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Dirty Water Project

Elementary

Description

Students become environmental engineers in this innovative STEM resource that uses an inquiry based approach to address the global issue of water pollution.  Real world science provides a meaningful learning experience where a class will:

  • Compare the biological and chemical differences between clean and polluted water.
  • Investigate the types of materials that filter pollutants most effectively.
  • Investigate how pH is affected by pollution.
  • Describe how polluted water can negatively impact the environment.
  • Identify how access to clean water can help alleviate poverty and disease.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

  • Experimental design.
  • Numeracy.
  • Teamwork.
  • Communication.

Strengths

  • Uses an inquiry approach.
  • Science is used in an authentic real world context.
  • Strong emphasis on numeracy skills.

Weaknesses

  • Does not include background statistics on water pollution rates.
  • Does not include a brief activity to evaluate personal water use to make content more relevant.

Recommendation of how and where to use it

This resource supports science and mathematics outcomes related to environmental and human health, solutions and mixtures and numeracy.  There is also a strong emphasis on scientific literacy with the application of an experimental process to testing filter materials and describing results.  The lesson would also make an excellent introduction to a World Water Day school celebration where students are able to explore water conservation. 

Students could extend their learning with a citizenship project to purchase personal water filtration straws for a school in a developing country that struggles with access to clean water.  The class could link with the school using audio-visual technology to teach the recipients how the devices work to filter bacteria and other hazards from dirty water.

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Themes Addressed

  • Human Health & Environment (1)

    • Environmental Contaminants & Health Hazards
  • Water (2)

    • Water Quality
    • Water Treatment and Distribution

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Good

This resource promotes ingenuity and demonstrates how real world science can help resolve serious environmental concerns.  There is also an emphasis on cooperative problem solving and students will recognize the value of active citizenship.

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Good

Students gain an appreciation for the complexities involved in treating dirty water so it becomes safe to release into the environment.  This new awareness will lead to critical thinking about the social and financial costs of pollution.

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Good

Students are able to connect cause and effect relationships to pollution concerns and develop an increased awareness of the collective role of individual citizenship in safeguarding our planet.

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Satisfactory
Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Good

Students learn that polluted water is a significant global issue that can be addressed through a personal commitment to be more conscious of their environmental footprint.  Individual sustainability goals could be integrated into the lesson by having the class identify action items at home such as being more aware of what goes down the drain.

Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Poor/Not considered
Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Poor/Not considered

Although this resource is classroom based, visiting a local river or stream would deepen students connection to the topic and increase awareness of local water sources.

Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Poor/Not considered
Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Poor/Not considered

Student driven strategies for reducing pollution support looking towards the future with long-lasting changes in the way they think about water conservation.

Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Good

The activities promote creativity and critical thinking while engaging students in thoughtful discussions about how they can help reduce pollution with personal action strategies.

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Good

Mathematical skills like multiplication and division are strengthened while conducting the science experiments that establish the framework for active discussions about the sustainability issue of water pollution.

Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Good

All the activities stimulate curiosity by providing a structure that actively engages students in posing questions and discovering answers.

Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.

 

Differentiated Instruction Satisfactory

Differentiation suggestions are provided by grade level.  The hands-on content with a teamwork approach ensures struggling students can be engaged in the learning process.

Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Satisfactory

Students are active participants in the scientific process as they plan and build water filters and then alter variables to analyze effectiveness.  The relevance of the task could be increased by having examples of simple personal water filters that are currently available such as "Lifestraws".

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Good

Students work in teams where they share the role of planning, data collection and analyzing results.

Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Satisfactory

Includes a series of worksheets that can be used as formative and summative assessment.

Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Poor/Not considered
Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Good

The topic is particularly relevant as our planet faces a global water crisis.  There is an opportunity to discuss this issue in relationship to poverty and the inequitable distribution of resources. 

Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Satisfactory

Students are acting as "engineers" and are able to choose the design and materials for their filters.

Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.