Adopt-A-Watershed Program turns West Valley Middle School students into Water Chemists
By: Chessa Eckels-Anderson, CAC AmeriCorps Water Quality Team Member
The Adopt-A-Watershed program is a county-wide initiative designed to teach high school and middle school students about preventing water pollution through hands on activities and outdoor service projects. As part of this program the 8th grade students at West Valley Middle School are in the process of building an outdoor classroom. With the support of the Water Quality Forum, the school already installed a grassy swale, a rain garden, and a pond that detain and filter storm water runoff from the surrounding hills before it drains to Ten Mile Creek. Their next goal is to install native wetland plants around the pond and build an amphitheater for outdoor learning.
One of their projects this semester was to learn about water chemistry. Not only does studying water chemistry align with state curriculum requirements, it is a real world technique used by water quality experts to assess stream health and report to the EPA. These students were challenged with testing water samples collected from five streams in Knox County for pH, nitrates, phosphates, and chlorine. Then they used the results to analyze the health of each stream and report their findings to classmates. Through their own analysis the students were able to correlate different types of land uses with the types of water pollution seen in the sample streams. The results also inspired the students to reflect on how people in their own neighborhoods contributed to or prevented water pollution. This project was a great way for the students to explore environmental chemistry as a career, practice their laboratory skills, and experience first hand the importance of doing their part to prevent water pollution.