Middle School Students Examine Water Quality with Hydrolab

By Cindy Byers

Enthusiasm was bubbling over as students from Rosholt Middle School in Rosholt, Wisconsin, and students from Prairie River Middle School in Merrill, Wisconsin, prepared for outside lab work with hydrosondes loaned to them by the EPA. It was time for their students to get a chance to use the equipment used by scientists to test the water quality of streams near their schools.

Both middle school teachers, Cindy Byers and Lynn Kurth, had been participants in the COSEE Shipboard and Shoreline Science Workshop aboard the R/V Lake Guardian on Lake Superior in July of 2011 where they used the hydrosonde during their research project onboard. Their training and new association with professionals from Sea Grant and the EPA, also on the cruise, made it possible for them to borrow and facilitate the use of this equipment with their students.

It was off to the stream. Students had been trained in the classroom about how to use the equipment and what the results might indicate. They were excited to see if the chlorophyll a they had learned about was at elevated levels in the water near the school and they were curious about what the dissolved oxygen might be in one part of the creek compared to that in the mill pond.

Armed with data sheets, the students all had jobs such as cable attachment master, line deployment, and official data keeper. All eyes were focused on the hydrosonde as it was lowered into the stream. The culmination of the students' and their teachers' training made this exciting moment come alive. They were real scientists collecting real data from equipment used by professionals. Their data would be recorded, analyzed and then shared, a process they had learned that all scientists were involved in.

After returning to the classrooms for analysis, these four different 7th and 8th grade classes will be meeting virtually using Skype with the students from the other school to compare their findings. Their teachers are proud to have generated the excitement of place-based investigations while their classes met Wisconsin Standards as listed below. All of this was made possible because of the training the teachers received this summer and the EPA's Hydrolab loan program. It was an experience that their students will always remember and, the teachers hope, will make them more conscious of the quality of water around them.

Wisconsin State Standards


B.8.5 Explain ways in which science knowledge is shared, checked, and extended, and show how these processes change over time

B.8.6 Explain the ways in which scientific knowledge is useful and also limited when applied to social issues

C.8.1 Identify* questions they can investigate* using resources and equipment they have available

C.8.2 Identify* data and locate sources of information including their own records to answer the questions being investigated

C.8.3 Design and safely conduct investigations* that provide reliable quantitative or qualitative data, as appropriate, to answer their questions

C.8.4 Use inferences* to help decide possible results of their investigations, use observations to check their inferences

C.8.8 Use computer software and other technologies to organize, process, and present their data

C.8.9 Evaluate*, explain*, and defend the validity of questions, hypotheses, and conclusions to their investigations*

C.8.10 Discuss the importance of their results and implications of their work with peers, teachers, and other adults

C.8.11 Raise further questions which still need to be answered

E.8.3 Using the science themes during the process of investigation, describe climate, weather, ocean currents, soil movements and changes in the forces acting on the earth

F.8.9 Explain how some of the changes on the earth are contributing to changes in the balance of life and affecting the survival or population growth of certain species

G.8.7 Show* evidence* of how science and technology are interdependent, using some examples drawn from personally conducted investigations*

Technology standards

A.8.2 Explain the need for and application of knowledge and skills from other disciplines when engaging in technological activities

A.8.2 Explain the need for and application of knowledge and skills from other disciplines when engaging in technological activities

Environmental Education Standards

A.8.1 Identify environmental issue* questions that can be investigated using resources and equipment available (see SC Inquiry; LA Research)

A.8.2 Collect information from a variety of resources, conduct experiments, and develop possible solutions to their investigations*

A.8.3 Use techniques such as modeling and simulating to organize information gathered in their investigations* (see Mathematics [MA] Process)

A.8.4 Use critical-thinking strategies to interpret and analyze gathered information (see SC Inquiry)

A.8.5 Use the results of their investigations* to develop answers, draw conclusions, and revise their personal understanding

A.8.6 Communicate the results of investigations* by using a variety of media and logically defend their answers (see LA Writing; Math [MA] Process)

B.8.18 Identify major air, water, or land pollutants and their sources

B.8.19 Distinguish between point* and nonpoint source* pollution*

B.8.22 Identify careers related to natural resources* and environmental concerns (see SC Applications)

B.8.23 Identify governmental and private agencies responsible for environmental protection and natural resource* management

C.8.2 Use environmental monitoring techniques; such as, observations, chemical analysis, and computer mapping software to collect data about environmental problems* (see LA Media and Technology; MA Measurement)