[ Main ] Educator's Guide
Outreach Initiatives
[ Site Map ]
Geology | Lehigh River Watershed Explorations | Weather | Environmental Issues | Data Collection Activities
About The LEO EnviroSci Inquiry Web Site Project

The LEO EnviroSci Inquiry Web site is a new K-12 outreach project from LEO - the Lehigh Earth Observatory and the SERVIT (Science Education Research in Visual Instructional Technologies)Group in the College of Education at Lehigh University. EnviroSci Inquiry enables teachers, students, and the public to learn about environmental science content knowledge from Lehigh University LEO scientists and interns. Learning activities actively engage participants in data collection, analyzing data, working with Global Information Systems (GIS) databases, and engaging in science-specific pedagogical practices that incorporate Web-based and other technologies to be implemented into the science classrooms. Environmental science curricular activities enable students to use Microcomputer Based (MBL) and Calculator-based laboratory (CBL) probeware, Web-based telecommunication tools, QuickTime Virtual Reality (QTVR), and other Internet resources to learn about environmental issues. Curricular activities will emphasize student-directed scientific discovery of their local environment aligned to the National Science Education Standards and the National Geography Standards.

The key goals of the LEO EnviroSci Inquiry Web site are:
1. Actively engage K-12 students in authentic scientific inquiry that will enhance existing classroom curricula.
2. K-12 students in learning scientific content, concepts, and processes by integrating a variety of instructional technologies into science curricular contexts.
3. Create an innovative Web-facilitated project linking together research scientists, university students, science educators, inservice teachers, preservice teachers, and students to translate current scientific knowledge and practices into teaching practices.
4. Enhance the professional development of inservice and preservice teachers to develop new skills and gain a new level of confidence that empowers them to become effective leaders and advocates for science education.

The key objectives of the LEO EnviroSci Inquiry Web site are:
1. To develop a Web-based support network to facilitate inquiry-based pedagogical practices into classroom curricula.
2. To develop environmental science curricular activities that translate current scientific practices into teaching content and practices using Microcomputer-based and Calculator-based laboratory probeware, GIS resources, Web-based telecommunication tools and other Internet resources.
3. Produce new environmental science curricular activities on the Internet to be used their classrooms. These activities will be aligned to the National Science Education Standards, the National Geography Standards, and the Pennsylvania Department of Education Proposed Academic Standards for Environment and Ecology.
4. To engage K-12 students in interdisciplinary science curricula that emphasizes student-directed scientific discovery of their local environment.
5. To facilitate student understandings of time and spatial scales of natural systems with an emphasis on interactions between society and environment through use of curriculum and use of the LEO databases.

The EnviroSci Inquiry project is currently supported by LEO (Lehigh Earth Observatory) which is operated largely by undergraduate students in conjunction with faculty, research and technical staff, and graduate student mentors. LEO was piloted in the spring of 1997 and is currently in its first full year of operation. The Observatory is housed in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences (EES) at Lehigh University. LEO is a multidisciplinary program to focus study on the environment, broadly defined, with a particular emphasis on understanding the science of environmental systems and the relationship between these systems and society. LEO's multidisciplinary projects create opportunities for students and faculty from all of Lehigh's four colleges to collaborate in cross-functional, team-based problem-solving. More than 100 students have now been involved directly as LEO student interns, and several hundred students have participated in LEO through a variety of courses ranging from introductory labs aimed at non-science majors to upper-level courses. LEO has the potential to involve up to 25 percent of Lehigh undergraduates, roughly 1,000 students in a given year. The Observatory provides a unique mechanism to involve a large number of students in an inquiry based cooperative learning program - thus bringing a new dimension to the curriculum.

A key component of LEO is partnerships with organizations outside the University. These partnerships place our students in settings that provide significant experiential learning opportunities with immediate impact. They also provide needed skills, labor, and expertise for external organizations, and extend our mentoring network to include professionals in a variety of disciplines, with a variety of perspectives, from outside the University. Current partners involved in LEO EnviroSci Inquiry include: Wildlands Conservancy, the National Park Service Historical Corridor, The SERVIT Group (NC State), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Bethlehem Works, Walnutport Lockkeepers Association, The Historic Bethlehem Partnership, PA Game Commission, Easton Historical Society, and Historic Catasauqua Preservation Association.

LEO EnviroSci Inquiry is a member of the Synergy Communities Aggregating Learning about Education (SCALE). SCALE members include researchers, scientists, curriculum developers, and educators who were actively working on innovative approaches to supporting learning about water quality and who were particularly interested in the potential for collaboration with other groups engaged in similar work. This project, located at the University of California at Berkeley, is a National Science Foundation-sponsored grant that seeks to explore ways to better support cumulative research within learning technologies.


Description of the Website

LEO EnviroSci Inquiry is indexed into five interconnected areas:

  • Lehigh River Watershed Explorations
  • Environmental Issues
  • Geology
  • Weather
  • Data Collection Activities

Curricular activities actively engage learners in data collection, analyzing data, working with Web-based Global Information Systems (GIS) databases, and learning in interdisciplinary contexts. The Website enables classroom teachers to implement science teaching strategies that incorporate Web-based and other technologies into the classroom. Curricular activities emphasize student-directed scientific discovery of their local environment. The Website's Educator's Guide provides instructional strategies for incorporating the Web-enhanced activities into the classroom.

Lehigh River Watershed Explorations

The main goal of Lehigh River Watershed Explorations area is to present science to K-12 learners in a historical perspective by engaging them in a detailed study of the Lehigh River watershed. This watershed has a very rich history that presents learners with a unique opportunity to observe how the American industrial revolution has impacted a watershed over time. Stories are presented in the History of the Lehigh Watershed section that enable learners to explore science from a historical perspective and to observe how science and technology may impact society over time.

The Lehigh River Watershed Photojournal provides learners with the opportunity to virtually explore the Lehigh River watershed. The photojournal contains MPEG movie watershed flybys that provide the learner with a graphical overview of the topography of the area. GPS (Global Positioning) coordinates index the photojournal. In addition to digital images of the area, the photojournal Web pages contain short MPEG video clips and QuickTime Virtual Reality panoramas that allow learners to zoom in on specific physical features.

The Water Quality section contains background information and protocols that assist learners using Vernier CBL (Calculator-Based Laboratory) units and graphing calculators to collect water quality data. Data reporting forms are provided on the Website that enable learners to submit collected data to the LEO water quality database. This data can then be compared to other water quality data located on the Website. Web-based data links to the Lehigh River's USGS (US Geologic Survey) monitoring stations provide river flow data and real-time discharge data.

The GIS (Geographical Information Systems) section contains a variety of interactive maps of the Lehigh watershed. GIS mapping provides a spatial framework for analyzing environmental data such as water quality data and relating it to the characteristics of the land around it. Unlike static maps (such as the road maps you get at the gas station), GIS not only lets you view a map, but also lets you query the map for information that is not displayed. Figure 1 is an example of a land use map from the watershed.

The River Explorations and Curricular Activities sections provide innovative inquiry-based water quality and watershed studies activities developed by our research group and partner organizations.

Environmental Issues

The Environmental Issues area contains links to Science-Technology-Society (STS) issues-based approach simulations developed by our research group and partner organizations. These simulations provide learners with the experience of learning science and technology in the context of human experience involving real-life controversial issues. Engaging in an authentic issues makes environmental science instruction current and part of the real world. In these simulations, learners investigate a real-world controversial issue from different perspectives. After they complete their investigation, a public forum or debate is conducted to determine the next course of action on the issue. Classroom debates on STS issues offer learners a forum to think critically about the role that science plays in societal issues. These simulations acknowledge the connection between science and the decisions individuals make about social issues.

The Shell Island Dilemma is one example in this section. The scenario of the dilemma is that the Shell Island Resort is in danger of being destroyed by a migrating inlet. Mason’s Inlet is moving south rapidly. The Shell Island Resort is currently situated in an Inlet Hazard Zone and is in dire straits. The objective is to investigate the issues concerning the fate of the Shell Island Resort and then to debate the future of this and other oceanfront structures threatened by coastal erosion. As learners engage in the investigation, they must identify the social, political and scientific issues with which different stakeholders must deal. The learners are placed into the role of one of the stakeholders. Web-based materials are provided for student research.


The Geology area contains interactivities for learners to use virtual reality in their science investigations. Which Way Is North? is an activity that allows learners to develop skills in understanding location by exploring a variety of unique geological formations using QuickTime Virtual Reality (QTVR) panoramas and topographic maps. Dino Inquiry allows learners to explore a variety of dinosaur fossil bones from the Dinosaur National Monument quarry using panoramas and digital still imagery. Geologic Explorations allows one to explore a variety of unique geological formations through the use of QTVR. The Wonderful World of Rocks and Minerals is a Web-enhanced geology unit for designed for grade six classrooms.


The Weather area contains two distinct curricular resources for learners to explore weather phenomena. Phenomenal Weather Explorations is a series of guided Web-based Explorations of unique weather phenomena designed for learners in grades 4-8. In these explorations, students learn the science of hurricanes, tornadoes, lightning, and the Green House effect. The second resource, Bits of Biomes, provides a learning environment that uses a guided inquiry-based approach for learners to investigate characteristics of biomes including climatic differences, populations, and ecosystems in terrestrial biomes. In Bits of Biomes, learners investigate the driving question: "Do selected cities in our study really exhibit the characteristic climatic conditions of their defined biome?" Learners work in groups to collect climatic data on selected cities that characterize different biomes. They use spreadsheets to explore patterns in their climatic data. Climatic data in different biomes are compared. The groups research characteristics of a particular biome that includes people and culture, animal life (vertebrates and invertebrates), plant life, and economic conditions. Each group contributes a section to a class "World Travel Book." The "World Travel Book" can be a class Web site, a hypermedia artifact, or a traditional paper artifact. Throughout the implementation of the unit, students participate in hands-on experiments that focus their learning on topics that include habitats, predator/prey relationships, adaptations to environments, and food chains.

Data Collection Activities

The Data Collection Activities area connects learners to a variety of earth and environmental science data sets and collection activities currently underway at LEO (Lehigh Earth Observatory). The LEO WeatherNet is an electronic network of weather and water monitoring stations. Learners can access real-time and archived weather data from weather and water monitoring stations near the Lehigh University Campus and from lake monitoring stations on the Pocono Plateau. The LEO hydroprobe area contains a database of water quality data taken from a hydroprobe located on the lower reaches of the Lehigh River. The probe measures a variety of water quality parameters and is logged on an hourly basis. Classroom learners use this data to examine temporal patterns of the health of the river. The LEO Seismic Station area contains data from a broadband seismic station located on South Mountain at Lehigh University. Data collected from the seismic station provides information on active seismicity in northeastern Pennsylvania. This station is a part of the Northeastern Regional Seismic Network, which monitors earthquake activity in the eastern U.S. In addition to learning about earthquakes, learners can link to the GSN (Global Seismic Network) maintained and operated jointly by IRIS (Incorporated Research Institutes in Seismology) and the US Geological Survey. The Salamander Response to Climate Change project (SRCC) focuses on the use of salamanders as a natural indicator of changes in environmental conditions. Learners can access current research being conducted in Northeast Pennsylvania at South Mountain, Hawk Mountain, and the Lacawac Sanctuary to examine salamander activity in relation to environmental conditions. Environmental data, recorded on data loggers in the field, can be compared with salamander activity levels to predict salamander response to climate change.

About EnviroSci Inquiry | People of EnviroSci Inquiry | Credits and Copyrights | References and Resources | Site Map
LEO EnviroSci Inquiry is brought to you by the Lehigh Environmental Initiative at Lehigh University.
Copyright ©2000-2011 Lehigh Environmental Initiative at Lehigh University. All rights reserved.