How do human activities affect watersheds?
This project profiles our local watershed, from beginnings in the mountains, through stream monitoring, to aquafarming, and eventually to the ocean. Students will identify and research different problems facing the watershed, and work to provide solutions to these issues. Students will research the area using samples they and others have collected, and learn to analyze a watershed qualitatively and quantitatively.
This joint project between chemistry and art was designed to introduce students to the complicated concept of water in the southwest. On our third day of school we hiked to a local lake, looked at housing developments, and did a plant survey. This allowed students to immediately make a connection to a watershed, start learning the parts of a watershed, and look at ways in which humans can impact them.
We looked at watersheds from many different points of view, and students interviewed local experts who were farmers, watershed managers, and people who relied on the watershed for recreation or other uses. We also hiked near Lake Hodges with our ranger expert Leana Bulay, from San Dieguito Creek. Students then designed experiments which involved live animals, predicting how changes in the watershed would affect those organisms. We mainly focused on crawfish, but also looked at snails, crabs, fish, shrimp, and mussels. Students designed an experiment, then actually performed it. Students also created a digital magazine in their art class explaining different parts of a watershed, their interview write-up, and focused articles on one local watershed. Finally, students produced materials to teach others at our school-wide exhibition. These were meant to introduce the public to the watershed. We also displayed watercolor paintings the students produced in their art class, which were centered around the theme of our local watersheds.
Our exhibition found further life and meaning by being transferred to the Elfin Forest Interpretive Center and is being displayed by the Escondido Creek Conservancy. They have taken the students’ work and given it a new meaning by helping others learn from it in a public space.
Going into this project I was nervous. This was my second year teaching, and my first really long project. I was afraid the students would get sick of the topic and be unwilling to keep going. However, the students did really well with the experiments and after some initial fear around using Adobe Illustrator they began to get the hang of everything. The reading proved to be tough as we delved into the history of water in the southwest, but our virtual field trips to different locations really kept everyone up to speed. The best moments of this project came at exhibition and outside of class. When students were speaking with watershed experts, they were able to have an adult conversation, not just showing some background knowledge, but being able to think on their feet when asked questions. When students would tell me the conversations they had with people outside of class, including water managers, rangers, and other experts, they said they were able to speak with confidence because we had covered the topic in so many different ways in class. My goal is always to have students reach a level of expertise that gives them comfort with a topic and an ability to connect outside ideas to it. This project brought in outside expertise as well, which allowed the students to receive feedback from content experts as well as myself. This type of feedback is so valuable because they can really make sure their content knowledge is growing.
We were able to learn many things since the start of chemistry, including anions and cations, and a lot of things about molecular structure. Along with the exhibition work that we have been performing with the live species of animals that we have chose, in my case it was the crayfish, we have been learning hugely about the chemistry of water, and all sorts of different effects the environment has on it. Many of the things we have done in chemistry involved analyzing and writing up labs, which in the future, will help greatly in many different careers, and even as early as college, will be used a lot, so this would allow us to have practice with writing up labs and analyzing data, before we entered college. Some of the Habits of Heart and Mind that I have used include intellectual curiosity, which is shown greatly when I am seen doing my projects, as I find chemistry, and a lot of things science related very interesting. I find it always fascinating when you are able to create something, or study something, whether it be a strange chemical concoction, or live animals.
Activities and Assessments:
There were several rounds of assessment for this project, including design and completion of the experiments, and completion of the magazines. Content was then shared with experts from the watersheds and revisions were given to the students to be completed and resubmitted prior to being viewed by the public.
Students will know:
Students will understand:
Students will be able to:
This project ran from September to January, with an exhibition during the project
Project Extensions and Real World Connections
The final extension for this project was transferring it to the Elfin Forest Reserve where the public can see it and learn from it. Donors to the reserve were treated to a special evening exhibition of the project to learn more about the specifics of what the students studied.
Student Work Examples