For the past three weeks, the fifth graders have been testing the health of Forest Hill’s water source. The students began the process of using different testing methods in the first week. This included using pH, chlorine, nitrate strips to test the acidity of the creek, measuring the velocity of river flow with a timer and floating object, and testing the creek’s turbidity (cloudiness) to see how clear the water is. With the results, the creek looks to be in good health and flow.
In the second week, we tested the level of pollution of the creek by looking for macroinvertebrates (critters with no backbone) that thrive in different environments. Having done this activity last fall, the students were able to compare what critters could be found in a winter climate and determine the level of pollution in the water. From lifting rocks, disturbing the water surface, and using bug catches, the students found mainly tolerant macroinvertebrates (thrive in polluted conditions), such as blood worms, left-handed snails, planaria, somewhat tolerant clams, and intolerant caddisfly lymphs (sensitive to pollution). This helped determine that the creek had some amounts of pollution in it, which led to the third week's topic of soil erosion.
Studying the impacts of soil erosion that can lead to unhealthy and polluted water sources, the students took a closer look at what makes soil, the impacts of soil erosion, and how to prevent erosion. Students got their hands dirty with a leaf decomposition activity, using a soil corer, and a build-your-own-landscape activity. The students had to work in groups to create the best landscape to decrease erosion using soil and things in nature to prevent erosion during light and heavy periods of rain (tested by pouring a cup of water over the landscape). The students discovered that rocks, barriers, and trees with strong root systems help decrease the level of erosion. The students did an amazing job thinking through the process and working together to create amazing and effective landscapes!