EarthEcho launches educational web site featuring W.Va.

Oct 10, 2013

West Virginia is one of the states featured in a new education project created by EarthEcho International focusing on in the Chesapeake Bay.

EarthEcho Expeditions: Into the Dead Zone, offers teachers material that they can use to supplement classroom learning. The Expedition, which launches today online, explores pollution problems in the Bay, one of many water bodies across the globe that have aquatic dead zones, areas that because of pollution runoff don’t have enough oxygen to support marine life.

A statement released by EarthEcho Wednesday says “The EarthEcho Expedition: Into the Dead Zone resources will roll out over the next six weeks.  Educators can go online to to register and see the first set of classroom resources which include documentary style video segments, lesson plans and image galleries.”

EarthEcho plans to offer a new resource each week and the entire program will be available online to registered teachers and their students throughout the year. They’ll also be notified of live virtual events, including webinars and Google hangouts.  

This is the first of a multi-year expedition program that will focus each year on an environmental problem.

EarthEcho co-founder Philippe Cousteau was in West Virginia’s Potomac Highlands last month as part of a two-week journey that was filmed for a documentary posted on the website. The headwaters of the Potomac River, which flows to the Bay, are located in this area.

Philippe Cousteau, EarthEcho founder, discusses an impaired stream in West Virginia's Potomac Highland's for a documentary about the Chesapeake Bay.
Credit EarthEcho International

Cousteau said this first Expedition hopes to educate middle and high school students about the factors that contribute to the Bay’s dead zones.

“The whole idea is to leverage the story of the Chesapeake Bay and dead zones to create science curriculum for twenty first century learners that brings science learning and STEM education alive for kids in the classroom through the sense of the whole journey and adventure through the Chesapeake Bay and helping them understand not only the problems we face but the solutions as well,” Cousteau said.

A film crew recorded the adventure as Cousteau visited communities in the Bay watershed for the documentary, which will be presented in six to ten minute segments online along with other material like games, lesson guides, action guides and webinars that teachers can use in their classrooms.

“And what’s so wonderful is new technology offers us terrific tools to reach out and bring education alive in the classroom for today’s twenty first century learners,” Cousteau said. “The only place that many kids still use big old dusty books to learn is in the classroom and outside of that they’re using technology, they’re interacting with video and media and it’s important that we provide those resources for them in the classroom as well.”

Cousteau said EarthEcho has spent a lot of time refining its work and getting feedback from teachers to come up with material that will be useful in the classroom.

“For us it’s about helping to reinforce everything from basic chemistry and biology concepts in the classroom to helping teachers teach things like the water cycle, carbon cycle, issue around food chains, biodiversity,” he said. “Many of these are just basic science principles that are taught in the classroom and through the work that we do can really be made exciting and brought alive through this multimedia engagement.”

The EarthEcho materials will be offered online for free and are designed to help teachers do their job and encourage students to use the science knowledge they gain to take action and solve problems in their communities.

“Because actually science is fun, science is exploration, science is adventure, science is poking a stick at something and seeing what happens,” Cousteau said. “And that sense of inquiry is sometimes lost when you’re looking at big old textbooks in the classroom and what we’re really about is helping give the tools to educators to bring that adventure and excitement of science alive in the classroom and help them do their jobs.”

EarthEcho will also give mini grants to teachers and students who develop projects that address environmental problems.

Cousteau’s West Virginia stops included trout fishing in an impaired stream in Grant County, planting native plants along a stream bank with fifth graders from Petersburg Elementary School and touring the city of Moorefield’s new water filtration plant that’s designed to reduce the amount of nutrients that go into the Potomac River.

EarthEcho Expeditions is supported by H20 Plus and Toyota USA Foundation.