Robious Middle School (RMS), located in Midlothian, Virginia, hosted its annual science fair – but this year’s topic, titled Troubled Waters, was dedicated to addressing the nation’s water crisis. Over 85 RMS students performed small-scale experiments to understand current water management challenges, representing nation-wide problems. Although Midlothian’s water stresses are not as severe as other regions in the United States, this event showcases how student and faculty collaboration can engage critical analysis and raise awareness to national concerns. Sustainable Water had the privilege of working with the RMS faculty to recognize the students and educators involved in the success of the event.
At the end of May, Jonathan Lanciani, President and CEO of Sustainable Water, spoke at the school to highlight the achievements the students and staff reached through this impressive event. Troubled Waters grew from a traditional science fair to a model for others to follow. Representatives from the school board and the county attended, who later requested Lanciani to present at the June school board meeting to further recognize the educators and students.
Stephanie Estes, RMS Troubled Waters coordinator and 8th grade science teacher, played a big role in leading these students on this impactful journey. Following traditional science fair processes, Estes encouraged creativity and critical thinking through problem-based learning. Students studied water related challenges from the impacts of stormwater flow to the correlation between the high lead levels and corrosivity of water.
Estes stated during an interview with Sustainable Water, “The earlier our children learn about water challenges, the more it improves the chances that those challenges will matter to them.”
Robious Middle School exemplifies a replicable model for problem-based learning through the collaboration of students and educators. The Troubled Waters event promoted critical thinking, generated awareness, and explored impactful solutions to our nation’s core challenges. Exposing future generations to current issues at an early age will increase the opportunity for students to explore problem-based research solutions in their professional careers. Engaging students to find a creative and innovative solution to today’s problems will hopefully create tomorrow’s solution.
Estes concluded, “These students are not just studying about water challenges; they are collecting and interpreting data as citizen scientists.”