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Grade 5: Science in the Wetlands

One of the luxuries we have at the Science School is being within walking distance of a protected wetlands area called the Weaselhead Natural Environment Park. Being so close allows our teachers and students to make us of the park for recreation, as well as scientific and environmental education.

One of our grade 5 teachers has planned a project for his students to study the quality of water in various places around the Weaselhead.
The goals of the project are to:
  • Have students experience the collection and analysis of data
  • Understand the role of wetlands in cleaning our water supply
  • Understand the impact that humans have on the quality of our water
  • Understand and explain some of the properties that constitute Water Quality

This project is also our school's first attempt at using new science probes recently purchased by the school. We purchased a number of probes, as well as a Water Quality resource from Vernier. These probes can be plugged them directly into student laptops, allowing them to collect and analyze their own data.

The students will be gathering water samples and bringing them back to the school, where they will analyze the water using a variety of probes. Overall, students will be examining 6 different properties of water quality.

Temperature (taken at site by each group)
Dissolved Oxygen

The steps for the project are:

1. Assign "expert groups" for the five properties (not temperature). In these groups students will become experts in a particular property of Water Quality (WI). In these groups students will:
  • gather background research on specific water property (pH, turbidity, etc)
  • build a short presentation/podcast and one-page handout to teach other students on their water property:
  1. define and explain the property
  2. what factors cause a change in this property?
  3. what is the safe range of the property?
  4. what impacts do changes in property have on the ecosystem/wildlife?
  5. why this probe? What does this instrument show us?
  6. What data does the probe provide us with?
  7. short demonstration on how to collect data using the probe
2. The teacher will build a basic model wetland to explain basic elements of wetland. The teacher will also create a concoction of 'dirty water' which will e run through the model wetland. The student expert groups will test water before and after, using their particular WQ property. Student will then be asked to graph (bar graph) the results, comparing the properties of the water before and after the cleaning process.

3. Assign "Jigsaw" Groups. Jigsaw groups teach each group member about their property (ie: pH, Turbidity, etc) using their pre-made presentation and handout The rest of the Jigsaw group will peer assess the quality of instruction using an assessment rubric.

3. (Field Trip to the Weaselhead) Jigsaw groups will collect samples at their 5 pre-determined sites throughout the Weaselhead. (A, B, C, D, E) At their site, students will collect GPS UTM, Water Temperature and a large sample of water for specialized tests back at the school. (1-2L). Students will also gather observations and pictures form the location.

4. (In Lab) Each Expert group will gather together again to test their sample (Multiple Data X5, site Labeled) and analyze the data. Students in the expert groups should help each other to make sense of the data. Each student in each expert groups needs to be ready to go back to their jigsaw group and explain their findings.

5. (In Jigsaw Groups) Share data from their site with the rest of the students in thegroups. As a group, the students also complete the Water Quality Index (WQI) calculations, determining a final WQI number for their site. The WQI framework and calculations can be found in the "Water Quality with Vernier" publication.

6.In the Jigsaw groups, student build a short presentation to offer to the rest of the class. The presentation should contain:
  • image location on Google Earth
  • images taken from field trip
  • overview and explanation of data findings
  • key assumptions about data
  • final WQI number
  • questions that still remain about site
7. Share DATA with Grade 7 students doing an overall study of the health of the Weaselhead Ecological Environment

Possible other ideas:
Give five data charts (without final calculations) to all students and have them rank order the sites in order of water quality.

Summative Assessment: Students should be able to identify the differences between the different water samples, and explain what the differences in numbers mean for the quality of the water.

As always, we welcome feedback and suggestions on this preliminary project outline. Please use the comment feature below to respond.


Here's a short video of students working through the various parts of the project:
(1) researching and teaching other students in the classroom about their assigned water quality indicatory
(2) testing actual water samples from the Weaselhead Nature Area
(3) using the WQI index graphs to compare the 5 water samples

1 comment:

Surface Water Monitoring said...

Really interesting article. I have found this company that provide the type of equipment you are looking for.

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