OLD TOWN, Maine — An Old Town High School teacher is one of 18 in the nation to receive the 2012 Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators.
Ed Lindsey, who teaches ninth-grade earth science and 11th- and 12th-grade chemistry courses, credited the award to his work on a project that connects Maine schools with environmental research at Acadia National Park.
Lindsey joined the Acadia Learning project four years ago and began involving his students in the research work. A year after beginning his work with the project, Lindsey developed a hands-on environmental chemistry course in which students study dragonflies to glean data about mercury levels in the environment.
The Acadia Learning project brings students from across the state and professional researchers at Acadia National Park together to study the impact of mercury on the environment. Students work in ecosystems close to their schools and share the information they gather with scientists at Acadia. The project is part of a larger Acadia Learning for Participatory Science program at Acadia National Park’s Schoodic Education and Research Center.
“It gives me a good way to engage students in meaningful science work,” Lindsey said.
Students gather dragonfly larvae from Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Milford before bagging, sorting and identifying samples. Those samples go to the University of Maine in Orono, where researchers analyze mercury levels.
The high schoolers use the data to develop conclusions about the presence of mercury in the watershed year-to-year.
“These outdoor learning experiences help students make connections between real-world observations and abstract concepts presented in the classroom,” an EPA profile about Lindsey’s work stated.
Students follow the research project along the way and the course is modified each year as new questions arise from the research results, Lindsey said.
The students’ past findings may be viewed at participatoryscience.org/posters-gallery.
The Environmental Protection Agency said in a press release that the environmental education award recognizes teachers in rural and urban communities who work to develop a sense of civic responsibility and stewardship of ecosystems in students.
“The educators who have earned this honor are demonstrating leadership and excellence in environmental education and are harnessing the innovation and imagination of our students,” Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality. “These teachers are encouraging our nation’s future leaders to take responsibility for being good stewards of our environment and preparing them to succeed in the 21st century.”