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ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE: WATER CRISIS

The above graph and additional information regarding water usage is available on Water Footprint website.


INTRODUCTION

Water is one of the most valuable resources on Earth. It is a resource that we use on a daily basis, and often take for granted. Yet water is not readily available to all, especially in a convenient way that it is available to most of the citizens of the United States and other developed countries. In order for us to fully understand its value we need to understand the effect it has on people's lives, especially for those who do not have a water surplus.



RATIONALE

It has come to my attention that all teachers at Aspirations High School depend on bottled water. Same with students, who only drink beverages from plastic containers that they dispose of immediately after use. The water fountains at the school are never used, and are more of a decoration as oppose to a source of hydration. With a recent unit on Human Impact, embedded within Physical Science II curriculum, students discussed the impact of consumerism as it relates to our excess consumption of resources. We also focused on our consumption of bottled water, and nearly every student in the classroom agreed that bottled water is the safest water to drink from, followed by filtered water. Nearly all agreed that tap water, or fountain water at our school, would not be a feasible source of good quality water. Seeing the interest the students exhibited during this discussion, I decided to create a 3 week unit on Water Crisis, with a focus on safe water.

The eagerness of students to have an impact on their local community, through a direct research based at the school and use of community resources, mainly supplied by the Department of Environmental Protection via Newtown Creek Treatment Plant, will enhance the students' experience in the science classroom. Heavily focusing on inquiry, the students will take the role of scientists, observing, predicting, analyzing and implementing solutions to their school community. They will have an immediate impact on the school community, directly relating their experience of studying water at the school to the global crisis surrounding water.


NEWTOWN CREEK WATER TREATMENT PLANT(pictures taken during June 5, 2010 visit)
Greenpoint, BK
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GETTING THERE

The Newtown Creek Water Treatment Plant Visitor Center is located at 329 Greenpoint Avenue, Brooklyn, New York 11222. The closest subway is the G at Greenpoint Avenue Stop.It takes about 10 minutes to walk from the G subway station to the Visitor Center. The entrance is on the left side of the orange building. If you pass the building, you have walked too far.
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GENERAL INFORMATION

The Newton Creek Water Treatment Plants' facilities are not open to the public after September 11, 2001. However, there is a beautiful quarter of a mile Nature Walk that surrounds the plant, where you get to see behind the scenes, including setting tanks and digester eggs. This is the only public access to the Newtown Creek Treatment Plant.
The Nature Walk is designed by environmental sculpture artist George Trakas. The Visitor Center provides a scavenger hunt that can be conducted as you venture out into the nature. The scavenger hunt, however, is intended for younger kids. The Nature Walk can be accessed at Provost Street and Paidge Avenue. It takes a good 15 minutes to walk from the Visitor Center to the entrance of the Nature Walk.
The Nature Walk is open to the public from Dawn to Duck, each day of the week. The Visitor Center is open to the public 12pm-4pm on Friday and Saturday, and Tuesday and Thursday from 12pm-4pm for reserved school groups.
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Scavenger Hunt
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Entrance to the Nature Walk, and the first portion of the walk itself.
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The Digester Eggs seen from a distance, and the end of the Nature Walk.



LOGISTICS

Who to Contact
Min Kan, Director of Education Communications and Marketing Bureau of Communications and Intergovernmental Affairs, is the main contact for school organized field trips at the visitor center.

Min Kan
Director of Education (DEP)
E-mail: mkan@dep.nyc.gov
Telephone: 718.595.3503


In order to schedule a trip you must fill out an Educational Outreach eForm and e-mail it to the following individuals:
Min Kan, Director of Education, minK@dep.nyc.gov,
Lakeisha Bradshaw, Education Coordinator, LakeishaB@dep.nyc.gov

external image msword.png Education Outreach eFORM.doc

Visiting Schedule
You can organize a field trip ahead of time (preferably a couple of weeks in advance) for Tuesday or Thursday, between 12.00pm-4.00pm. These are the only days that offer school field trips. Visits that do not require an instructor from the center, and can be supplemented with a scavenger hunt and self-exploration of the facility, can be conducted on Friday and Sunday, 12.00pm-4.00pm.


EDUCATIONAL ACTIVITIES at Newtown Creek

You can pick from various topics to be discussed including, drinking water, waste water, quality water (testing available), and general overview. Min can conduct various water testing with the students. Some of the testing can be provided during an activity within the visitor center (there is a multipurpose room available) as well as during the Nature Walk (students can extract samples from the harbor.)
If one wants to structure a 3 hour session at the facility here is a general outline that has been suggested by Min:
1. Presentation (conducted by Min) (30 mins)
This would include a general overview of Newtown Creek Treatment Plant
2. Overview: Drinking water to Waste Water in NYC (30 mins)
This part of the field trip would focus on learning about NYC water sources, the quality of the drinking water, as well as our sewage system.
3. Blind Water Tasting: Tap, bottled, etc (teacher can provide the cups if needed) (30 mins)
This part of the field trip exposes the students to indicators, and contributes to furthering their understanding of quality of water.
4. Nature Walk and Sample Testing (1hour 30 mins)
Here students will engage in actual collection of samples that they will be testing. The tests can incorporate the effects that temperature, pH, phosphates, nitrates and tides have on the water samples. Tools to grab samples can also be discussed
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The stairs leading to the nearby water area where the sampling is conducted.


EDUCATIONAL ACTIVITIES in the Classroom

Quality Water Testing
Min Kan can provide water testing Kits (testing strips similar to pH strips) to familiarize the students with indicator testing in the classroom prior to the trip.
The kits: each kit includes 30 packets of 18 testing strips each (Each packet: there is 9 specific tests, and 2 strips for each test). The tests consist of
free and total chlorine, pH, total alkalinity, total hardness, nitrate and nitrite, nitrogen, copper, and iron.

Pre-Visit: Prior to visiting the center, the students can be introduced to the concept of water quality testing by conducting a set of tests. The students can keep daily data of their results in an excel spreadsheet or a lab book. This can lead to a discussion on what qualifies to be safe drinking water, and serves as a good preparation for the activities to be conducted at Newtown Creek.

Post-Visit:
If the classroom is divided into six groups of students, with each group conducting two sets of tests, the remaining strips for water testing from the water testing kit will be sufficient for 4-5 days worth of testing. This can provide for excellent data collection, followed by concrete interpretation and comparison to quality testing conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Water Research (DEP and other resources).
1. DEP: There are great resources available on the Department of Environmental Protection website. Specifically for water related information, there is water testing reports available online, including Harbor Water Quality Report, which is available for each year for the past 10 years, and Drinking Water Quality Report, which is updated each year. There is also a useful NYC Drinking Water Testing Results table within the quality report that provides data regarding each type of tests. These data can be used to structure a classroom investigation regarding safe water in NYC. Further, this can lead to a discussion regarding environmental impact and our community. Additionally, the Environmental Education site on the DEP website provides further project ideas and resources relating to water.

2. Project Wet: There are excellent labs within Project Wet to explain the water system and water related issues to students.
Here are examples of a couple of labs I adapted to my class curriculum. Note that they are intended for a 3 hour class.


3. Environmental Working Group: This website provides information regarding public health and the environment. They have a great section on Our Water providing statistics and explanations. There is also an option to check the water quality report for your given zip code.

Final Project
The last two days of the unit (July 21 and 22) are dedicated to data analysis. Students will interpret the results of their study and inform the school community of their finding through:
1. Posters around the school
2. Final Presentation (Power Point) to the Principal including a written proposal to [either] (1) promote use of fountain water at the school or (2) contact the water department and provide for an ongoing investigation, based on the results of their findings.

COST

All materials are provided free of charge, including Min's facilitation of activities. Transport to and from the Newtown Creek Treatment Plant needs to be arranged with the school, however, public transport via the G train is feasible.
The Project Wet can be purchased on the organization's website, however some copies are also available on Amazon for about $20.00


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Newtown Creek Water Pollution Control Plant Extension
Information regarding Newtown Creek Treatment Plant construction and utilization.

Water Footprint Network
The Water Footprint Network promotes the transition towards sustainable, fair and efficient use of fresh water resources worldwide. The website has a lot of useful information regarding water usage including:
1. Info graphics, an example of which is shown on this page.
2. Water Footprint Calculator, a way for students to calculate their daily water usage.

Environmental Science Lessons
This website provides additional lesson plans relating to environmental issues, including water.

National Geographic: What you can do
A National Geographic website that touches upon 10 things you can do to help conserve water usage.

Ecological Footprint Calculator
An interactive footprint calculator available on Global Footprint Network that allows you to calculate your daily ecological impact. At the end of the calculation, the program displays graphs with the data.

National Geographic: The Hidden Water We Use
A National Geographic article that touches upon the indirect use of water.

Safe Drinking Water is Essential
The Global Health and Education Foundation and the National Academy of Sciences provides documentaries and additional resources on water.

Water Quality
Water on the web provides Information about water pollution and water quality.