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Cascades to Coast

 

Cascades to Coast: Teaching young scientists about the natural world

These Gresham High School students are among the hundreds of middle and high school students across the Portland region who are learning advanced hands-on science and environmental sustainability, thanks to an innovative program at Portland State University.

Called "Cascades to Coast," the PSU project pairs doctoral students with science teachers of sixth through ninth graders. The partnership enhances classroom inquiry with field-based research, demonstrating current concepts in physical and biological sciences and sustainability. Students learn about issues facing ecosystems in the Cascade Range, Willamette Valley, and Coast Range, including how humans impact their environment.

The program is funded by a $2.67 million, five-year grant from the National Science Foundation as part of federal efforts to bolster science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. Now in its second year, Cascades to Coast will ultimately support 50 graduate fellows working directly with teachers to engage over 1,500 area students.

"This is a great program for helping graduate students hone their communication skills and learn the need to make their research relevant," says Catherine de Rivera, PSU faculty and co-principal investigator on the grant.

The Gresham ninth graders worked with Christine Kendrick of PSU, collecting data in the Clear Creek watershed in Clackamas County to determine how land use affects air and water quality in urban and rural areas. Participating school districts include Gresham-Barlow, Portland Public, and Hillsboro.