Monday, May 1, 2017

Designing & Testing Water Filters

Our environmental engineering project came to a close before April Break. Students worked in teams to design and test water filters and documented their inquiry experience with a post for the blog. Click below to read each group's post.

Owen, Liam, Andrew, & Evan

Siena, Noah, Mikalah, Carley, & Sage

Patty, Piper, Maxx, & Gwen

Angelita, Maia, Shannon, & Breanne

Desmond, Nicholas, Trinity, Ethan, & Claire

Friday, March 3, 2017

Environmental Engineering & Design Challenges

Over the winter, the class is engaging in an engineering and design unit from the Museum of Science, Boston. The unit is called "Water, Water Everywhere" and students have completed two lessons thus far. Below are some collaboratively-authored posts about the work we have been doing:

Noah, Gwen & Sage

Saving Salila’s Turtle & Engineering/Tech
This week we each read a short story called Saving Salila’s Turtle. It was about A girl named Salila that lives in India. Her home is right near the sacred lake in India, the Ganges. The book is about her experience designing a water filter to save a turtle she found stranded near the water. Her mother is an Environmental Engineer and she brought Salila to the place she works at so she could learn more about microbes/bacteria. We also talked about our class definitions of technology and engineering: Technology is a tool or innovation used to solve a problem or make life easier. Engineering: Engineers make, innovate, design, and fix, technology using their knowledge of STEM.

The Ganges
The Ganges is a sacred river in India. Some of the reason it is polluted is people bathe in the river and use soap to wash themselves and the soap gets in the water. Another reason the Ganges are polluted is people pour their loved ones cremated ashes into the river, the reason they throw the ashes in the Ganges, is because they believe the river is holy. One more reason it is polluted is, people dump oil into the river which pollutes the Ganges. These are some of the reasons the Ganges are as polluted as they are.

Pollution Solution
Our pollution problem was that a fisherman’s boots had animal waste and lots of bacteria on them. The fisherman stepped in the water and all the bacteria got in the water and polluted it. So we came up with a solution where we would add a hose next to the entrance, so fishers can rinse off their things (boats, boots, etc.) before going putting them in the water. Then we make a dock, and to get the money back they can have a fundraiser.

Maia, Mikalah, Owen & Siena

Over the course of the past couple of months, we have been learning about environmental engineering, and designing solutions and technologies for pollution. We read a book about the polluted Ganges River. A young girl wants to design and make a filter for the river. She asks questions and learns processes to help her along the way. With her knowledge of engineering and technologies, she was able to create a filter. We want to do the same. We also learned about most of the steps in the engineering process:

1. Ask
2. Imagine
3. Plan
4. Create
5. Improve

With those steps in mind, in the future, we are going to design water filters to help us better understand designing and creating solutions.

Maxx, Andrew, Patty & Carley

Engineering and Water Filters 3/3/17
We have paused our watershed project because it’s winter and begun a new unit on engineering and water filtering. We started by reading a book called Saving Salila's Turtle. The book takes place in India and is about the pollution in the Ganges river and water filters being used to help it.

We discovered what an environmental engineer does and created a definition of it and what technology is: “Engineers innovate, design and fix technology using their knowledge of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).” “Technology is a tool or innovation used to solve a problem or make life easier.” We then looked at pictures and listed all of the pollution happening, separating them into categories: Air, water, and ground pollution. We learned the Engineering and Design process, STEM, and soon will be making our own water filters.

Trinity, Claire, Ethan & Liam

Saving Salila’s Turtle 3\3\17
Our class was asked to answer a question, the question was what is technology and what is an engineering. Technology is a tool or an innovation used to solve or make life easier. Engineers are people who make, innovate, design and fix technology using STEaM.

Saving Salila’s Turtle is about a girl who lives in India and finds a small turtle that lives in the water and Salila wants to keep the turtle so the turtle doesn’t get sick in the oil. She goes to work with her mom because she is an environmental engineer and they talk about the engineering design process to make a filter to filter out the water into the tank so the turtle will have a healthy environment in the tank.

The Ganges river is sacred so people bath in it, they have funerals because they think it returns the life back into the river, sometimes they have to drink out of it because they run out of fuel to boil water so they have to drink water straight out of the Ganges.

In our class, we learned vocabulary, the process of making a solution, and what solutions Salila could make to help the Ganges. Some of the solutions were making a water filter, and an Ultraviolet light filter. And to make an air filter for the factories so they don’t pollute the air.

An Environmental Engineer designs ways to fix problems in the environment. They also use the engineering design process to make helpful inventions. 

Breanne, Desmond, Angelita & Nicholas


In science we have been exploring different pollution sources. For example non point where you can not pinpoint the pollution, like litter on a parking lot. Point source pollution is where it’s easy to see where the pollution came or is coming from, like smoke spewing from a factory's smokestack.

We made our own definition of engineer and technology. Our definition of engineer is: Engineers make, innovate, design, fix technologies using their knowledge of STEM. Our interpretation of technology is: Technology is a tool, an innovation, or a resource used to solve problems, communicate, travel, build, and learn with.

We are also learning about the engineering design process of a water filter, the process is:

1. Ask

The way we are learning about that is by reading a book about how polluted the Ganges are, the book is called Saving Salila’s Turtle, it talks about pollution and Environmental engineers. Environmental engineers find a solution for pollution

Shannon, Piper & Evan

Ganges and Pollution 3/3/17
Our class made definitions for the words technology and engineers. The definition for Technology is, a tool or an innovation used to solve a problem or make life easier. We found out that engineers are people that make, innovate, design and fix technology using their knowledge of S.T.E.M. We read this book about this girl named Salila wants to save life in a river called the Ganges from pollution. She tests several water filters to see which one works best, and came up with a decision. The Ganges is a river in India that is really polluted. Salila saw a turtle close to the river and saw that the turtle was not going to survive in the polluted river, so Salila wanted to come up with a solution to make the river clean so all of the water animals will survive in the river. Engineers use S.T.E.M which is an engineering design process. S.T.E.M means, ask, imagine, plan, create, and improve. Our class also answered several things for the pollution solution like, using air filters in the smoke stacks, so only fresh air comes out instead of smog. Environmental engineers help polluted rivers have no pollutants in the, or they help animals in need. That is what our class did for science.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Phosphorous Inquiry

This month, students have been working in teams to understand the effects of phosphorous on water quality. We quickly discovered that chemistry was going to be very helpful to us. When we tested for dissolved oxygen, we found that the amount of D.O. in Cedar Lake is indicative of a less-than-healthy ecosystem that cannot support the rich biodiversity of healthier bodies of water.

Our next inquiry involved adding different concentrations of fertilizer to water where the small, aquatic plant called duckweed was growing. Six different groups added either .5%, 1%, or 2% fertilizer to their test tubes and collected data over a period of roughly three weeks. We also ran a control group that had no fertilizer added.

The links below will bring you to each group's final lab write-up, where they are communicating their results, analyzing data, and connecting the results to a recent article by Gaen Murphree in The Addison Independent about the sources of phosphorous in Lake Champlain. Almost half of the phosphorous in the lake comes from agricultural runoff and the Otter Creek watershed has been charged with lowering its phosphorous impact on the lake by 5%. That might seem like a tall order, but the Mississquoi Bay watershed needs to decrease its output by 50%!

.5% Concentration Groups
1% Concentration Groups

Friday, October 14, 2016

Student Blog Pages Are Live!

Students are focusing their science communication efforts at the individual level for our next module. We started practicing for that today with the summary post for the module we are ending this week, answering the question "How do land and water interact?" Students tried their hands at summarizing several week's worth of science inquiry and investigations. Check out our Student Blog Pages to read more!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Running Land Use Interaction Models: Stream Tables

Residential Stream Table Model
This week our class made stream tables. Our group was in charge of making the stream table for residential use. First we went outside and gathered materials. We used these materials to make two models of streams. We made a good model and a bad model.

For our good model, we made what we thought was the best scenario for a residential stream, and for our bad model, we made what we thought was the worst possible scenario. We used our models to find out how water interacts with the environment in residential areas. In our bad model, we noticed that the water picked pick up trash and litter. In our good model we noticed that the water stayed relatively clean because of the healthy environment.

In conclusion, the residential land around a river must be planned carefully if the river is to stay healthy.

-Owen, Breanne, Andrew, Siena, Desmond & Mikalah

Commercial & Industrial Model
Our group ran a stream table in a commercial and industrial setting. We created a worst case scenario and a best case scenario. They are different in cleanliness. When we added water to our model, the best case scenario didn’t erode due to compacted dirt. The worst case scenario almost completely eroded and the water was filled with water and dirt. The dirt in the worst case piled up and took over the water, causing the time it took to flow over last awhile. In the best, the water moved quickly without any mud to stop the water flow.

On page 43 of our science binders, in the industrial uses section, it says that the water is collected from rivers for manufacturing purposes. The polluted water is then returned back into the river, bringing harmful chemicals. As said in the book, the chemicals are bad for the environment, aquatic organisms, and the land around it, when released back into nature. We can conclude that when factories are built around rivers, they pollute the water and land.

- Ethan, Piper, Shannon, Angelita, Nicholas, Shannon, Patty, Maia & Claire

Residential Stream Table Model
This week we ran our models and started answering questions about what we observed. During the past two weeks, we have been creating two river models which were a best case scenario model and a worst case scenario model. There was four different subjects that we were assigned to do and our group got agricultural land use. Agriculture is a farming community. What we did for the best case scenario model was a river with a farm and a field far away with healthy grass in between and water moving through. For the worst case scenario, we did a sandy river with a beaver dam in the middle of the model, we also placed the farm very close to the river causing manure, fertilizers, and pesticides to runoff into the river.

-Noah, Liam, Evan, Gwen, Carley, Trinity & Sage

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Land and Water Interacting

A theme we are investigating is how land and water interact in a community. Here are some examples: Agricultural land interacts with water by using the water for farming, watering plants, and cows drinking from rivers and other bodies of water. When it rains the water washes pesticides and chemicals into these streams, along with manure. The rivers will carry these along, water being polluted, polluting land around it, hurting and killing animals/plants in and out of water.

There are also residential uses. Residential means houses and human uses at home. A bad human use might be gardening, fishing, or boating. When you garden there can be chemicals and if the chemicals get in the water it could pollute the water. Boating can also be bad for bodies of water because people might have milfoil on the bottom of the boat and can invade the bodies of water that it travels through.

Commercial and Industrial uses could have a big impact on a body of water near it. For example, factories have sometimes used a nearby body of water for dumping sewage. Businesses use rivers/lakes etc. to provide energy and academic purposes. This change isn’t good for the environment. It could harm the animals that live around the water or that live in the water. Also this business mindset can destroy the balance of animals, plants and more. If water in rivers and streams becomes too polluted, there is no use for it except the initial use of a dumping ground. We don't want another Cuyahoga River.

When all of these uses pollute the water, the land around it will not be so healthy either.

- Ethan, Shannon, Patty, Angelita, Claire, Nicholas, Piper, Maia

Making Elevation Models

In groups of three and four, we made elevation models. We crumpled a piece of paper and then uncrumpled it, making a raised relief map.

We looked at how the crumpled paper was shaped like mountains and valleys. Next, we labeled the high and low elevations and predicted where the water would flow and pool. Then we sprayed water on top of the model, to act as rain.

We watched where the water pooled and flowed while taking notes and reexamined our predictions. We learned that where houses are can affect the flow and quality of the water.

Our conclusion is that water always flows from high to low elevation. Even if the land looks flat, the water will find its way to a river, lake, or another body of water.

- Breanne, Siena, Andrew, Owen, Desmond, Mikalah