Telluride Institute: Major EPA Grant

Telluride Institute: Major EPA Grant

The Telluride Institute Partners with Arizona State University on Major EPA Grant. Associated workshop is by invitation and will be held June 24 – 26 at the old Deep Creek School at 26 Deep Creek Road, 7 miles west of Telluride. For further information, contact Dan at or follow the project on the Telluride Institute website.

Dan Collins shows off new digital water quality test gear.

Dan Collins shows off new digital water quality test gear.

The Telluride Institute’s TIES (Telluride Institute Environmental Studies) program is the beneficiary of a portion of an EPA grant led by TI Board President, Dan Collins, also a professor at Arizona State University. The award totals $192,000 and will be used to support an environmental education curriculum designed by Collins and regional educators for 10 high schools along the Colorado River—from Pinedale, Wyoming to Yuma, Arizona. Local partners include Telluride High School and the Dolores County School District.

Science teachers from regional high schools will receive equipment for water quality testing and training in environmental education curriculum design. The Telluride Institute’s Laura Kudo, Vicki Phelps, and Karl Topper will help coordinate the effort in a workshop to be held at the Deep Creek School, 7 miles west of Telluride later this month. Other Institute participants include board members Helen Rowe, an environmental scientist, and Laurie Lundquist, an environmental artist. Rex Lybrand, the AP science teacher from Telluride High School, will lend his expertise to the project and involve his students in a pilot study starting Fall 2016.

The program, called SCAPE (Sustainable Communities and Place-based Education), is a pilot high school and community-based science education project combining online learning and field observations linked to “living classrooms” across the Colorado River Basin. The program builds on EPA-recognized EE curriculum design guidelines and workshops, and provides opportunities for science teachers to learn both the science of water quality and best practices for EE.

SCAPE-trained teachers will introduce students to the hydrology of the CR System, methods for measuring in-stream flow, and techniques for testing water quality. The program will provide specific training in EE pedagogy as related to real-world problems—water quality and supply—and will give partner high school teachers, in the words of project leader, Dan Collins, “the tools and methods to move from knowledge to action.”

In addition to improving EE teaching skills of regional science teachers, SCAPE will enhance student’s STEM learning outcomes. SCAPE is designed to improve students’ decision-making skills and achieve behavioral changes that foster a sense of stewardship and benefit the environment.

In the wake of the Gold King mine spill north of Durango in August 2015, Collins says there will be special attention paid to an “expanded definition of water quality.”  While the procedures for measuring water quality are well known—from taking chemical measurements of pH, heavy metals, and dissolved oxygen and other constituents, to looking for a healthy population of “indicator species” such as macroinvertebrates (e.g., caddis fly larvae)—Collins is concerned that the usual focus on the chemistry of water blinds us to more holistic, sacred understandings of water’s key role in a healthy eco-system. In a departure from “business as usual,” he invited Navajo teacher and spiritual leader Damien Jones to help participating scientists and environmental educators understand the Navajo perspective on water quality and the central role water plays in a balanced picture of environmental health.

SCAPE builds on significant work in K12 EE including the Telluride Institute’s Watershed Education Program (Kudo, 2015), ASU’s School of Life Science (SoLS) programs Ask-A-Biologist (Kazilek, 2015) and Ecology Explorers (Banks, Elser & Salz, 2005), and the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability (GIOS). The goal is to develop a robust EE platform that serves watershed education across the western states.

Besides the EPA grant, the Telluride Institute Environmental Studies (TIES) program is indebted to generous donations from Audrey Marnoy, Pamela Zoline, and Scott Chambers, as well as significant funding from a number of local organizations including Just For Kids, Alpine Bank, The Town of Telluride, and San Miguel County.



1 Comment
  • Richard Loveless
    Posted at 23:32h, 17 June

    Dan Collins is forever leading the virtual parade to envision the most important ideas, issues and aesthetic virtues that make a difference. Dan has the future in his bones! I only wish I could be in Telluride this summer to be in the presence of his wake!!