Healthy Water!?...

6, 7, 8

Studens understand and apply fundamental methods of testing water quality. This will include the collection, display, and interpretation of student data. Learners will understand that they are stewards of our water system and act responsibly for the common good.

Lesson Rating 
PrintThree to Four Forty-Five Minute Class Periods On-site water quality testing option will require obtained permission from local school or district and additional scheduled release time.

The learners will:

  • identify five characteristics of a healthy river.
  • measure the dissolved oxygen, temperature, pH, and diversity of macroinvertebrates in local rivers.
  • record his/her data on a table and display the findings graphically.
  • demonstrate knowledge of the term "Commons" as it relates to water. 
  • write a report stating a position relative to water quality, defending it with data and making the connection to stewardship.
  • Clothes that can be soiled
  • Nets for each group - they may use: Kick Nets, D-Nets, Surber Nets, or Dip Nets (10)
  • Gloves (10 per class)
  • Soap
  • 25-50 ml test tubes (10)
  • pH test kit
    • Wide Range Indicator SolutionWide Range pH Comparator
  • Graph paper
  • Calculator
  • Science curriculum materials/text of local school
  • Student copies of handout: School /Home Interactive Homework
  • Student copies of handout: Safer Than a Taste Test
Teacher Preparation 

Instructors Notes: This lesson may be presented using an on-site water testing experiential lesson or an in- class water quality testing class session. Both require safety equipment which must be obtained and at hand before the experiments. The teacher needs to demonstrate the use of goggles, gloves if necessary, and the testing equipment. The instructor should model recording the data as well as use of the equipment. Your local school should have access to pH test kits. If not, there are many sources such as to obtain the test kits.

Home Connection 

 Ask the students to have the parent/guardian recall lake or river visits when they were children and compare to visits with them. Write their responses down and share at the beginning of the second class session. Have the learners ask their parent/guardian if they thought the water was safer for swimming when they were children than today and why.


Cronin, John and Robert F. Kennedy. The Riverkeepers: Two Activists Fight to Reclaim Our Environment as a Basic Human Right. Scribner's, Oct. 1997. ISBN:0684839083

Kids Online Resource This is the Kids online resource site for content material in ecology/water quality.

Mitchell, Mark and William Stapp. Field Manual for Water Quality Monitoring. Dubuque: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company. ISBN 0787237302

Website of The Hudson Riverkeepers

Why Collect Macroinvertebrates? (from the Delaware Nature Society Website) Macroinvertebrates, by definition, are any animal lacking a backbone and generally visible to the unaided eye. In rivers and streams they are predominantly aquatic insects, but may include clams, mussels, snails, crayfish, and crabs, among others. They are extremely good to use as subjects of stream quality studies. 


  1. Anticipatory Set: Fill a clean beaker with water. Put orange and green food coloring in water to make it appear dirty. Tell your students that you just got this water from the dirtiest local body of water. Ask your class why they think the water is so discolored. After some discussion on the filth of the water dramatically drink it!

    After their reaction, explain that all the water we drink comes from bodies of water that are polluted and it is essential for our survival to have clean water.

    Expanding the Anticipatory Set: Show the website of the Hudson Riverkeepers show the efforts of one group to clean up a watershed that was extremely polluted. Help students make a connection between the science content and philanthropy, acting as stewards of our water system.

    Instructor's Note: All student work should be put into a personal portfolio to be handed in at the end of the lab. Rough draft of the essay and all reflection activities are to be kept in this portfolio.

  2. Teach the science content focusing on handout: Key to Macroinvertebrate Life in the River.

    Instructor Note: Philanthropy content developed after the experiments.

  3. Test on the vocabulary and content concepts prior to forming peer groups and conducting experiments.

  4. Learners are to begin their portfolio titled "Healthy Water."

  5. To form peer groups: Assign each student a number ranging from 1-4. If larger classes, you may have two groups of 1, 2, 3 or 4. Place into groups according to the number selected.

    Show handout: Safer Than a Taste Test, discussing each test and solicit questions from the class to make certain directions are clear.

    Correlate a water quality test for each numbered group. Instruct the groups to create a five-minute presentation that will explain the instructions and purpose for their water quality test (handout).

  6. Give each student School/Home Interactive Homework, to be completed by the student and parent/guardian after school. This handout is to be returned for the next class session. The first seven minutes of day two of this lesson, have the learners share their responses with the class.

  7. Read and discuss materials on macroinvertebrates.

  8. Time to test the water! Every group is responsible to perform the test that they presented as well as the water temperature, location, and time and date. Record your information neatly.

    Strategy One: Determine the on-site location, secure transportation, release time and authority, and obtain parental permission and volunteers to accompany your class. Provide safety goggles, gloves and boots if necessary, test kits and perform the four required tests. Model the behaviors expected of the students.

    Strategy Two: Obtain many samples of river or stream water sufficient for successful completion of all four tests and allow students to perform these tests within the class. It is suggested that a large aquarium full of river or stream water would suffice.

  9. Compile all data. Students should display their group's test results for every test.

  10. Now compare your results to the other group's results using a bar graph for each test.

  11. Add up the values for each test type from every class and divide by the total number of tests. This will give you an average test value for each test.

  12. Write a short lab report stating the health of the river. Support your position with data results from every test performed.

  13. Discuss with your class the need to view our lakes and rivers as a "commons." Help develop the definition of philanthropy as: Philanthropy (n) 1. The giving of one's time, talent or treasure for the sake of another- or for the common good - Robert Payton

  14. Discuss how they can give of their time, talent or treasure to protect our lakes and rivers.

  15. Discuss stewardship and what it means to act as a steward for the protection of their lakes and rivers.

  16. Discuss water pollution, citing examples of those things that contribute to unclean water.

  17. Assign the position paper and allow sufficient in-class and at-home time to complete. Two days should be sufficient for completion. The instructor should write the foil according to the expected outcomes. An example of a foil may be:

    Directions: In our reading and experiments we discovered many things. React to the following statement and give supportive data, definitions, identifications and reasons. Use as many facts as you can. Connect your answer to what we learned about stewardship.

    In our water quality testing we found that there are too few macroinvertebrates. This is detrimental/not detrimental to our lake or river because…

    Reflection Activities: To be placed in their portfolios. Pre experience: Write their expected outcomes of the experiments. What do they think they will find? During the experiment: Evaluate the experience and their feelings of the obvious things they discover such as pop cans and other litter. Post experience: Propose projects as Service-Learning opportunities.

  • Use handout: Rubric for Scientific Experiment
  • Evaluate the oral presentations
  • Record the School/Home Connection (School /Home Interactive Homework)
  • Teacher observation
  • Teacher-constructed test on scientific content
  • Monitor class discussions

Evaluate the essay according to the following 4-point rubric and Scientific Content/ELA Philanthropy Content

4 Takes a definite position, relates scientific language correctly, backs statements with scientific evidence and gives a minimum of three facts. Relates to class experiments. Uses elements of construction, grammar and phrasing with 90% accuracy. Identifies commons and stewardship and backs statement with supportive data, cites a philanthropy activity or group, or relates to riverkeepers.

Cross Curriculum 

The learner will collect environmental indicators to determine the quality of a local stream.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Define the phrase <i>community/social capital</i> and discuss how it relates to all communities.
      2. Benchmark MS.4 Describe the characteristics of someone who helps others.
    2. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark MS.5 Define <i>stewardship</i> as a trust of common resources held by a community for citizens.
      2. Benchmark MS.7 Give examples of common resources in the community.
      3. Benchmark MS.9 Recognize problems different communities encounter using a "commons" and possible solutions.
    3. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Define civic virtue.
      2. Benchmark MS.3 Identify the relationship between individual rights and community responsibilities.
    4. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Analyze information to differentiate fact from opinion based on the investigation of issues related to the common good.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Identify and describe the actions of how citizens act for the common good.
      2. Benchmark MS.5 Describe the responsibility students have to act in the civil society sector to improve the common good.