan Dudek

Dan Dudek

Instructor

Hiking and science in the Sierra Nevada: Headwaters executive director shares her family’s summer adventures

Hiking and science in the Sierra Nevada: Headwaters executive director shares her family’s summer adventures

There’s no better time than summer to get out and explore the natural world around you. Whether it’s hiking in the mountains or swimming in lakes, rivers or the ocean, even summertime fun can bring out the curiosity of scientific inquiry. 

The wonder nature can inspire is one of the foundations Headwaters Science Institute was founded on. 

Founder Meg Seifert took that to heart during a busy summer heading up Headwaters’ programming and summer science camps but also doing a bit of exploring herself with her family around the rugged beauty of the mountains surrounding the Truckee-Tahoe area. 

Meg loves to explore new places with her family. It’s not only great for getting the kids outside but also noticing their surroundings and connecting with nature, she said. 

“We learn grit and perseverance, as well” she said. 

Meg took two backpacking trips with her family this summer. The first a 35-mile, 3 ½-day trip to the Trinity Alps that included 10,000 feet of climbing and an equal descent. 

“It was hot and hard hiking, but the kids felt really accomplished,” she said. 

The second hike was two days and two nights to the Royal Gorge of the American River, a 7-mile out and back hike that included about 3,000 feet of climbing and descent. 

“We swam in pristine spots on the river; we saw snakes and other animals,” she said. 

Here’s more from Meg about her summer adventures and how she applies scientific inquiry:

How do you and your family view such stunning nature through a scientific lens?

“We encourage the kids to be curious. We try to notice things from flowers to plants to the landscape. We talk about and think about how the areas we are in were shaped or formed. We think about why there are different features of the landscape. We also talk about changes in plants and leaves and all of that.”

Do you try to incorporate science on these types of trips or is it more appreciating nature and all that it offers?

“It depends. Sometimes the kids are really into asking questions and looking for answers; other times, it is more an appreciation of what is around us. We let the environment and the kid’s interests guide the trips and what we do. We always have paper and a pencil to take notes or draw things. Mari loves to document with photos. She is always taking photos of plants and flowers. Sometimes it is appreciation, and sometimes it is more scientific.”

Has your science background allowed you to appreciate nature more?

“Yes, and I think it helps my kids as well. Instead of just saying something is pretty or special, we usually delve into the why. It allows us to think about how things are connected and how humans have changed or are changing an area. Really it just allows us a deeper look and hopefully, it is helping the kids to be more curious.”

Help us expand access to our hands-on science education with our ‘Back-to-School’ fundraiser

Help us expand access to our hands-on science education with our ‘Back-to-School’ fundraiser

Headwaters Science Institute is passionate about seeing students grow their interest in science, become informed citizens, and contribute to their community. We help students build the skills to be successful in many careers, teach confidence through science programs, and support the learning cycle by partnering with professional mentors and teachers to bring our programs to students across the country.

Even during the pandemic, we’ve been flexible and able to provide programs online and in person. We’ve worked with 76 Research Experience students, empowered 53 schools to engage students in programs, and reached over 600 individuals through our Lunch with a Scientist YouTube Series. With our “Back to School” Fundraiser, you can help inspire change and support more students seeking access to hands-on science programs as we aim to grow our impact this year.

Ethan Liu, one of our Summer 2022 Financial Aid Recipient, loved his experience with Headwaters’ Research Experience:

Headwaters Research Experience is a truly unique program that contrasts any science course I’ve taken in school. I was taught many crucial research skills such as scientific literacy, reference tracking, hands-on data collection, graph creation, statistical analysis, and manuscript writing. Most high schoolers aren’t taught these skills in a typical classroom setting, but gaining exposure to them through this program prepared me for future research projects in my academic career.

Ethan Liu

Summer 2022 Financial Aid Recipient

Money raised through our Back to School fundraiser helps fund scholarships like this and expands access to science in and out of schools.

When students access one of our programs — whether it be participating in a school field day, watching an episode of Lunch With A Scientist or enrolling in the semester-long Research Experience — they come away with a different perspective on science and their potential entry into the profession.

The benefits of Headwaters Science Institute’s hands-on science education are undeniable. 

Now, we are asking you, as a valued member of our community, to rally your friends, family, and networks to support our efforts and expand access to these invaluable programs. Starting a fundraiser is easy to do, and it’s fun. We’ll give you all the tools you’ll need to make a difference. Prizes will be awarded to our top fundraisers. We will also be hosting a live, in-person “Celebration of Science” event at the conclusion of the fundraiser that will include student presentations and a talk from a well-known scientist (date and location to be announced).

With your help, we can ensure increased exposure to hands-on science education in more schools and students from all walks of life. We’ve set an ambitious goal of raising $10,000 and we need your support to help us make a difference for more students! 

‘Students were highly engaged and enriched’: Headwaters’ first ever Florida science camp a success

‘Students were highly engaged and enriched’: Headwaters’ first ever Florida science camp a success

Headwaters Science Institute took to the beautiful and diverse Florida coastline for the first time in a recently completed school science camp with South Lake Elementary School.

Students were introduced to the natural wonders of the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge on the Indian River Lagoon. 

The three-day program took students through the process of science and into the field to investigate soil pH, biodiversity, and water quality along the shores of the 156-mile estuary located along the east coast of Florida. 

“South Lake students were highly engaged and enriched…,” South Lake principal Jennifer Brockwell told Headwaters. “I was amazed that in such a short amount of time, all they had accomplished and their quality of work, which they proudly presented. These students will be able to leverage their science skills in the upcoming school year and come prepared with scientific knowledge, data analysis abilities, and scientific research skills. I highly recommend this experience!”

Run by Programs Manager Jennifer Cotton, the camp was a perfect example of how Headwaters hands-on programs translate well in any part of the country, whether it be the mountain lakes and streams of the Tahoe-Truckee area or the coast of Florida. South Lake students culminated the program with presentations of their projects, leaving them with an encapsulation of what real science in the field is all about. 

“What an incredible opportunity this was!” one parent told Headwaters. “We are very grateful for you, your volunteers, and South Lake for offering this incredible summer camp. I was very impressed with what all the groups accomplished.”

For more information on Headwaters school programs or to inquire about bringing a camp to your school, click below or contact Jenn at jenn@headwatersscienceinstitute.org

Check out more photos from Headwaters’ first ever Florida school program.