MercuryLogoUpdatedThe EPA Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation completed the first pilot project of the Partners in Technical Assistance Program (PTAP) with Oregon State University Superfund Research Program and the London School in Cottage Grove, Oregon.

The project aimed to give K-8 students a foundation on environmental health science, and then use local history of the Black Butte Mine Superfund Site to engage students on topics related to mercury in the environment and the impact on human health.

An educational packet, two videos (Careers in Environmental Health and The Black Butte Mine), and a teacher resource web page were created for the project.

Please visit the web site at:

 Connecting Scientists and Educators: Research in Environmental Health Sciences and Plant Sciences
August 25, 2014

8:30 am- 4:30 pm

Are you interested in bringing scientific research in environmental health sciences or plant sciences to your classroom?  Do you want to learn more about scientific research going on at OSU?

  • Meet scientists from different departments at OSU
  • Learn from teachers (grades 6-12) and scientists that have been part of successful research experiences
  • Participate in hands on activities that you can bring back to the classroom

Coffee/ refreshments and catered lunch will be provided.

Location:      OSU campus, Corvallis, Oregon

Oregon State is a beautiful campus to visit.
Oregon State is a beautiful campus to visit.

Register:       Contact Dr. Diana Rohlman
Indicate workshop title, your name, school, grade level, and summer contact information (e-mail address, phone number).  Pre-service teachers welcome.

Housing:       Limited funds are available to provide overnight accommodations for participants who live greater than 75 miles away.  We will arrange these accommodations in either dorms or local hotels.

Classroom Equipment Sets to support biotechnology, renewable energy, astronomy, and water quality testing (hope to add this summer) are available for classroom use during the school year for no charge.   See list of available equipment.

The workshop is organized by:  Dr. Rachel Okrent, OSU, Dr. Diana Rohlman, EHSC, Dr. Kari van Zee, OSU
Co-sponsored by EHSC and USDA-NIFA

Workshop Flyer

During the summer months local teachers from Salem, Albany and Corvallis attend day long workshops at Oregon State University. These activities center around concepts in toxicology and are led by Diana Rohlman, EHSC Community Outreach and Engagement Coordinator.

Team TOX grad students get involved and present outreach modules in toxicology, immunology and environmental chemistry.

Examples of past activities include:

Students evaluate the toxicity of household chemicals using yeast as a model system.

Students sort M&Ms by mass, size, shape and color to understand how mass can be used to identify individual chemicals. A model of a mass spectrometer demonstrates how objects are sorted based on their mass.

Students role-play as doctors, using flow cytometry to diagnose a fictional patient.

Following hands-on activities, teachers have the opportunity to tour labs that are relevant to the activities.
More information on teacher professional development and visits to OSU:
For further information and questions about the educational materials listed above, please contact Diana Rohlman.
Students immersed in the Chemical Conundrum activity.
Students immersed in the Chemical Conundrum activity.

Why Hydroville?

A Hydroville User Survey was sent out to those people who registered on the previous Hydroville web site or participated in the piloting process and Summer Institutes.

The 23 teachers who responded shared two main reason for choosing Hydroville:

In 2006, teachers joined us at OSU for a training on the Indoor Air Quality scenario. "Summer Institutes" took place from 2001-2007. Teachers' feedback was very valuable in developing the curriculum.
In 2006, teachers joined us at OSU for a training on the Indoor Air Quality scenario. “Summer Institutes” took place from 2001-2007. Teachers’ feedback was very valuable in developing the curriculum.
  1.  To increase awareness of environmental health issues
  2.  To give students problem-solving experience on real-life issues

60% felt it improved their teaching skills
91% felt that Hydroville made a difference to their students

Based on their assessment, 91% of students are gaining knowledge on environmental health topics and issues.

The teachers were likely to use Hydroville pieces again and would recommend it to friends.
The challenge with Hydroville is that it is difficult to use as a complete unit due to time limitations in schools and some felt it was cumbersome.
Alternative and private schools find it more beneficial.

Share Advice and Ways to Adapt The Curriculum with Others

Some teachers specifically recommended we have an area for comments, questions, and dialogue on the web site.
Since this new site is a blog, we hope you will  comment and share information that is beneficial to other teachers.
Other recommendations were videos that assist teachers with the activities. We will do our best to share short tutorial videos, images, and adaptions that are helpful.

We want your help!  Teachers, students, and educational professionals are invited to submit blog posts for the site. Example topics that would be useful are connecting Hydroville to the new standards, adapting activities, what worked and where there were challenges, and testimonials and impact stories. Contact Naomi Hirsch at 541-737-8105

Be sure to subscribe to the blog and follow us so you stay informed as we continue to grow this new blog with useful information.

“Hydroville offered many ways to build group dynamics in the classroom through the collaborative approach.  It fostered my release of control of the classroom and put the ownership in the hands of the students, which I believe is very important.”


“I learned content and teaching/presentation variety.  After I stopped using Hydroville, (and read more about how problems like these get solved) I realized how true it was to real life.  I appreciated the supported, changing variety of activities (creativity I lack) – gallery walks, team labs, data analysis, games, video production.  Stretched me.”


This summer OSU research faculty are offering free workshops for educators.   soil scientists

  • July 31-Aug. 1: Explorations in Nanotechnology for 6-12th Grade Educators.
  • Aug. 11-12: Climate Change and Ocean Acidification.
  • Aug. 14-15: Biological Motions through the Lens-An Advanced Light Microscopy Workshop.

Lunch provided. Limited funds available to support lodging costs for  participants more than 80 miles away.

To register or for more information, email Kari van Zee, Program  Coordinator STEPs, at; 541-737-1773.

So far this year, EHSC COEC has reached over 500 students through ten different OSU Precollege Program events.

Examples of Precollege Programs we have been involved with include:

The students range in age from 2nd – 12th grade and come from diverse areas of Oregon such as Eugene, Newport, Siletz, Salem, Ontario, and Corvallis.  Diana Rohlman, COEC Program Coordinator took the lead with help at some events from Erin Madeen and other graduate students affiliated with the Environmental Health Sciences Center (EHSC).  On the EHSC web page, there is a resource page for K-12 Educators, which includes curriculum, eNewsletter, workshops, and funding resources.

In addition, Sinnhuber Aquatic Research Lab hosted a 5th grade class on May 12th. See the story on the SRP blog: 5th Graders Experience All Aspects of Zebrafish Research. We also engage families at Davinci Days and Pet Days.

Using Integrated Problem-based Curriculum

Lisa Troy, an 8th grade science teacher at The Sage School in Foxboro, Massachusetts chose the NIEHS-funded Hydroville Curriculum as a way to give her students a real-world problem to solve, teach them collaboration and teamwork skills, and expand their understanding of “doing” science. She was also very interested in environmental issues and once worked as an environmental consultant on EPA’s Superfund/RCRA Hotline.

Teacher Lisa Troy shares instructions for the team building activity (toxic popcorn).
Teacher Lisa Troy shares instructions for the team building activity (Toxic Popcorn). Photo credit: The Sage School

In the Hydroville Pesticide Scenario, students work in teams to examine and clean-up a large accidental spill of metam sodium near a river. In this scenario students take on roles of an environmental chemist, environmental toxicologist, soil scientist, and mechanical engineer. It creates a valuable experience to learn about these careers and how they work together to solve problems.

I was very pleased with how involved my students were in their roles. Since they were responsible for their own area of expertise, they took ownership of the skills and information that they learned. The students also enjoyed fitting their solution into the constraints of a budget, as well as considering stakeholders’ varying viewpoints. Their parents attended the presentations and took on roles as stakeholders when asking questions. Their presence increased the feeling of a real town meeting, and it was fun to see the students dressed up! ~ Lisa Troy

Students divide up into expert groups of Soil Scientist, Environmental Toxicologist, Mechanical Engineer and Analytic Chemist.
Students do a number of background activities to learn about the science needed to solve the problem. Topics include reading labels, toxicity testing, analyzing pumps, soil texture and permeability, and decision analysis. Photo credit: The Sage School

Communicating with a Scientist

The students were learning about toxicity, LD50, and NOEL (No Observable Effect Level) through a seed germination lab. Lisa Troy had read about Dr. Tanguay in the recent YALEe360 article, and she shared his research with the students. The students were very excited to speak to a “real” scientist who is engaged in meaningful work and making a difference. A highlight for the students was when they Skyped with Dr. Robert Tanguay.

Students were especially interested to learn how zebrafish are being used as models of human response to chemicals in research all over the world. They shared a long list of questions with Dr. Tanguay in preparation for the Skype event.

The students were intrigued by the idea that, through research such as Dr. Tanguay’s, chemical manufacturers will know much more about the effects of individual chemicals and the possible synergistic effects of mixing chemicals. They were reassured to learn of the human treatment of the fish, as well.

Dr. Robert Tanguay uses Skype to answer questions from 8th grade students across the country.
Dr. Robert Tanguay (EHSC Investigator) used Skype to answer questions directly from the students. Photo credit: The Sage School

Not only was Dr. Tanguay’s interview incredibly valuable, it taught my students an important lesson about research: that you can contact scientists and experts in their fields and obtain information directly from the source. Science is not just in a textbook. ~Lisa Troy

To increase career connections, Lisa Troy asked the parents, teachers, and administrators to identify any skills that were important to them in their work or life experience from a list she generated of all the skills the students learned or used during the course of Hydroville. They checked nearly all of the skills!

As the year progresses and we study other topics, I will continue to reinforce the concepts and skills the students acquired during Hydroville and know that they will be well prepared for the future. ~Lisa Troy

[This post was written in collaboration with Lisa Troy. We truly appreciate her sharing her experience with us. If you are an educator and want more information or have a story to share, please contact us.]

From 2000-2007, NIEHS awarded the Environmental Health Science Center a grant entitled: “Learning Through Environmental Health Science Scenarios”.  The final project was named The Hydroville Curriculum Project (HCP).  The project was based on a framework that reflects how scientists and experts solve problems.

07 hydroville timesThe curricula are structured to help high school students understand the complexity of environmental issues that impact human health and to emphasize that many real-world problems have multiple solutions. These nine-week scenarios take place in the town of Hydroville, which could be any town in America. Hydroville experiences three environmental health problems that require remediation plans: a pesticide spill, an indoor air quality problem, and a water quality problem.

Scenario Descriptions

Each scenario is based on a real-life occurrence that has been modified by experts and pilot tested by teachers in high school classrooms.

  PSweb PESTICIDE SPILL: A tanker truck carrying a pesticide overturns near Beaver Creek which supplies drinking water to the town of Hydroville. Student teams, representing an environmental clean-up firm, assess the spill site, develop a remediation plan for the site, and present their findings at a town meeting.
 IAQWeb INDOOR AIR QUALITY PROBLEM: Occupants in a newly remodeled school building report illnesses and complain of odors. Students take on the role of air quality professionals on a consulting team who identify an indoor air problem in the school and develop an action plan. Students then present their recommendations to the school board.
 WQBinderWeb WATER QUALITY PROBLEM: The rapidly growing town of Hydroville has reported an increase in contaminants in the town’s water supply. Students represent experts from an environmental consulting firm hired by the town to investigate the problem. Teams develop various remediation plans and present their recommendations to the city council.