Blue Water Task Force, Youth
May 23 2018

Working with Schools for your BWTF Lab

by Colleen Henn

Because of the ease of access to laboratory space, the opportunity to work sampling methodology into school curriculum, and the guidance from dedicated teachers, many Blue Water Task Force programs throughout the country run in collaboration with middle or high Schools.

After looking over information from both the Planning a Water Testing Program and Frequently Asked Questions documents as always recommended when building a BWTF program, please take a look at the below logistics that are important to consider when setting up a BWTF program in collaboration with a school.

Lab Space:

  • Is there enough space for BWTF lab equipment – incubator, sealer, storage for bottles, trays, pipettes, etc?  
  • Does the school’s lab have any existing equipment that is necessary for the BWTF Sampling Process?

Collecting Samples:

  • Who is going to do the sample collection? Teachers, students?
  • Will there be adult volunteers involved?
  • How will the samples be brought to the lab/school? (samples can be held on ice but must be processed with 6 hours of collection)

Processing Samples & Data Input:

  • Who will be processing the samples in the lab?
  • Will the students be importing the data into the BWTF database?

Interaction with Surfrider Chapter:

  • What interaction will the students have with the parent Surfrider Chapter (where applicable)?  
  • Who, if anyone, would serve as the liaison between the chapter and the BWTF program?
  • How will the chapter be assisting in conveying the data to the public?  

Before launching the program in partnership with a school, it is recommended that you sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the school that clarifies roles and responsibilities, such as who will be collecting samples, who owns the equipment, and who is responsible for purchasing the supplies. Click here to download a draft MOU.

Examples of Blue Water Task Force Labs run in collaboration with Schools:

Surfrider Marin’s BWTF Program is an incredibly well-orchestrated collaboration with two school groups. The Marin Chapter has partnered with the Branson School to run it’s BWTF lab since 2007. Surfrider volunteers collect water samples at local beaches, and deliver them to dedicated student volunteers who process the samples at a lab set up within Branson School.  Under the supervision of a faculty advisor, the students are responsible for running the lab and recording their data online. The Marin Chapter welcomed a second water testing lab within the Marin Academy in 2016 in which the students of Stori Oats’ Oceanography class collect and process samples themselves at two local beaches.

The South Bay Chapter runs its “Teach and Test” program in collaboration with four school groups. Students from Redondo Union, Mira Costa, El Segundo, and South High Schools collect samples at 18 locations, and deliver them to one of two established labs - the SEA Lab in Redondo Beach, or the Environmental Lab at Loyola Marymount University -  to be processed by lab technicians. The South Bay Surfrider Chapter has a group of dedicated volunteers as “Teach and Test Team Captains” who help facilitate sample collection and maintain communication with the students and parent chapter. At year-end, each student group does a project explaining their findings, creative ways to improve local water quality conditions, and why “Teach and Test” is important to them.

Surfrider’s Ventura County Chapter also recently established a partnership with Foothill Technology High School. The students of Foothill Technology High School’s Environmental Club collect the samples, and bring them back to the lab at their school to be processed. After 24 hours, the students post the results online to be available for the public. The environmental club will present their data at a Surfrider chapter meeting at the end of the school year.

Lastly, check out this video about the Huntington Beach Blue Water Task Force Program run in collaboration with the Pegagus School. 

Surfrider Foundation - Blue Water Task Force - Huntington Beach Chapter from Surfrider Foundation on Vimeo.