Stormwater Traveling Road Show…Coming to a Watershed near You
By: Kelsey Hensley, 2011/12 CAC AmeriCorps Water Quality Team Member and Adopt-A-Watershed Instructor
Pollution can be a difficult topic to explain to students, teachers, and the general public. In order to solve this dilemma, Ms. Erica Johnson’s fall semester environmental chemistry class at Halls High embarked on a mission to present pollution concepts using simple visual demonstrations. The materials for these demonstrations would be stored in an easily transportable box known as the “stormwater traveling road show,” which can be taken to schools, community groups, and public outreach events. The concept behind this service project was inspired by student evaluations that indicated the students most enjoyed Adopt-A-Watershed (AAW) lessons when they were taught outside. PowerPoint presentations have their place; they are effective for showing pictures and diagrams as well as highlighting key points. However, I learned that most students prefer hands-on activities and visual demonstrations that are conducted in an outdoor setting. The “Traveling Road Show” would be yet another method for fellow AmeriCorps Water Quality Team (WQT) members and Water Quality Forum partners to do just that.
Inside the box are examples of six major pollutants found in the waters of Tennessee: pathogens, sediment, toxic chemicals, nutrients, thermal, and litter. Students were assigned the tasks of devising novel ways to represent the pollutants; striking approaches to demonstrating their impact on water quality; and memorable strategies for showing possible solutions to these pollution problems. The materials also needed to be transportable and practical for this show-and-tell format. For example, the common stormwater toxin, used car oil, was visually depicted by pouring vegetable oil in a container of clean water and subsequently sprinkling rainbow glitter in it. This demonstration represented the oil sheens that can be seen on asphalt (e.g. parking lots) and other impervious surfaces during rain events.
At the end of a two-day brainstorming session, students presented all six pollutant demonstrations to a panel of creative minds. The panel provided positive feedback and suggestions, which helped the class develop their ideas even further. The presentations were not only fun to watch but also a great way for the students to reflect on all the AAW water quality lessons. In addition, the students provided the first major step in the development of the “Traveling Road Show.” With the input of Forum partners, my fellow WQT members and I will refine and finalize the box’s content and have it ready to roll for the 12/13 WQT.