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An Inquiry into the Water Around Us

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Science  30 Aug 2013:
Vol. 341, Issue 6149, pp. 971-972
DOI: 10.1126/science.1230000

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On a bright October morning, three young women in laboratory coats work together amid chemicals, instrumentation, and laboratory notebooks. The scene looks like a typical university chemistry lab, but two of the scientists are actually local high-school students analyzing water samples they have collected from around their community. Their undergraduate lab partner is completing the general chemistry lab module “An Inquiry into the Water Around Us,” which harnesses the intellectual power of three important pedagogical components: inquiry-based learning, service-learning, and instruction in scientific communication. The project brings science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors into direct collaboration with younger students to explore the critical community issue of water quality. This combination approach has the potential to promote recruitment of STEM majors, motivate underrepresented secondary (middle- and high-school) students to attend the university and pursue STEM careers, support retention of female STEM majors, and shape a more civically engaged population of future scientists through the inclusion of service-learning, a pedagogy that takes the college classroom into the community (1, 2).