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Dr. Caitlin Barnes explains elements of the AA360 virtual lab and classroom kit. Photo by Jason Wallace.

NGWA University expands access to groundwater education

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Media Contact: Elizabeth Gosney | CAS Marketing and Communications Manager | 405-744-7497 |

in the two years since its creation, NGWA University Powered by OSU (NGWAU) has made great strides in growing workforce development programming and K-12 educational materials related to groundwater — reaching professionals and students around the world.

“Over one million dollars has been fundraised from individual and corporate sponsorships to support NGWAU,” said Dr. Caitlin Barnes, director of NGWAU and director of the College of Arts and Sciences Outreach at Oklahoma State University. “These contributions demonstrate both the need for NGWAU resources and the support it already has from the groundwater industry.”

With support from the Boone Pickens School of Geology, NGWAU was established by CAS in 2021 as a partnership between the National Ground Water Association and OSU. NGWA University now offers Drilling Basics Online and Awesome Aquifer 360 (AA360), with more programming in the works.

“Drilling Basics Online — which includes six professional development courses in groundwater access — has been completed in 18 states and four countries so far,” Barnes said. “Our K-12 Extension program, Awesome Aquifer 360, has reached 41 states and 230 classrooms, totaling more than 6,000 students.”

It’s through AA360 that NGWAU aims to address future geoscience workforce shortages by introducing groundwater careers to children early on. The AA360 curriculum includes virtual labs to increase classroom accessibility and physical kits to engage students in hands-on earth science activities.

“As a former middle school science teacher, I can attest to how difficult it is to find quality, standards-based curriculum for teaching earth science, so AA360 is a phenomenal resource,” NGWAU instructional designer Nichole Fox said. “We’ve been able to provide AA360 free of cost to many teachers thanks to donations from people who care about the future of geosciences. We hope to get even more classroom sponsors; whether they’re individuals or corporations, donors will forever impact the future of science education.”

As NGWAU continues to garner attention from professionals, politicians, educators and the like, Barnes’ Stillwater-based team recognizes the program’s potential and responsibility to help the groundwater industry.

“We have momentum, but we must move faster and reach further to address the national workforce deficit,” Barnes said. “Through academics, research and outreach, it is the mission of NGWAU to upskill the current workforce, train future groundwater professionals and establish educational pathways for students of all ages to pursue careers in groundwater.”

Learn more about NGWA University here

Story By: Elizabeth Gosney | CONNECT magazine

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