1. Tiffany Wilson
  3. University of Maine
  1. Jennifer Isherwood
  3. University of Maine

NSF INCLUDES Collaborative: Creating a Diverse STEM Pathway with Community Wa...

NSF Awards: 1649346

2018 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades 9-12

SMART INCLUDES empowers female and underrepresented minority (URM) students, supporting them in learning science and engineering skills and applying those skills to local water research. Our program works to advance student learning, improve the health of communities, and draw a greater diversity of bright minds to STEM fields in the United States.

The Stormwater Management Research Team -- SMART -- program began in 2013 at the University of Maine. A variety of Maine communities have implemented and adapted it successfully.

Students in the SMART Program engage in engineering design, data acquisition, analysis and visualization, chemistry, environmental science, biology, and information technology. Dedicated mentors support SMART students as they research water issues within their local watersheds, and connect students with professionals working in water and engineering in government, private firms, and non-profits.

With an NSF INCLUDES grant (award # 1649346), the Maine Team linked up with partners in the states of New York, North Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, Idaho, and California to create the SMART INCLUDES Collaborative. These partners are not simply replicating the program in Maine, but rather are designing projects that address the specific water, demographic, and cultural needs of each location.

The long-term goal of the SMART INCLUDES Collaborative effort is to broaden the impact of the successful SMART Program model– using the topics of stormwater science and engineering solutions to engage and build confidence of female and URM students in STEM fields. Long-term success will look like a significant increase in the number of female and URM-in-STEM students who succeed throughout school and into STEM careers.

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Discussion from the 2018 STEM for All Video Showcase (20 posts)
  • Icon for: Tiffany Wilson

    Tiffany Wilson

    Lead Presenter
    May 13, 2018 | 09:48 p.m.

    SMART INCLUDES is a cohort 1 NSF INCLUDES Design and Development Launch Pilot project. Through INCLUDES funding we have expanded our Maine-based SMART (Stormwater Management and Research Team) program to a national scale that involves 12 high schools in nine US states. We are now in our second year as a national program and we are in the process of evaluating our first pilot year. 

    We appreciate you taking time to watch our project video. We look forward to questions, comments and feedback, especially regarding: 

    - ways to measure and document the impact of STEM programs on underrepresented students

    - effective communication strategies among geographically broad partnerships that involve higher ed, stakeholders, and high school teachers and students (online platforms for sharing info)

    - integrating STEM activities and strategies that are successful in after-school programs into the classroom (especially engineering and technology) 


  • May 14, 2018 | 11:38 a.m.

    Hi, Tiffany,  

     Great to see your project's video.  As I  visited your project last summer during your busy sessions the progress is obvious.  I too am continuing to address the development of effective development of support "platforms" to unite sites on shared topics.  Last summer we became absorbed with collecting data from the Eclipse event and building a learning progression with sensors.    I noticed the focus on storm water and would be interested in hearing more about what you've discovered on the water events from the storms over this last year.  Have you mapped out where you are monitoring?  Could we connect to see the data? 

    Betsy Stefany Coordinator STEM Literacy Community of Practice 

  • Icon for: Tiffany Wilson

    Tiffany Wilson

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2018 | 02:07 p.m.

    Hi Betsy! Thanks for checking out our project. 

    In response to your questions about site monitoring and mapping: We had our school SMART teams each choose a local watershed to study, with the intent to get data from 12 sites around the country, for a period of Sept - May. Most schools were successful with getting their data fairly consistently, though there were challenges with equipment, site access, weather (winter freeze in Northern locations) and student schedules.  At the summer institute they had learned how to collect data for various water quality parameters including temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, conductivity and total coliforms and the data that have been collected can be accessed through the SMART website, under each school profile. The focus has been less on the actual data, and more on the process of getting teachers and students to develop locally-relevant research projects, work with professional and community mentors, collect and analyze data, and present their findings to peers and public. Basically, a self-guided, supported research experience. 

    I would be happy to talk more with you about the water data. A couple of teams were interested in comparing data from different climate regions (e.g. Florida vs. California) and it would certainly be interesting to look at the water quality effects of storms. Students will be sending us their final projects by the end of the month, and perhaps some students have done type of analysis.   

  • Icon for: George Hein

    George Hein

    Professor Emeritus
    May 14, 2018 | 11:00 a.m.

    Thanks for posting.  Can you tell me ore about the specifics: Is the student activity in school or after school and summer (or both?) Do you include professional development for the teachers?


  • Icon for: Tiffany Wilson

    Tiffany Wilson

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2018 | 11:25 a.m.

    Hi George, 

    Thanks for your question!

    The SMART INCLUDES program is comprised of a one week summer institute for teachers and students, where they do hands-on activities to learn about stormwater science, how to design, build and use equipment for collecting water data, and also how to interpret and present research data. Teachers and students learning side-by-side is a valuable and unique aspect of our program. During the summer institute teachers also have a day of PD in which they learn how to engage in collaborative inquiry with students on the science and engineering of stormwater. Then the SMART teams take their new skills back to their schools where they develop and continue research projects through the school year, typically as an after-school activity. Teachers are certainly the core of our program, we have found that the SMART teams with the most active and engaged teachers have the best success with their students developing noteworthy and innovative projects. These teachers also encourage the students to think independently and to work with professional mentors. 

  • Icon for: David Dickson

    David Dickson

    Informal Educator
    May 15, 2018 | 01:05 p.m.

    This is a great project. My group at UConn is working on a similar project under our Natural Resources Conservation Academy that is called Teacher Professional Learning (TPL). It is focused on a training for teachers on the connection between land use and water quality and the impacts therein. Stormwater is of course the connection. During our innagural year, many of the teachers were interested in a way to collect and share water quality data.  I think they would be very interested to hear about your program and we will be sure to share it with them. Maybe we will be able to add CT to your network in the future!


  • Icon for: Tiffany Wilson

    Tiffany Wilson

    Lead Presenter
    May 15, 2018 | 01:39 p.m.

    Hi David,

    Thanks for finding the connection between our projects. We find that the teachers are the key players in the success of our program, and we continue to seek out teachers who embrace project-based learning and bringing real world context to their students. Kids really respond to a motivated (and motivational) teacher/mentor. 

    Our school teams collect water quality data and enter it on a google sheet that is linked on our website under their school profile. Anyone can access the teams' data and we encourage data sharing and comparing, especially because we have many different watershed scenarios to compare.

    Glad to know that we may have interested teachers in CT!


  • Icon for: Sarah Hampton

    Sarah Hampton

    MS Math and Science Teacher, Volunteer STEAM Coordinator
    May 16, 2018 | 02:45 p.m.

    You have another interested teacher in VA! I love how adaptable this project is. Every community has access to storm water and could contribute to the data pool. Which student projects were most interesting to you? How did you connect groups with mentors?

  • Icon for: Tiffany Wilson

    Tiffany Wilson

    Lead Presenter
    May 17, 2018 | 11:00 a.m.

    Hi Sarah, thanks for your interest in our project! There are definitely many avenues that student projects can take with stormwater as the context, and it's been very interesting to see the regional differences. Some students are looking at water quality in their local watershed of choice, and getting some great results based on chemistry, biology, and physical parameters. Some students are delving into more lab-based research, where they experiment with water quality remediation techniques, and some are building devices (using electronics and/or 3D printers) for related measurements. Others are doing their water monitoring and then taking their skills to middle/elementary schools and doing hands on projects with younger students. The SMART management team helps connect groups with higher ed mentors, but really it comes down to the teachers and students reaching out to their local water districts, community environmental/watershed groups, colleges and universities, and other water professionals. One group worked with the city highway department to figure out the location and timing of road salt applications that were periodically affecting the river chemistry. We have seen our school groups take a lot of initiative in creating their own local networks of mentors.  

    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Sarah Hampton
  • Icon for: Rachel Shefner

    Rachel Shefner

    Associate Director
    May 15, 2018 | 04:08 p.m.

    Thanks for your video! I am seeing several projects this year that feature students and teachers learning together-so interesting. In your case, are the teachers and students from the same school? Is that part of the "bringing it back to their own communities" strategy? Are you going to monitor what happens when they bring it back? In other words, are they required to report back to you if they do develop their own projects as a result of their participation? What does the side-by-side learning in the teams look like? Can you give me some flavor of how you get the teacher/student teams to work collaboratively? Are there specific norms that you introduce so that it looks the way you intend?

  • Icon for: Tiffany Wilson

    Tiffany Wilson

    Lead Presenter
    May 16, 2018 | 03:15 p.m.

    Hi Rachel,

    Yes, we bring students and teachers from the same school, and they comprise their school's SMART "team". We encourage a mentorship model, where teachers who are trained one year become mentor teachers, or "teacher leaders" for the following years. We keep track of school teams' progress via email exchange, phone calls, shared Google folders, and communications with the teams' local higher ed partners. They are all expected to do projects and submit a capstone (summary) project of their research and outreach. This year we're asking for a 3-minute video from each student or team of students. 

    The side-by-side learning style seems to vary by school and teacher. Some teams have a strong research component in their school curriculum, whereas other teams do not. Some teams start out already having strong connections with stakeholders and higher ed mentors and others spend some effort in forming these relationships. We haven't quite figured out how to connect school teams with each other on a consistent basis, after they leave the week-long summer institute, but that is something we want to work on in the coming year.  

  • Small default profile

    C.A. Verenna

    K-12 Teacher
    May 15, 2018 | 08:03 p.m.

    Thank you for the video.  I found very interesting in that the students have the opportunity to really apply a variety of areas into the analysis of storm water.  I like that they have to learn how to code, and have to learn to set up sensors (such as Arduino type) in order to do the research.  I found it interesting that the girls are under represented...in my Honors and AP Classes, there are usually more girls than boys, or at least are 50-50 in distribution.  I really like that the target group is students that would have the opportunity to participate in this kind of program in their home schools.  What I had wondered is, would it be possible to do workshops in different areas in the country - to bring it to the students who may not get to go to the University to participate - so as to reach a larger group?

  • Icon for: Tiffany Wilson

    Tiffany Wilson

    Lead Presenter
    May 17, 2018 | 11:16 a.m.

    Hi C.A., through the SMART program we have been working to emphasize the T & E of STEM (as mentioned in the video), because it is typically lacking in most school curricula, despite the increased focus on improving STEM education. Through SMART, the students get an introduction to coding and designing and building sensors, but they also have access to commercially made water quality sensors for doing their weekly watershed/storm water data collection. As of now, our summer institute program is only once per year at UMaine, and we bring participants to Maine for training, then equip them to continue through the school year (with ongoing support from SMART management and their local partner University). Our sustainability and scalability model focuses on training more and more teacher leaders each year, and also collaborating with similar programs with similar mentorship models. We are hoping to be able to expand our summer institute program to other states, as funding and collaboration opportunities fall into place.    

  • May 18, 2018 | 09:02 a.m.


      Water phenomenon is part of our summer documentation work this summer.  Following our eclipse project last year we expect to set up reading and other media offshoots.  The STEM Literacy CoP is first setting up to ensure we stay ahead of privacy issues while also build the data to be responsive to the public demands/concerns.  Each paper has had further articles regarding those issues.  Our project spans between both states and this year to Canada.  I will be interested in hearing more about how Maine is planning for the data expansion and these issues as you move forward.  

  • Icon for: Terry Smith

    Terry Smith

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 16, 2018 | 12:10 p.m.

    The student's description (at 1:59) of her own abilities before this program and where they have grown - using tools, gathering and interpreting data, and generally just being so enthusiastic about the experiences, speaks volumes to the success of SMART.

  • Icon for: Tiffany Wilson

    Tiffany Wilson

    Lead Presenter
    May 16, 2018 | 03:18 p.m.

    Thank you Terry. Yes, this is the type of response we are hoping for in students and in teachers. We expect a lot of the students and expect the teachers to have initiative as mentors and provide motivation along with the students. 

  • Icon for: Rebecca Batchelor

    Rebecca Batchelor

    SOARS Program Director
    May 18, 2018 | 06:39 a.m.

    This sounds like a great program - it seems like one that would be very expandable, and it is exciting to see you are scaling up. What has been the toughest challenge for you as you've moved from a Maine-based program to one reaching schools in 9 states? 

  • Icon for: Tiffany Wilson

    Tiffany Wilson

    Lead Presenter
    May 18, 2018 | 09:54 a.m.

     Hi Rebecca,

    We've faced some challenges as we've scaled up, mainly with program structure, expectations of participants, and communications. During the SMART summer institute, all participants are in one place doing the same activities and receiving the same information, so communications, support and feedback are relatively easy and instantaneous. Once the participants leave and are back in their own schools, the communication and feedback is a little more difficult. School teams are expected to structure their data collection and research projects to fit their schedules and needs, and some teams faced unexpected or unaccounted for challenges. For example, there were some problems with the water quality monitoring equipment (probes that didn't work well, equipment damage, wireless sensor linking), some teams had difficulty with access or transportation to their research sites, some sites couldn't be monitored during the dry season (California teams had this challenge). We've gotten a lot of feedback from teachers, especially those in their first year of SMART, about things that they have done that worked or didn't work, and how they are planning to re-structure for next school year.

    The SMART management team is considering ways to improve systematic and consistent communications with teachers and students, and we are also working on ways to further support teams to accomplish their expected research and outreach goals.

  • Icon for: Rebecca Batchelor

    Rebecca Batchelor

    SOARS Program Director
    May 18, 2018 | 11:41 a.m.

    Thank you - I appreciate your insight, and have shared some of your experiences regarding ease of communication and relationships during a summer workshop, and how much more work it is to maintain momentum once participants return to their real, and usually very busy, lives. Best of luck in the coming year!

  • May 18, 2018 | 01:13 p.m.

    Thanks Tiffany for a great program and presentation. I'm curious about your experience on scaling with respect to students (and teachers!) building and coding their own sensors. Our project (See InSPECT in this showcase) imagined students building their own sensors AND actuators for biology-based formal classroom research. We've defaulted to making and coding the sensors ourselves for now as we've found a wealth of student agency, positive experimental design learning, and base computational concept learning by just focusing on activities that use the sensors. Again, I'd love to hear more about the positive aspects of your making/technology component. Thanks!

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