Emory Report

 December 8, 1997

 Volume 50, No. 15

Enthusiastic learning is on tap
for Ram's chemistry students

Chemistry lecturer Preetha Ram witnessed learning in action when she asked her Chemistry 226L students to undertake a challenging assignment: prepare to teach a class of high school students.

"That's when they really started learning," recalled Ram. "As they got ready to present the material, they had to develop a deeper understanding. They weren't just learning for me, but they were working to be able to convey the information. They really got excited."

That learning experience is just one of the benefits of the "Pebbles Water Quality Project," a collaborative effort between Emory and Atlanta area public schools. Directed by Ram, the project is a partnership with the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, a environmental advocacy group, the Georgia Environmental Protection Division and Environmental Protection Agency scientists to monitor the water quality of Atlanta rivers.

This semester Ram's class helped younger students from four area schools-Druid Hills and Dunwoody high schools, Briarlake Elementary and Sutton Middle School-collect water from city creeks, perform water quality tests using protocols in the EPA methods handbook and prepare a report of their data and analysis for Riverkeeper. In addition, the Emory students offered lab demonstrations to the high schoolers.

"This was a chance for my students to show the younger kids that there is more to this than just getting wet in the water," said Ram, referring to the water analysis kit. When the younger students saw how seriously the Emory students took sample collection and testing, she said, they got excited about the project and likewise took it seriously. The younger students also corresponded frequently with the University scholars by notes and e-mail.

"Beyond the trips to the river and the lectures, this developed into something of a mentoring experience. It was very valuable for the chem students," said Ram, who added that student course evaluations "raved" about the experience.

The Pebbles project is a yearlong effort, and Emory will continue to work with area schools offering assistance from volunteer chemistry students and biology lab students in the spring. Chemistry 296L will be offered again next fall.

"All the students who worked on the project-from the youngest elementary schoolers to the college students-said they have begun to think about the problem of water quality with a different perspective now. When they drive by the creeks and see the trash, they have an understanding of what that really means," Ram said. "It is never too early to build an awareness of the environment."

-Rebecca Poynor Burns

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