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Student-Directed Scientific Inquiry: Sources of Water Pollution

Grade Levels
9th - 12th, Homeschool
Formats Included
  • PDF
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9 pages
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  1. Activity: Students will investigate 1) sources of water pollution, and 2) the impacts of water pollution on aquatic life through two separate open inquiry experimentation activities. Students will make observations about pollutants by analyzing lab materials and drawing on prior knowledge and experi
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  2. Student-directed learning allows for students to direct the learning experience through a series of choices. Included in this product are problem-based learning, project-based learning, service learning, and scientific open inquiry activities. This resource covers an entire water pollution unit usin
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  3. This bundle includes student-centered learning activities related to wildlife ecology and conservation. This bundle has potential for growth as new resources are added. All of the resources included are designed to promote 21st-century skill-building in addition to growth in content knowledge. The b
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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 develop their own questions about those samples, design their own water quality experiments 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.

This product includes:

  1. Teacher guide
  2. Brainstorming activity
  3. Investigation planner
  4. Reflection

If you liked this resource, check out these student-directed products as well!

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Total Pages
9 pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Use mathematical representations to support and revise explanations based on evidence about factors affecting biodiversity and populations in ecosystems of different scales. Examples of mathematical representations include finding the average, determining trends, and using graphical comparisons of multiple sets of data. Assessment is limited to provided data.
Evaluate claims, evidence, and reasoning that the complex interactions in ecosystems maintain relatively consistent numbers and types of organisms in stable conditions, but changing conditions may result in a new ecosystem. Examples of changes in ecosystem conditions could include modest biological or physical changes, such as moderate hunting or a seasonal flood; and, extreme changes, such as volcanic eruption or sea level rise.
Use a computational representation to illustrate the relationships among Earth systems and how those relationships are being modified due to human activity. Examples of Earth systems to be considered are the hydrosphere, atmosphere, cryosphere, geosphere, and/or biosphere. An example of the far-reaching impacts from a human activity is how an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide results in an increase in photosynthetic biomass on land and an increase in ocean acidification, with resulting impacts on sea organism health and marine populations. Assessment does not include running computational representations but is limited to using the published results of scientific computational models.
Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the availability of natural resources, occurrence of natural hazards, and changes in climate have influenced human activity. Examples of key natural resources include access to fresh water (such as rivers, lakes, and groundwater), regions of fertile soils such as river deltas, and high concentrations of minerals and fossil fuels. Examples of natural hazards can be from interior processes (such as volcanic eruptions and earthquakes), surface processes (such as tsunamis, mass wasting and soil erosion), and severe weather (such as hurricanes, floods, and droughts). Examples of the results of changes in climate that can affect populations or drive mass migrations include changes to sea level, regional patterns of temperature and precipitation, and the types of crops and livestock that can be raised.
Plan and conduct an investigation of the properties of water and its effects on Earth materials and surface processes. Emphasis is on mechanical and chemical investigations with water and a variety of solid materials to provide the evidence for connections between the hydrologic cycle and system interactions commonly known as the rock cycle. Examples of mechanical investigations include stream transportation and deposition using a stream table, erosion using variations in soil moisture content, or frost wedging by the expansion of water as it freezes. Examples of chemical investigations include chemical weathering and recrystallization (by testing the solubility of different materials) or melt generation (by examining how water lowers the melting temperature of most solids).


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