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by Zoe Hansen-DiBello
Grow Education Program Director

On Tuesday March 6th, the Carlos Pacheco Elementary School auditorium was filled with 65 5th grade students ready to learn about waste water. Yes, you read that right.

How did this presentation come to Pacheco, which is located in the North End of New Bedford, MA? It started with the adoption of new science standards added to 5th grade common core curriculum in the fall of 2017, namely:

  • ESS3-1 Obtain information about how communities can reduce human impact on Earth’s resources and environment
  • ESS3-2 Test a simple system designed to filter particles out of water and propose one change to improve the design.

The addition of these standards is likely connected to a large amount of expected vacancies in the waste water treatment field in the next 5 years due to a retiring work force in SouthCoast Massachusetts.

Once the standards were imposed, it was up to the teachers to find ways to fulfill the requirements. In a routine Grow Education planning meeting at the school, 5th grade teacher Carolyn DuBois mentioned her struggle to find ways to make this new content relevant to her students.  With close relationships to people working the waste water treatment industry, Grow Education offered to facilitate a visit with two guest speakers.  Carolyn was thrilled, and so were the two other 5th grade teachers at the school who decided to join in the fun!

The students listened eagerly to the two featured speakers: Robert Rak, Professor at Bristol Community College and Jake Gamache a waste water treatment operator for Waste Water Treatment Services and life-long New Bedford resident. The pair spoke to the students about career opportunities in this burgeoning field and were quick to engage them during the Q&A period. The students were ready with questions, asking everything from “what is your favorite part of your job?” to “what type of education do you need for your job?” to “what do you do when you don’t agree with someone you work with?”

It became clear that connecting with people in the field is not only engaging for students, but also critical to connecting what they are learning in class to the real world. Grow Education plans to organize more of these events during winter months for schools during our indoor project-based learning seasonal programming.

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