High school students tackle tough topics in Harvard’s active learning labs – Harvard Gazette

In a crash course focused on water engineering and community access to clean water, students qualitatively measured local water samples using a variety of laboratory instruments. In addition to chemical measurements, students conducted experiments to assess contaminants from microbes to microplastics.

Elena Wisniewski, a junior at Arlington High School, said she most enjoyed “learning about water chemistry with the probes and what properties can make our water dangerous, like microbes and microplastics.”

Lessons in the lab were enhanced by a short walk to the banks of the Charles River, where LoRusso and Bryan Yoon, assistant director of undergraduate studies in environmental science and engineering, taught students how to conduct fieldwork and collect samples. Students were also given a behind-closed-doors tour of the Fresh Pond Walter J. Sullivan Water Treatment Plant in Cambridge.

Both stops left an impression on Mrigank Dhingra. “I was most excited about the field trips to the Charles River and the Fresh Pond Water Treatment Plant because I got to experience a real-world challenge and how people used environmental engineering principles to protect and filter water,” Dhingra said.

Nishka Avunoori of Chester Brook, Pennsylvania said, “EnviroSTAR helped me apply my knowledge both in the lab and in the field and showed me how important collaboration is in this field of science. [The program] helped me understand the beauty of our environment and showed me that this field is constantly evolving and requires creativity, innovation and a strong commitment to our environment.

During the final two days of the program, students focused on design engineering and worked in small teams to design, build and test water filter systems. During discussions with Anas Chalahassistant dean for teaching and learning, and David Sekoll of ALL, students learned about the factors that drive design decisions and the importance of small-scale prototyping and testing.

Guest speakers from the Harvard community also met with students to discuss their current research and inventions to remove impurities from water. When student teams began creating filters in the REEF Makerspace (Reimagining Experiential Education and Fabrication), each came up with a different approach to water filtration.

“I really learned a lot about the design process and how much you need to experiment,” said Soleil Hayes-Pollard of Brooklyn High School. “I also gained a better understanding of how to design and build a physical prototype and learned how many changes you might need to make and how different it might be from your original design.

“It was definitely nice to do things with my hands and I will say I’m proud of the work I did,” said Emily Kuang of Lexington High School.

Godfrey Kemp

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