Students in the Department of Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering collaborated with the School District of University City and St. Louis Aquarium Foundation to provide fifth-grade students with a hands-on water education program.

The collaboration was led by Zhen (Jason) He, professor of energy, environmental & chemical engineering and faculty adviser of the Environmental Engineering Students Association (EnvESA).

“If we want to attract more students, especially those from underrepresented groups, to STEM fields, we must start the process earlier,” He said. “This type of outreach can stimulate those students’ interest in STEM and encourage them to further explore the subjects.”

EnvESA members taught more than 200 fifth-grade students at four district elementary schools. As part of the program’s curriculum, students learned about the water cycle and wastewater treatment processes and participated in a activity in which they treated wastewater using different filtering materials. 

“Our lessons were geared toward exposing students to water and wastewater treatment,” said Matthew Ferby, a doctoral student in the Department of Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering and president of EnvESA. “We also highlighted teamwork and science communication.”

Students also visited the St. Louis Aquarium, where they learned about water systems’ impact on animals and water pollution. The aquarium is a partner institution with the Center for Water Innovation, which is led by He.

Ferby said that he hopes EnvESA will have the opportunity to work with more students in the future.

“We were motivated to show students that engineering and problem solving can be fun,” Ferby said. “We enjoyed the opportunity to be impactful and to enrich our own experience working toward our degrees.”

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