These 3 lessons are for high ABE/low ASE students at a level D-E Reading level to practice identifying key points in video and text and analyzing the causes and effects of social issues, and identifying solutions to these problems. By watching two short videos and reading EPA materials on the effects of lead exposure and a short article on the specific drinking water crisis in Flint, MI, students will examine key issues, analyze the problem and its causes, identify approaches to solving this problem and ones like it in other locations, and apply this approach to other scenarios that are relevant to their immediate lives.
Students learn how to manipulate the behavior of water by using biochar—a soil amendment used to improve soil functions. As a fluid, water interacts with soil in a variety of ways. It may drain though a soil’s non-solid states, or its “pores”; lay above the soil; or move across cell membranes via osmosis. In this experiment, students solve the specific problem of standing water by researching, designing, and engineering solutions that enable water to drain faster. This activity is designed for students to explore how biochar helps soils to act as “sponges” in order to retain more water.
How can you tell if harmful bacteria are in your food or water that might make you sick? What you eat or drink can be contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites and toxins—pathogens that can be harmful or even fatal. Students learn which contaminants have the greatest health risks and how they enter the food supply. While food supply contaminants can be identified from cultures grown in labs, bioengineers are creating technologies to make the detection of contaminated food quicker, easier and more effective.
Student groups are given captioned photographs of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant facility and surrounding towns taken before and 28 years after the 1986 disaster. Based on the captions and clues in the images, they arrange them in sequential order. While viewing the completed sequence of images, students reflect on what it might have been like to be there, and ask themselves: what were people thinking, doing and saying at each point? This activity assists students in gaining an understanding of how devastating nuclear meltdowns can be, which underscores the importance of responsible engineering. It is recommended that this activity be conducted before the associated lesson, Nuclear Energy through a Virtual Field Trip.
To increase students' awareness of possible invisible pollutants in drinking water sources, students perform an exciting lab requiring them to think about how solutions and mixtures exist even in unsuspecting places such as ink. They use alcohol and chromatography paper to separate the components of black and colored marker ink. Students witness first-hand how components of a solution can be separated, even when those individual components are not visible in solution.
The levels of contaminants found in particular animals vary widely depending on where they fit into the Arctic food chain, as described in this video segment adapted from LOKE Films and the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme.
In this video segment adapted from LOKE Films and the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme, learn how human populations in the Arctic are affected by industrial contaminants in the food chain.
- Life Science
- Forestry and Agriculture
- Material Type:
- PBS LearningMedia
- Provider Set:
- PBS Learning Media: Multimedia Resources for the Classroom and Professional Development
- Teachers' Domain
- National Science Foundation
- WGBH Educational Foundation
- Date Added:
Students are introduced to the fundamentals of environmental engineering as well as the global air, land and water quality concerns facing today's environmental engineers. After a lesson and activity to introduce environmental engineering, students learn more about water chemistry aspects of environmental engineering. Specifically, they focus on groundwater contamination and remediation, including sources of contamination, adverse health effects of contaminated drinking water, and current and new remediation techniques. Several lab activities provide hands-on experiences with topics relevant to environmental engineering concerns and technologies, including removal efficiencies of activated carbon in water filtration, measuring pH, chromatography as a physical separation method, density and miscibility.
In this activity, students will use a tutorial on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's website to learn about how surface water is treated to make it safe to drink.
Students take part in a hypothetical scenario that challenges them to inform customers at a local restaurant of how their use and disposal of plastics relates/contributes to the Great Pacific garbage patch (GPGP). What students ultimately do is research information on the plastics pollution in the oceans and present that information as a short, eye-catching newsletter suitable to hand out to restaurant customers. This activity focuses on teaching students to conduct their own research on a science-technology related topic and present it in a compelling manner that includes citing source information without plagiarism. By doing this, students gain experience and skills with general online searching as well as word processing and written and visual communication.
Students are presented with examples of the types of problems that environmental engineers solve, specifically focusing on water quality issues. Topics include the importance of clean water, the scarcity of fresh water, tap water contamination sources, and ways environmental engineers treat contaminated water.
This video adapted from KTOO explores the impact of oil contamination on the herring population of Prince William Sound, Alaska, in 1999, 10 years after the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
Students learn about contamination and pollution, specifically in reference to soil in and around rivers. To start, groups use light sensors to take light reflection measurements of different colors of sand (dyed with various amounts of a liquid food dye), generating a set of "soil" calibration data. Then, they use a stream table with a simulated a river that has a scattering of "contaminated wells" represented by locations of unknown amounts of dye. They make visual observations and use light sensors again to take reflection measurements and refer to their earlier calibration data to determine the level of "contamination" (color dye) in each well. Acting as engineers, they determine if their measured data is comparable to visual observations. The small-scale simulated flowing river shows how contamination can spread.
EPA has many data sources available, these cover topics including but not limited to air, climate change, health risks, pollutants and contaminants, waste, and water. The data are downloadable and available through the Environmental Dataset Gateway (EDG). The EDG is a source of Web-based geospatial information and information services. It enables data consumers to discover, view, and access geospatial resources made available by EPA's program offices, regions, and labs.
Water resources and the origins of contaminants; chemical equations and organic chemistry; acids, bases and salts; microbiology principles and regulations; total coliform rule; water quality primary and secondary standards; water treatment for contaminant removal
Students measure the effectiveness of water filters in purifying contaminated water. They prepare test water by creating different concentrations of bleach (chlorine-contaminated) water. After passing the contaminated water through commercially available Brita® water filters designed to purify drinking water, students determine the chlorine concentration of the purified water using chlorine test strips and measure the adsorption of chlorine onto activated carbon over time. They graph and analyze their results to determine the effectiveness of the filters. The household active carbon filters used are one example of engineer-designed water purification systems.
In this scenario-based activity, students design ways to either clean a water source or find a new water source, depending on given hypothetical family scenarios. They act as engineers to draw and write about what they could do to provide water to a community facing a water crisis. They also learn the basic steps of the engineering design process.
In this activity, students use models to investigate the process and consequences of water contamination on the land, groundwater, and plants. This is a good introduction to building water filters found in the associated activity, The Dirty Water Project.
Through an adult-led field trip, students organized into investigation teams catalogue the incidence of plastic debris in different environments. They investigate these plastics according to their type, age, location and other characteristics that might indicate what potential they have for becoming part of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP). Students collect qualitative and quantitative data that may be used to create a Google Earth layer as part of a separate activity that can be completed at a computer lab at school or as homework. The activity is designed as a step on the way to student's creation of their own GIS Google Earth layer. It is, however, possible for the field trip to be a useful learning experience unto itself that does not require this last GIS step.
In a student-led and fairly independent fashion, data collected in the associated field trip activity are organized by student groups to create useful and informative Google Earth maps. Each team creates a map, uses that map to analyze the results, adjusts the map to include the analysis results, and then writes a brief summary of findings. Primarily, questions of fate-and-transport of plastics are are explored. If data was gathered in the field trip but the teacher does not desire to do the mapping activity, then alternative data presentation and analysis methods are suggested.