I used existing groundwater monitoring wells in the Back Bay area of Boston, MA as an effective way to teach the applied aspects of integrating the natural world with the built environment. These wells were installed as part of engineering studies for construction and rehabilitation of campus buildings, and through their use in laboratory exercises, undergraduate students developed valuable, field-based insight into the physical meaning of environmental science, mathematical models of groundwater movement, and the practical knowledge of professional practice. I arranged ongoing permission to access these wells and prevent them from being plugged once construction was completed. I compiled the existing long-term well data from both the Northeastern University Physical Plant office and the geotechnical engineering firm who installed the wells, providing students with context for their field measurements in lab.
This project gave undergraduate students in introductory and upper division environmental science courses an opportunity to learn about water quality issues, construction and excavation issues, architectural retrofitting, and historical water table changes through analysis of the data. Close proximity of the wells to the classroom made possible many independent student projects.
Through the Campus Wells Program, I involved the working community - including the Physical Plant staff at multiple colleges, and professional geologists in the geotechnical engineering consulting firm - in the learning process. Students recognized that their class laboratory exercises contributed real data to a long-term study of the hydrogeology of the campus, giving students buy-in to the project. The Campus Wells Program is a virtually cost-free, practice-oriented teaching opportunity that any university undergoing construction or site cleanup can implement.