Thesis : Water Testing Kit

  • ClientNorth Carolina State University

  • Year2011

Thesis: Outdoor Education: Visual Strategies for Environmental Awareness

The following text describes one component of an educational activity/experience that is aimed to teach 6th grade students about issues related to environmental awareness. This is one part of my thesis investigation.

Human activity is a direct contributor to the pollution in Falls Lake (Thesis site). Run-off from agriculture and construction sites, as well as run-off from paved surfaces cause major pollution issues for the lake. Excessive nutrients from this run-off cause algae blooms and make the water more expensive to treat. Treating the water is extremely important to the safety of the community. As mentioned previously, approximately 450,000 Wake County residents get their drinking water from Falls Lake. Dangerous chemicals can have harmful effects on both humans and wildlife. These chemicals also cause an imbalance in the aquatic ecosystem that can seriously affect fish and bird populations.

The goal of the water testing exercise is to reveal information about water quality and also to have the students take a closer look at what is in the water. Water quality is a huge safety concern and this activity allows students to explore and address issues of water quality, specifically by identifying what chemicals are in the water, as well as predicting how various chemicals and pollutants end up in the water in the first place. This helps students to expand their knowledge of cause/effect relationships. While near the shore, students are encouraged to explore the banks of the lake in order to locate an area they wish to test with the kit. Once the students find the ideal location where they wish to test, they record the coordinates with a GPS device that is included in the kit. The students take multiple water samples and follow testing instructions as indicated on the instruction card.

Findings of the test results may indicate and identify: contaminants, chemicals and also nutrients found in the lake. Specifically, the test is designed to identify the following chemicals: lead, bacteria, iron, nitrates/nitrites, phosphorus, chlorine, pesticides, pH, and others. Through this scientific investigation, students will develop an understanding of the relationship between evidence and explanation. They also collect and map useful data from which they can infer additional information.

The testing kit includes a trail map, instruction card, an overview of the exhibit and activities, a GPS device. The kit also includes all materials necessary to perform the water testing including testing analysis card.

As the second component of the water testing activity, students will upload the collected data from Falls Lake to the Parks and Recreation web site using their home computers. Students have the option to complete tests on other water sources, recording GPS location information, and upload these results to the website as well.

The goal of this exercise is for students to make inferences from data that they have collected. The students will use the evidence collected to offer descriptions, predictions and models based on their testing results. This enables students to think in a critical way, so they can logically bridge the relationships between evidence and explanations (in this instance, looking at how certain chemicals get into their drinking water). Physically performing and executing the test allows students to review experimental procedures and enables them to communicate scientific procedures, the results, and also offer explanations for their findings.

Once the students upload their findings, they will then compare the data they have collected to the data collected by other students, this process allows for: comparison among communities; comparison with other areas of Falls Lake; comparison with other local lakes and streams; and comparison with water quality from their home tap and store bought water and other natural water sources.

Through conducting research, gathering information and analyzing data, students look at their data in a visual way (through various charts, and graphics). Ultimately, it is necessary for students to formulate questions and ideas that can lead to further investigations. Possessing this ability can help students promote an awareness about water pollution and contribute to the restoration and maintenance of the lake to achieve acceptable water quality levels.

Thesis: Outdoor Education: Visual Strategies for Environmental Awareness

The following text describes one component of an educational activity/experience that is aimed to teach 6th grade students about issues related to environmental awareness. This is one part of my thesis investigation.

The hike along Beaver Point Trail (Thesis site) will lead students near the shoreline of Falls Lake. Along the shoreline students will notice a variety of trash and improperly discarded materials. Evidence of plastic bottles, paper, plastic food wrappers, aluminum cans and glass can be seen with relatively little effort. Some of these materials are on the ground, others sitting in overflowing trash cans and recycling bins. If students walk along the shore in any direction, they will discover materials left behind by careless fisherman. Fishing line, weights, bobbers and hooks litter the beaches. These types of materials can have serious and even deadly effects on the wildlife that inhabit the park. Many of these dangerous materials can be found where birds and other wildlife eat and drink.

Students will be asked to identify these materials and speculate on how they got to this location. The staff member or adult will encourage students to walk along the shore and see how many of these items they can find, and to collect items in a bag provided in the kit. While near the shoreline, the students will find a series of posters depicting the affects that these materials have on various waterfowl that inhabit Falls Lake. The posters contain graphic images of water fowl and demonstrate the harsh reality of how materials affect the lives of the birds, as well as their habitat. Birds are tangled in fishing line, some have swallowed hooks, or have hooks pierced through their beaks and talons. It is important for students to develop understanding and empathy for how human actions affect wildlife, and to encourage students to think of more responsible ways to interact with the environment. The destruction of habitats and ecosystems affect bird populations significantly. It is an important opportunity for students to think about the relationship between evidence and formulating their own explanations and responses to environmental issues.

The imagery and text on the posters is intended to evoke an emotional response from the students.

The questions on the posters are worded in a way that directly asks students for their opinions or their thoughts. It encourages them to think on a deeper level about the imagery. Through making inferences and predictions, students are engaged with the subject matter and how humans can reduce their harmful impact on wildlife and the environment.