Research Field Science Program at  McKeesport Area High School

Research Field Science Program at McKeesport Area High School

Headwaters completed a very successful Introduction to Research Field Science Program at McKeesport Area High School with 30 10th-12th grade environmental science and biology students! The program aims to foster scientific inquiry and hands-on learning experiences for students and 100% of students reported that they gained new skills in problem-solving during this program. 

On Tuesday, April 9th, students engaged in a preparatory session with Headwaters, focusing on question formulation and methods development in anticipation of their field day. Divided into five groups, students crafted research inquiries ranging from the effects of total dissolved solids on amphibians to the impact of human interaction on biodiversity.

The following day, Wednesday, April 10th, students embarked on a field trip to Cedar Creek Park in Belle Vernon, PA. The students went to the field despite recent rainfall and the remnants of flooding. They demonstrated remarkable dedication to field data collection, and most groups surpassed their data collection goals! With enthusiasm and resilience, they navigated muddy terrain, fell in the creek at times, and to their surprise even encountered frogs and salamanders. All the groups were trying to better understand the plants and animals in the park and the effects of human activity on the ecosystem. 

Back in the classroom on April 11th, students analyzed their data and presented their findings to peers. Notable discoveries included the relationship between light exposure and tree size, the correlation between water speed and amphibian populations, and the influence of human activity on biodiversity.

Impressed by their students’ achievements, Marla Hayes, their teacher, commended their commitment to scientific exploration. The program also benefited from the invaluable support of mentors from Seton Hill University, Duquesne University, and Indiana University of Pennsylvania, who shared their expertise in ecology and environmental science with the students.  One student said, “I thought it was really cool how we got to go out and collect real data, using professional tools. Our instructors were very helpful with problem solving.”  100% of the students reported they learned something they wouldn’t have normally learned in class. 

“This was the first time any of these students had been to Cedar Creek Park, and most reported a heightened interest in science and nature,” Meg Seifert, Headwaters Science Institute ED said.

One student said, “I enjoyed the freedom we had when we were in person collecting data. It made me feel very capable.” Headwaters looks forward to continuing to inspire future generations of scientists!

I enjoyed the freedom we had when we were in person collecting data. It made me feel very capable.

McKeesport Student

Headwaters Science Institute is thankful to Nature’s Way, the Tuscano Agency, the Community Foundation of the Alleghenies, and local donors for their generous contributions, and to Cedar Creek Park for their help planning the program and providing a great field space for the students. Without all of this support this program would not have been possible. By providing students with firsthand experiences in nature, the program aims to ignite a lifelong passion for science and environmental stewardship.

Meg Seifert

Meg Seifert

Executive Director

Our King’s Academy (TKA) Program This Fall

During the last two weeks, Headwaters Science Institute worked with the entire TKA 7th grade to help students conduct their own independent scientific research. The highlight of this program was the Friday field trip to Alviso Marina County Park where students put their own experiments into action studying the salt marsh wetlands in the South San Francisco Bay. A big thank you to all the parent drivers who made this program possible and we hope to see you all at the science presentation night at TKA on Thursday the 17th.

We are very excited to share some of the creative research projects designed by the students at TKA. Read on to hear about a few of these great research projects!

Group 1: Raymond, Aarav, Emily, Elisee

Question: How do the chemicals in the polluted pond affect the number of insects around it?

Claim: There will be more insects at the non-polluted pond than the polluted pond. It may be harder for the insects to find food at the polluted pond.

Group 2: Nathan Leong, Daniel Lee, Joanna Lee

Question: How does the amount of salt in the water affect transparency?

Claim: That the saltwater would make the water less clear. We think that the dissolved salt would make the lake denser and less clear.

Group 3: Andrew Scharfy, Natalie Thwaites, Tega. Sebeni, Christopher Wang

Question: How do Savvanah sparrows affect the population of crustaceans, snails, and grass.

Claim: They keep the populations from sky rocketing. We think this is true because the sparrows eat the crustaceans, snails, and eat the grass seeds, which prevents them from overpopulation.

Group 4: Camila, Connor, Kevin, Libby

Question:  How has the trash in the environment affected the water and the land around it?

Claim: The water will be polluted and some animals may not be able to survive there anymore. People leave trash on the streets and the trash can be transferred to the salt ponds. Then the trash brought by the current will be washed ashore and then pile up.

Group 5: Reid Black, Alex Mazin, Angelina Komashko, Jenine Fong

Question:  How does the nearness to an active saltwater pond affect the amount of grass?

Claim: We think that the closer we go to the saltwater the less grass there will be.  Because organisms can’t survive on salt.

Group 6: Sofia P., Caleb K., Brandon M., Italia A.

Question:  How do the herbivores affect the plant population?

Claim: We think that with more herbivores there will be fewer plants and fewer herbivores should lead to more plants. We think our claim will be true because organisms that feed off each other are most likely to change over time.

Group 7: Hengrui, Kenneth, Morgan, Natalie  

Question:  How does the distance away from saltwater affect the height of the grass?

Claim: We think the further away grass is from saltwater, the taller the grass will be. This is because salt might decrease the quality of the water the plants use. 

All of these TKA students have been working hard to graph and analyze the data they collected during their field day. Student pre and post-program surveys suggest that these projects help students gain valuable critical thinking skills. Between the start and end of the program students ability to correctly interpret complex graphs increased by 21% moreover, 97% of students report overcoming a challenge to complete their projects. All of us at Headwaters are excited to see their presentations on the evening of the 17th and hope to see you there as well.