A key objective of the Safe Beaches and Shellfish project was to externally share the knowledge acquired in order to give back to the public that made the project possible in the first place. In turn, a fully realized effort such as this relies on the public taking an active role. One place this has happened is in the classroom. College and middle-school classes have been key points of contact for NEST researchers finding spaces to make what they are learning useful to others as well.
One of the core parts of NEST's initial roadmap was the creation of classes at the participating colleges. These classes were intended to expand the knowledge beyond simply the research faculty (as in many large funded research teams) in order to allow students assisting with the project to grow and contribute as well.
At the University of Maine and University of New Hampshire, Drs. Bridie McGreavy, Kevin Gardner, and Laura Lindenfeld came up with a unique class format for the Fall 2014 semester: They would instruct a Readings in Sustainability Science course where students would get up to speed on the specifics of the NEST project as well as the main ideas of sustainability science while making progress toward their own academic goals.
As Bridie McGreavy explains, the use of these communication technologies allowed the class groups to bridge long distances and come together to collaborate.
Students in the NEST readings class completed a final project to serve as a way of building on what they learned. Many of these were outreach projects intended to take the class concepts and share them with the public. Sophia Scott is a master's student at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire who is working with Dr. Shannon Rogers' research group on NEST. Sophia chose to do an outreach project, and decided to share her interest in watersheds through an educational lesson at a middle school in Maine.
Sophia chose the Gray - New Gloucester Middle School in Gray, Maine. The school worked well as a place to do outreach because she knew one of the teachers. Also, the town of Gray, while 15 miles from Casco Bay in Portland, is still in the Casco Bay watershed, meaning that any water (or pollutants) on the ground in Gray will eventually find their way to the ocean near Portland.
The class session started with an overview of what watersheds are and how they function, then Sophia transitioned into a hands-on activity with a molded plastic model of a miniature watershed. The students smeared fake food-coloring "pollutants" onto the landscape and then saw where the pollutants went when sprayed with with "rainwater" from a spray bottle. Afterward they played a short game to see how well they remembered the concepts from the presentation.