[The post is adapted from a story in the October 2014 issue of NIEHS Environmental Factor – written by Sara Mishamandani, research and communication specialist for MDB Inc., a contractor for the NIEHS Superfund Research Program and Division of Extramural Research and Training]
A tool to educate K-8 students about mercury in the environment and its effects on human health is now online, thanks to a collaboration between the NIEHS Superfund Research Program (SRP) at Oregon State University (OSU), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the London School in Cottage Grove, Oregon.
The cooperative project was the first pilot for the Partners in Technical Assistance Program (PTAP), launched with the London School, located near the Black Butte Mine Superfund site in rural Cottage Grove, about 70 miles south of the university. The EPA Office of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation initiated the technical assistance program in 2013 to help communities affected by Superfund sites understand technical information and to enable meaningful community involvement in the Superfund decision-making process.
During a Black Butte Mine community information session, London School principal Laurie Briggs requested that EPA create materials to teach students about the nearby abandoned mine, where mercury and other contamination from mine waste affect creeks that flow into the nearby Cottage Grove Lake and the Coast Fork Willamette River. Listen to Laurie share about the project.
The educational package Mercury, the Community, and Me is available online as modules for K-8 teachers. The activities help connect students to the environment by defining environmental health, providing an overview of mercury and how it enters the environment and the food chain, and delivering information about mercury and human health. The resources include background information, presentations, worksheets, videos, games, and team assignments.
Two videos are also part of the curriculum. One provides more information about the Black Butte Mine Superfund site, including its historical background. The other introduces students to careers in science, highlighting scientists from the university and EPA. View the videos.
Fostering collaboration and engaging stakeholders
“EPA has a strong commitment to ensure that communities living near Superfund sites are informed and have opportunities to meaningfully engage in EPA actions to protect human health and the environment. This is a model educational project and partnership with OSU, London School, and EPA that brings together environmental health science, local history, and a Superfund site.”
~ Alanna Conley, EPA Region 10 Superfund Community Involvement Coordinator
“The excellent work done by the OSU SRP in collaboration with EPA and the London School in Cottage Grove demonstrates how the pilot PTAP can bring expertise and resources into communities near Superfund sites to meet technical assistance needs and enhance overall community restoration and cleanup.”
~ Melissa Dreyfus, lead for the EPA Headquarters PTAP Pilot
“The PTAP project provided a structure to build relationships with EPA Region 10 and impact a community living near a Superfund site. The final products also included contributions from our SRP trainees. We hope the educational resources are models for other schools and future partnerships.”
~ Naomi Hirsch, OSU SRP Research Translation Core coordinator
The project has been well received, featured and shared widely on EPA social media platforms. In addition, the project was presented via a webinar to EPA Region 10 personnel.