Please welcome Guest Blogger Shona Emery, a GLOBE 5th/6th Grade STEAM Teacher from Ellis School in Fremont, New Hampshire.
This blog is the fourth in a series of posts by GLOBE teachers sharing classroom experiences to support the student research process. The series is supported by NSF funding for the United States Regional Student Research Symposia. If you are a teacher interested in contributing, please contact Haley Wicklein for more information. Specifically, we would love to hear from teachers who can share challenges and advice around the topic of student data analysis and visualization.
Thank you to Shona for sharing!
The summer and fall of 2016 saw a severe drought in the New England region.
Upon our return to school in September 2016, the drought was in the forefront of all of our minds. We are a small community of drilled and shallow wells in Fremont, NH. Many of my students experienced no water over the summer and families were forced to conserve water for the first time.
Families and students began to value this precious resource, realizing it wasn't expendable. Local ponds dried up and water levels in parts of the Exeter River that flows through the back yards of my students, were down to the river bed.
This experience prompted questions about wild life in and around the Exeter River. Students were wondering if the drought was affecting these populations. Students were also wondering if the lack of river flow was affecting the water's quality and if it was still a healthy water source for local animal populations.
We discussed different physical characteristics of water such as pH, dissolved oxygen, temperature, and transparency and how these levels determine which species live in a water source.
We reviewed common macro-invertebrate species found in fresh water sources in our region and looked at their specific water type needs. Additionally, students learned that the presence or lack of a large biodiversity of macro-invertebrate species in a water source can be an indicator of water quality.
This led us to the investigation question "Is the water in the Exeter River in our Town Healthy?"
We started designing our investigation using the GLOBE Macro-invertebrate Sampling Protocol and other Hydrosphere Investigation Protocols. We took time in class to review the protocols and practice with them before heading out into the field.
This was an important step to take, although time consuming, because my students have had minimal exposure to field investigations and collecting data.
By practicing with the data collection tools in class, we eliminated the need to do this in the field, which would have minimized our time collecting and sorting the macro-invertebrates we sampled that day.
We are fortunate to have access to the Exeter River within walking distance of our school and so we easily packed up our collection tools and walked to our investigation site.
We spent the entire day in the field collecting data on water temperature, transparency, dissolved oxygen, pH, and lastly sampling, sorting, and classifying macro-invertebrates. Students used clipboards and laminated macro-invertebrate identification keys to help in their sorting.
This investigation took a lot of planning and preparation, but every ounce of energy put into pulling this off was worth it.
Students who would never consider touching a "bug" were elated when they discovered a dragonfly nymph in their buckets and got to put it in a bug box and examine it up close.Students who would never step foot in murky, dark water, were out to their waists to collect their samples.
Every student was engaged and took away valuable information about physical characteristics of water and the importance of biodiversity of macro-invertebrates in a water source.
Upon our return to class, we reviewed our data and students made a determination that despite the severe drought, the water in the Exeter River still appears to be healthy based on the biodiversity of macro-invertebrates sampled.
Students collected species of macro-invertebrates falling into the pollution sensitive, pollution tolerant, and somewhat pollution tolerant categories indicating a relatively healthy water source.
Students began questioning whether or not the drought had caused certain species of macro-invertebrates to leave the area.
They discussed revisiting this investigation in the spring to see if sampling would produce an even greater variety of species or if the impact of the summer/fall drought would not be realized until the spring.
We plan to revisit this site in early June to collect more data.
Students also realized that we may not get the answers we seek in June and that this may be an investigation requiring a few years of data before we can come to any type of conclusion.