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Activity: Students will investigate water pollutants and their sources through student-led experimentation. They will use the principles of student-directed open inquiry. Students will make observations about pollutants by analyzing available freshwater samples and drawing on prior knowledge and experiences. They will about those samples, to test their questions, analyze their results, and draw conclusions based on results and additional research. Students will direct the inquiry experience and you will facilitate.
Age group: Open inquiry in theory is appropriate for all ages because it is personalized. Students ask their own questions and design their own investigations. The guiding materials included in this resource, however, are geared more toward high school students as far as language and format is concerned. Having some experience with inquiry-based learning and experimental design is helpful but not mandatory. You are there to help guide them through this activity, as are the guiding materials included in this resource. You can use this resource to teach students about inquiry-based learning and how to design an experiment if you are up for that. This activity is also great for seasoned inquiry-based learners. In other words, there is no specific grade level or this resource. Consider the population you are working with and your own teaching objectives.
Materials and prep: One way to implement this activity is to gather freshwater samples from various watersheds in the community, ideally those with varying water quality. Students then observe your samples and their origins to ask questions about water pollutants and their sources. There are modifications to this approach, one of which is to have your students ask questions and then collect their own samples. To prepare for this activity, teachers would need to set up the lab with testing kits (a list of ideas is included in the resource), distribute copies of student guiding materials, and collect samples if that is the route you are planning to go.
For tips on how to implement student-directed open inquiry activities, including helpful scaffolding questions, visit Experiential Learning Depot Blog.
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