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

Our Watershed Investigation: An Introduction

Our class went to Cedar Lake and made lake scorecards based on how much pollution there is, how much human use, water quality, and the quality of the lake shore habitat. We graded Cedar Lake using the categories above, from 1-4 (1 being the least quality, and 4 being the most).

We wrote a paragraph based on the information we recorded on our score sheets. We wrote why we gave it the score we did. Then, we recorded how the sight, sounds, and smells around the lake. These indicate the health of the ecosystem. After that, we determined if the problems were naturally occurring or human made.

Our class decided to solve some issues facing Cedar Lake. The first problem we decided to solve is the management of Cedar Lake, because we noticed the management sign is about 50-100 feet away from the boat launch and is kind of hidden under a tree. The sign contains information about making sure there are no invasives on your boat before going in the lake. The second problem we decided to solve is how invasives entered Cedar Lake and how to get them out of the lake, and how human use affects the management and invasives in Cedar Lake.

We are keeping a Project Board for this project. Some of the things we want to investigate are:
  • Where does the water in Cedar Lake come from?
  • How does the water quality affect the health of plants and animals?
  • Can we use milfoil as compost?
  • Why does water flow instead of absorbing into the ground?
  • What tests can we do to assess the quality of the water?
  • How does human/animal waste affect water quality?
  • How much water is in the lake? Enough? Too much? Not enough? Does the amount affect the quality?
Connecting to signs of water quality, we also looked at five cups with different liquids. We smelled the liquids and looked at them. A couple of the cups had an odor, and the rest of the cups did not have an odor. The cups were all different shades of color. The activity was testing the quality of the water. We also talked about when we are observing that you are not guessing what the liquid is, you are listing facts based on evidence.

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

Thursday, July 21, 2016


In 2016-2017, Ms. La Riviere's fifth and sixth graders will embark on an extensive study of the Cedar Lake watershed in our hometown of Monkton, Vermont. We will become true stewards of the land and water and help raise awareness in our community about the health of this precious resource.

Throughout the year, students will be collecting information, gathering data through real-world lab and field studies, and determining the issues that affect this ecosystem. By addressing our challenge question, "How does water quality affect the ecology of a community?", we hope to make recommendations to our civic leaders and community members about how we can restore, protect, and maintain the health and well-being of Cedar Lake for generations to come.