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Language Arts (Elementary School) Integrated Natural Science (High School)


Grade Levels:


Third and Ninth


This project challenges third grade students to research the drinking water delivery system in the local area and recognize the importance of water conservation. Students use e-mail, Internet resources, word processing and database programs to complete this project. They communicate with subject matter experts and collaborate to aggregate collected data and to report findings. The students take water samples, from home and school. They analyze them using test kits and develop a system to catalog the water samples. Finally, the students submit the results to school administrators and parents, in a written report and oral presentation. The ninth-grade science class is to determine whether there are any trends in the data. They graph the results of their testing and summarize their investigations in a report to their third grade collaborators. The high school classes locate the source of contaminants, identify sources of information that will help them investigate the problem, and devise methods to remove the pollutants from the water. The filtration methods are tested, and appropriate officials are contacted if the situation warrants.


Learner Description/Environment:

The third grade students attend school with approximately 500 students, grades K-5. The school is Title-1 qualified, schoolwide. Approximately, 35% of this project group reads below grade level, 35% reads at grade level, 15% are non-readers and the remaining 15% read above grade level. They have limited computer skills. That is, most have used drill and practice software in conjunction with their Math classes, on Apple IIe computers. Few have used the Internet or the WWW. During the month of March 1999, sixteen iMacs were installed within the various classrooms throughout the school, ethernet wiring­­one connection per classroom­­ , and a Windows NT server were installed at the school. Prior to March, Web access was available via a single Web-TV connection. Two of four water fountains are operational and serve the entire student population. The office staff maintains a commerically provided bottled water dispenser. Teachers, typically bring in bottled water for personal consumption. During the summer months, these third grade students are allowed to bring bottled water to the Language Arts classroom. This practice is unheard of in the other classrooms at the school.

The ninth grade Integrated Natural Science students are highly energetic and interested in doing activities. Computers are particularly engaging. The students enjoy solving a mystery, and will probably want to collect water samples in their own neighborhoods to see if there is anything wrong with the water they are drinking. Using the internet to investigate ways to remove contamination, locate an expert to get ideas, and converse with the elementary school participants either through email, chat, or web pages will be captivating. The classroom has nineteen computers, all are connected to the internet and have word processing capabilities. Lab investigations take place at work benches arranged along the sides of the classroom.


Time Frame:

Elementary School: This project is designed to be implemented throughout three quarters of the school year. Weekly Language Arts activities are included, time for research, water quality testing, reporting, an action plan/proposal to institute alternative drinking water to the general student body, and two field trips are included.

High School: Investigating the location of the contaminants and deciding the best way to remove them will take approximately a week. This includes contacting an expert and waiting for a response. Additional class activities that tie into the overall project will be incorporated to fill any "dead time." An additional week will be used to design, build, and test filtration systems. This may be disjointed, since supplies may have to be purchased to complete the required filters.

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Learner Outcomes:

  1. Use the WWW to research topics of interest, as related to drinking water.
  2. Collect water quality samples and document their source.
  3. Communicate using e-mail, and electronic bulletin boards.
  4. Construct a sense of importance for citizen concern regarding the quality of drinking water.
  5. Explain the City delivery system for drinking water furnished to residences.
  6. Use Clarisworks for Kids to develop a presentation outline and project support materials.
  7. Use email to communicate with experts and ask for help.
  8. Search the internet to access current information.
  9. Evaluate a problem and determine an appropriate course of action.
  10. Collect their own data and learn how to properly categorize it.
  11. Analyze water samples and identify the problem areas.
  12. Chart data and draw inferences from that data.


Structure of the Learning:


Hook for both 3rd grade and 9th grade
Come to class with a gallon of water that represents the earth's supply of water. Show the students how the earth's water is divided up (take out a half a cup of the water from the gallon and show them that it represents all the fresh water in the world....then take out a tablespoon from that and show them that it represents all the drinkable water in the world). Start a discussion on "What does that mean for us?" The purpose: demonstrate our need to be vigilant about keeping our 1 tablespoon of water pollutant free. Share with them articles found concerning polluted tap water. Have students investigate other incidents of polluted tap water via the internet and/or use "Web TV" so that they can see the news pages about unsafe water.

Teacher proposes that they look at whether their home and school's tap water is free of pollutants. And, that they compare and contrast the test results of the water from home with the water at school.


Student Direction:

Third Grade
The third graders are in a school of 500+ students with only two working water fountains. The office staff and teachers drink from bottled water sources. The students are looking into whether it is in the best interest of students to drink from alternative water sources while at school as well. If the school's water source is free of pollutants, they will use their findings to disspell a commonly held, but unspoken belief by school adults that the "water is not good." If there is a problem with the drinking water in the building, they could use the findings to justify administrative action, via student lobbying, to effect change. Students would be prepared to initiate a schoolwide change in policy that would allow students to bring bottled water to class for personal consumption--like the adults.

Students would use water testing kits to test the water of the school, their homes, and the homes of their relatives and any other locations around the city they chose. They will keep track of the conditions in which the samples are collected as well as details of where and when they were collected. Students will compare and contrast the water sample test findings from those taken at school with those taken outside of school.

They now have the problem of analyzing the samples they have collected. What resources can we find to analyze the tap water samples? Write a high school science class for help? Contact the Health Department? Ask a scientist for help with locating a lab to perform the tests for free? Perform the tests themselves?

Ninth Grade:
The high schoolers would recieve letters soliciting their help from the third graders, which would give them an incentive to be mentors and help out the 3rd graders. In addition, data collected by Web surfers would be added to the information they are collecting in the two project schools and homes.

The high school students would have the responsibility of solving the mystery of where any contamination might be originating, and reporting this information to the proper authorities. (Not necessarily the media.) High school students will correlate the data and try to detemine any trends in the data.

The high schools students in collaboration with the 3rd grade students will explore ways to reduce the contamination in natural and drinking water. These methods might be natural or artificial (i.e. man-made).


Armed with the March 23, 1999 API news release about high levels of arsenic found in U.S. drinking water, the known leeching of lead through plumbing in old buildings and associated health risks, and the ongoing controversy surrounding bottled water, third grade language arts students set out to conduct water quality tests at school and home. Their mission is to determine whether the school tap water is free of pollutants and whether there is a difference in test results between home and school water samples. To solve their drinking water problem, during the warmest months of the school year, students will be encouraged to brainstorm alternatives to fountain water. A schoolwide lemonade sell is strongly encouraged by the teacher, to defray travel costs for the two filed trips: 1) water treatment plant, 2) face-to-face meeting with ninth grade INS students, for the culminating project activity.

A group-generated K-W-L chart is constructed. This graphic organizer charts
1) what the students already know about water, 2) what the students want to know about water, 3) what the students learn about water as a result of this project. The "learn" column of the chart is completed as the various investigations are reported by project teams. To further expand upon those questions charted during the K-W-L activity, students brainstorm about the best methods to conduct an investigation to find answers to the questions they have about water in general, and drinking water in particular. These best methods serve to define investigative team tasks. Based on personal interest, students are divided into investigative teams. Each team is required to present team findings in an oral report and written report.

The High School students receive the water sample information, as well as pertinent information (as determined by the elementry school investigators) detailing the history of the samples. They locate the origin of the sample on a map of the city, and detail what the quality of the water is at that point. The students thus generate a locator map that will help pinpoint the location of any contaminants and allow them to focus on the source. They may determine that additional points might need to be added to get a complete picture of the sample, and enlist the aid of the original investigators to do some more research. This is one place where email and an interactive web page would be used.

If contaminants are found and are of sufficient quantity to warrant alarm (and even if they are not), the students need to find appropriate ways to remove them. The teacher acts as a guide to suggest possible locations to find information. Indeed, the instructor may not be sure of the best ways to remove some of the chemicals found, or even if they are supposed to be removed. The students locate information in the library, use the internet to find information and contact experts, and contact the appropriate local government agencies (along with the elementary school investigators).

Students are divided into task forces based on individual preferences. Some may be contacting government agencies, others researching filtering methods, and all will be involved in testing purification practices.

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Third Grade:

Students will produce a project action plan, water treatment plant field trip summary, lemonade sale proposal, a weekly research log, and oral and written presentation of selected water topic research results. A student presentation may include "ClarisWorks For Kids" slide presentations, graphic summaries of data, and a web page on which to post the results.


Best Use of Technology:

A variety of research tools are used throughout the project. These include the WWW, e-mail, water quality test kits, word processor, spreadsheet, and database software, a CD-ROM science program, and on-line subject matter experts.

The project technology enables an in-classroom guided research experience for students. This is greatly prefered, over traditional library research for third graders, because they have not yet acquired the skills needed to conduct independent research. Initially, Web-TV will be used to model WWW research skills, e-mail use, and Web page design.

Students will use a commerical e-mail account (e.g., HotMail) to send and receive information and guidance from Ask the Expert(s) and ninth grade students. Technology is integrated in this project and supports engaged learning and constructivist theory as needed to execute the action plans. The reason for students collaborating with one another and, or with experts is multifaceted. 1) to instill a sense of greater community, 2) gain confidence with computer technology as a tool, 3) construct a frame of reference for, and recognize the benefits of, team work and associated skills, 4) recognize the need for water conservation by all citizens, 5) realize that is appropriate to question authority.


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Formative Evaluation (on-going; checkpoints):

Students responses to the K-W-L activity will generate potential research topics and a framework for deriving problem solving strategies. Throughout the project, the teachers and students will refer to a project grading rubric. In addition, based on periodic assignments and project journal entries, the teachers will monitor progress and better anticipate and suggest alternatives to potential problem areas as they arise.

Summative Evaluation (final):

The reports, presentation, water quality test results, technology skills assessement, and classroom participation (i.e., journals, action plans) will be used to assess student learning.


Project Evaluation:

Students will be required to complete a project evaluation. Student perception of degree of learning will be documented. Students will demonstrate new knowledge synthesis, by using a variety of technologies needed to pursue their challenge and generating recommendations and action plans.


Alignment with the Michigan Curriculum Framework:

Language Arts


  1. Standard 1, 2, 3 Meaning and Communication
    All students will read and comprehend general and technical material.
    All students will demonstrate the ability to write clear and grammatically correct sentences, paragraphs, and compositions.
    All students will focus on meaning and communication as they listen, speak, view, read, and write in personal, social, occupational, and civic contexts.
  2. Standard 6. Voice
    All students will learn to communicate information accurately and effectively and demonstrate their expressive abilities by creating oral, written, and visual texts that enlighten and engage an audience.
  3. Standard 7. Skills and Processes
    All students will demonstrate, analyze, and reflect upon the skills and processes used to communicate through listening, speaking, viewing, reading, and writing.
  4. Standard 9. Depth of Understanding
    All students will demonstrate understanding of the complexity of enduring issues and recurring problems by making connections and generating themes within and across texts.

Social Studies


  1. Standard I.3 Analyzing and Interpreting the Past
    All students will reconstruct the past by comparing interpretations written by others from a variety of perspectives and creating narratives from evidence.
  2. Standard II.2 Human/Environment Interaction
    All students will describe, compare, and explain the locations and characteristics of ecosystems, resources, human adaptation, environmental impact, and the interrelationships among them.
  3. Standard III.I Purposes of Government
    All students will identify the purposes of national, state, and local governments in the United States, describe how citizens organize government to accomplish their purposes and assess their effectiveness.



  1. Content Standard 1: All students will use and transfer technological knowledge and skills for life roles (family member, citizen, worker, consumer, lifelong learner).
  2. Content Standard 2: All students will use technologies to input, retrieve, organize, manipulate, evaluate, and communicate information.

Created for the Fermilab LInC program sponsored by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory Education Office and Friends of Fermilab, and funded by United States Department of Energy, Illinois State Board of Education, North Central Regional Technology in Education Consortium which is operated by North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL), and the National Science Foundation.

Author(s): Sherri L. Johnson slynnj@ix.netcom.com
School: Thaddeus Kosciusko Elementary School, Detroit, MI
Created: March 1, 1999 - Updated: April 25, 1999
URL: http://www-ed.fnal.gov/lincon/w99/projects/yourfoldername/present.html