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STEAM Expeditions Brings Hands-On Environmental Science to Thousands of Nashville Students

May 15, 2023

The Cumberland River Compact is proud to be a partner in Metro Nashville Public Schools’ STEAM Expeditions program! The program exposes students to enrichment opportunities that support student academic, social, and emotional growth, and align with content in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM). Community partners from across Nashville provide Expeditions in the form of field trips, in-school programs, and virtual visits while connecting directly with the classroom curriculum.

In the Spring of 2022, the Cumberland River Compact provided a virtual STEAM Expedition for 1,217 first-graders in 13 schools that focused on the importance of the wetland ecosystem and plants. Compact staff and AmeriCorps members “zoomed in” from the Tennessee State University wetland and research farm to show off the variety of living things that call a wetland home. Students learned how important urban wetlands are to improving our water quality!

In the Fall of 2022, we were excited to offer an in-school Expedition for sixth graders. For this lesson, we focused on the ways scientists use biological, chemical, and physical methods to understand the health of waterways. We used leaf packs to collect benthic macroinvertebrates (lovingly referred to as our Creek Critters!) and then brought these live critters to the classroom for students to explore. Creek critters tell us about the health of our waterways because some are more sensitive to pollution than others; the diversity we find can be used to understand if there is a water quality issue. Students were tasked with evaluating the health of the local waterway through physical observation and then evaluation of the critters found in the sample.

We taught approximately 1,815 sixth graders at 15 schools through this program. Teachers and students alike loved the program. Here’s what the students had to say! 

  • “Thank you for teaching us and showing us so many new things in a cool and fun way! I loved and enjoyed looking for the bugs in the cold river water. I loved what you set-up for us today! I really do hope I get to see you again and experience what we did today!”
  • “I learned how to keep the waters and bugs safe.”
  • “My favorite part of you teaching us was when you let us look in the tub of water and find bugs.” 
  • “I learned that there are many different insects that are so tiny that you can really see them only when you’re really up close.”
  • “My favorite part about this was looking for bugs in a tank, I’ve never gotten to do that before. A lot of people thought that it was gross but I loved seeing the bugs, some were even cute.”
  • “I’m so thankful for you coming to our school! I have so many things I want to share with you”

We are thankful for the support of Metro Nashville’s STEAM Department for coordinating these opportunities for Metro Nashville Public School students and for engaging community partners like the Cumberland River Compact! Stay tuned for more updates about our collaborations with Metro Nashville Public Schools!

Spring 2022 Photos

Fall 2022 Photos


Author Bio

Catherine Price is the Senior Program at the Cumberland River Compact, where she manages the organization’s education, engagement, and volunteerism programs. Since 2017, Catherine has grown the Compact’s Education programs to support thousands of Middle Tennessee students and hundreds of teachers each year. Catherine has a Master of Science in Zoology from the University of British Columbia and a Bachelor of Science in Zoology from Miami University.