Summer Research Program for Science Teachers

Megan Roberts, East Side Middle School, Manhattan



What Impact Do Humans Have On The Environment?

A River Investigation for Middle School Students








1-2 days

[5-8 Content Standard D - Structure of the Earth System]

-Students will understand the formation of watersheds

-formation of watersheds

-how watersheds feed into larger watersheds

-Where do rivers flow?

- What separates watersheds from each other?

- In what watershed is NYC?

Internet Mapping Activity where students explore how rivers form the contours of watersheds in the US.


2.Photocopies of New York contour maps for students

2. overhead transparency of map

Students write an explanation of how a watershed is formed. (ie. The boundaries of the Croton Wtshd are..)

2-3 days

[Content Standard - Evidence, Models and Explanation]

- Students will understand how the water cycle works and will be able to see how humans can intervene in this cycle

-formation and location of aquifers and water tables

- water recharge rates

-tracking the path of fresh water

-How does rain water make its way to the ocean?

-What can effect the rate of recharge in groundwater?

-     How do scientists know where groundwater is?

A Rain Drop’s Journey:

An activity where students follow the journey of a drop of water through the water, clouds, condensation, etc.

1. Station cards from PLT.

2. student score card

3. science journals

-     For homework, students make a visual supplement to their rain drop journey’s.

2-3 days

[5-8 Content Standard F - Science & Technology]

-Students will understand how humans interact with the water cycle

-building of dams and reservoirs

- building of sewers and waste water treatment plants

-Can humans control or alter the water cycle?

-How do humans obtain water?

-How is water cleaned?

Internet research on major dams: NYT Article on River DAMS

Article discusses how salmon are harmed because of the dam on the Ohio River.

1.    Laptops for research

2.    NYT Article

Read NYT article for homework

[Teaching Standard D - Resources Outside the Classroom]

-Students will understand how different types of pollution can affect fresh water

-the formation of acid rain

-the effects of fertilizers, sewage, pesticides, electrical plants, etc..

-How can air pollution effect the water in the area?

Visit to East River and first collection of visual observations

1.    digital camera

2.    students need journals


1-2 days

[5-8 Content Standard F - Natural Hazards]

- Students will begin using flow models to simulate Woburn case

Looking at the interaction of groundwater, surface water, and pollutants

-How did the TCE travel from well G to well H?

-How is the model different from the stratigraphy in Woburn?

Use Groundwater Flow Models and write up directions for use.

1.    Models

2.    Dye, water, syringes, buckets, etc.





1 week

[5-8 Content Standard A-

Understanding Scientific Inquiry]

-Students will investigate the water quality of the East River

-the effects of nitrates, phosphates and dissolved oxygen in the East River

-What do high levels of Nitrates indicate?

-What do high levels of phosphates indicate?

2nd and 3rd Trips to the East River

-H20 monitoring kits

-H20 collection kits

-Temperature probes

-Student journals

Teach students to use Excel and plot data. Formulate ideas about levels of chemical pollutants in the water.

1 day

[5-8 Content Standard - Populations, Resources & Environment]

-Students will discuss how groundwater travels

A Civil Action, by Jonathan Harr

The use of maps/models to help visualize underground flow dynamics

-How does Pollution Travel?

-Who is responsible for Groundwater Pollution?

Class Seminar

From both perspectives

Flow Models, Student Maps, A Civil Action, journals


[Content Standard - Change, Constancy & Measurement]

-Students will investigate the water quality of the lower Hudson River and compare it to the East River

-the effects of nitrates, phosphates and dissolved oxygen in the Hudson River

-What do high levels of Nitrates indicate?

-What do high levels of phosphates indicate?

Internet Research at to look for pollution limits on dissolved Oxygen, phosphates, DO, nitrates, and chloride.

-Water monitoring kits

-Water collection devices

-student journals

Plot data and formulate conclusions about the levels of chemical pollutants in the water.

1-2 days

[Teaching Standard A - Orchestrate Discourse Among Students]

-Student will explore different cleanups techniques for river systems


-Who is the EPA and how do they make sure that public water is kept clean?

-How can I make a difference in my community?

Class visit from EPA official

Internet research on the EPA (more specific)

3.    laptops

4.    memory stick

Student lab reports and data charts are due.

Post data analysis on school web page.


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