GLOBE and Natural Inquirer Crosswalk—Studying Water Quality with Middle School Students, by guest blogger Pam Evans

Using Natural Inquirer and GLOBE resources to teach water quality to middle school students

My name is Pam Evans. This is my fifteenth year of teaching. I taught math, science, and social studies to 6th grade students for ten years. I now teach Junior High science and High School Biology. My school is a very small Pre-K to 12 building with a population of around 380 students that come together from six neighboring communities. Our school is literally in the middle of a corn or bean field, depending on the cycle! 

In the summer of 2012 I had the opportunity to spend a week on a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) research vessel for a teacher workshop through Illinois-Indiana SeaGrant. This really changed my teaching; I started teaching more about all things water! Watersheds was something we talked about a lot.  

Natural Inquirer cover for "Green Means Clean!" article
I chose “Green Means Clean: Assessing the Condition of U.S. Drinking Water Watersheds” from Natural Inquirer’s “Freshwater Edition” [one class period]. The introduction to the article gives a quick overview of what a watershed is. The authors then go on to talk about how 80 percent of U.S. freshwater resources begin in forests. There is a strong relationship between conservation of land and drinking water quality. The Safe Drinking Water Act was the start of protecting these sources from pollution. There is a nice summary of this Act. There was an amendment to the Safe Drinking Water Act in 1996 that shifted the focus from pollution to protecting the source water. The scientists in this study were concerned that current source water assessments weren’t looking at the whole picture of watersheds, since their boundaries are usually pretty large. They used many large national databases to take a look at the land to see how it was used and protected from development. The overall result is that there is an increase in urban development, which means there is a loss in natural vegetation. There is also an explanation of how water is treated so that it is safe to drink.  

Additional activities: 

  • The FACTivity that goes with this article has students explore whether pavement, soil, or vegetation protects water quality the best [one class period].  

  • Students can tour a water treatment facility to see how drinking water is treated, or there are many virtual tours on YouTube.  

  • National Geographic has a watershed mapping activity. Students can look at the different watersheds across the U.S. and compare groundcover.  

students conducting water quality measurements on a bridge over a stream
I feel that the GLOBE Water Quality Bundle would be best suited to this project. Measuring water quality is something that the students can participate in and compare their data to other data from across the country and world. I would have my students do reports on different watersheds and compare the water quality data. They could choose how to present their reports to their audience [multiple class periods].  


GLOBE / NGSS Alignment 

Student Performance Expectations  
MS-ESS2-1  Develop a model to describe the cycling of Earth’s materials and the flow of energy that drives this process. 
MS-ESS2-4  Develop a model to describe the cycling of water through Earth’s systems driven by energy from the sun and the force of gravity. 
MS-ESS3-1  Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for how the uneven distributions of Earth’s mineral, energy, and groundwater resources are the result of past and current geoscience processes. 


Acknowledgement: This material is based upon work supported by USDA Forest Service Eastern Region (Agreement no. 20-PA-11090100-026). Any opinion, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the USDA Forest Service.