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ENST 390: How clean is your water?

By Sheila Reagan on May 2, 2013

Five students, Elise Amioka, Matt Bambach, Vincci Cheng, Sam Linnerooth, and Brody Wacker, from Colgate University have been working closely with Mr. Brian Latella and his fifth grade class at Hamilton Central School. As part of the Colgate students’ ENST 390 course, they are teaching the class a mini-unit on watersheds and water pollution that culminates in a field trip to the Rogers Environmental Education Center in Sherburne, New York. The students went into the classroom and taught a unit on watersheds, where their water comes from, and how it can become polluted. The students also plated water samples from nearby ponds, streams, and water sources at their school on agar to test for bacteria.

 In another class period, the fifth graders learned about the importance of clean water for ecosystems to function properly. This connected to what they had previously learned in their class about biomes, as dirty water can negatively impact the health of living organisms on all levels of the food chain. They examined small invertebrates that live in their natural water sources in Hamilton dissection microscopes that were borrowed from Colgate University’s Biology Department. The fifth graders also conducted various water quality tests in preparation for their field trip to the Rogers Environmental Education Center in Sherburne, New York.

On Monday, April 29, 2013, Mr. Latella’s class met the Colgate students in Sherburne. After having lunch at picnic tables near the entrance of the center, the students collected water samples from three areas: the Chenango River, the ice pond, and Channels Marsh. Each student examined their samples under dissecting microscopes and did a series of water tests for chemicals that could be contaminating the local watershed. They found moving invertebrates including leeches, crayfish (which have low tolerance of water pollution), and various other organisms under the dissecting microscopes. They also found neutral levels of pH, nitrate, lead, copper, and pesticides. The fifth graders came to the conclusion that water surrounding Hamilton was largely free of contamination.

The fifth graders from Hamilton Central School had a fun day out at Rogers Nature Center. They were able to explore their natural environment in an educational setting. Water quality is such a central issue in today’s environmental problems, and it is important to encourage local interest and education of these pertinent issues.

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