EE Week Guest Blogger Series: Ride the WAV

Debra Weitzel teaches environmental science at Middleton High School in Middleton, Wisconsin. Debra won the 2007 Richard C. Bartlett Environmental Education Award, presented annually by the National Environmental Education Foundation to an outstanding educator who has successfully integrated environmental education into the curriculum.

This week, April 12-18, is National Environmental Education Week (EE Week.) EE Week promotes understanding and protection of the natural world by actively engaging K-12 students and educators in an inspired week of environmental learning before Earth Day. This year’s theme is Be Water Wise! To learn more or get involved, visit

Ride the WAV
By Debra Weitzel

Have you ever engaged students in water testing during a water resources unit, collected data, and then moved on to a new unit? What happened to all the data the students collected? Did you only collect data once that year, during that one unit on water?

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At Middleton High School (WI) my AP and general Environmental Science students are monitoring Pheasant Branch Creek, both during the water resources unit, and as part of the Water Action Volunteers (WAV). WAV is citizen science initiative and associated database maintained by the University of Wisconsin-Extension.

After school, we monitor the creek for dissolved oxygen, turbidity,
flow rate, volume, temperature (Apr.-Oct.), macroinvertebrates (spring
and fall), and habitat assessment (once yearly). All data is then
easily assessable at,
where it is also submitted to the Rock River Basin Coalition–we have
established baseline data that spans six years. Middleton city planners
can access the data online and determine if development is adversely
affecting the creek.

Through this collaboration, students become citizen scientists and
connect better to the curriculum and local water issues, which clearly
motivates their learning. I have no problem getting students to monitor
with me during summer vacation. Many times former students return from
college and ask to help with the monitoring!

My students have been water-monitoring since the early 1990s- – but
without a website for posting data, much of the data has been lost.
Fortunately, the WAV database offers a solution to this problem. WAV
also hosts workshops, distributes a newsletter, and holds an annual
conference for monitors to collaborate and share information. Although
Middleton is the only high school involved with WAV in our local
watershed, we feel very welcome among the monitors from other
communities. I encourage everyone to look for the volunteer monitors in
their community.

Finally, the best part of monitoring is the ownership the students take
in a local urban resource. The Pheasant Branch Creek, for example, is
part of a conservancy that is being restored to oak savanna. Our
students have been part of the habitat restoration efforts since the
1990s, which corresponds to the initiation of stream monitoring.  By
introducing students to water quality and monitoring, they see
firsthand the impact residents of the area have on this resource. What
better way to “Think Globally and Act Locally?”

Read more from our National Environmental Education Week bloggers in My Wonderful World’s guest blogger archives.

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