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STUDYING A LOCAL STREAM

by Togher N.S., Dunmanway

Water supports all life and covers a very large area of the earth’s surface. Water occurs in many places such as pools, puddles, drainage ditches and gutters.  It is important to realise that water occurring in these places will eventually reach and have effects on our oceans, rivers and lakes.  No body of water exists in isolation so pollution at any point will contribute to a global effect.  Therefore it is important to educate children on the value of local water conservation.

The tips contained in this article are concerned only with studying a fresh water stream.  Most schools are within walking distance of such a water body.  The tips are also more suitable for a field study with children in Senior Primary Classes and it is envisaged that the study would take a number of weeks.

  Aims of the Field Study.

1.  To increase awareness of the significance of water and the water cycle through active learning.

2.  To give an understanding of the inter relationship between water, the environment and the many factors which can influence quality and quantity of water.

3.  To give knowledge of aquatic plants and aquatic creatures and how they can help in the assessment of water quality.

4.  To encourage an awareness of water conservation and how individuals can make a difference.

  BEFORE THE FIELD TRIP

TEACHER’S WORK.

A.                 It would be beneficial to be familiar with the contents of some of the following resources for teachers.

 

1.      “Caring for the Earth”. I.N.T.O.

2.      “E.N.F.O. Pack on Water for Primary Schools.”   (E.N.F.0. 17 St. Andrew Street, Dublin 2)

3.      “Collins Gem Guide to Pond Life”

4.      “Streamscapes Basic”  Coomhola Salmon Trust, Bantry, Co. Cork.

5.      Information available from the local fisheries Board or other local experts.

6.      “The Macrobiotic Water Pollution Indicator”, a leaflet by the South Western Trout Coarse Fisheries, Macroom, Co. Cork.

B.                 Visit the stream to ensure it is safe and suitable for a field trip and get the permission of the landowner.

C.                 Outline the purpose of the visit to parents and pupils.

D.                Outline ground rules on safety and on caring for one another and the environment.

E.                 Divide the class into working groups, outline each group’s work and ensure they have the necessary workcards and equipment.

F.                  Ask another teacher and or adults to accompany you on the field trip.

EQUIPMENT

·        Waterproof footwear and clothes. Notebooks, pencils, markers etc. Measuring tape.   A long straight stick. Stop Watch. Compass. Thermometer. Jam jars with lids.   Plastic buckets and Flat Tray (for examination of specimens) Fishing nets. Camera.

In the classroom  1 large plastic tank or glass aquarium.

     THE FIELD TRIP

MAKE A MAP.    (Group 1)

Draw a map of the study area.  Draw in paths, gates, hedges, trees and overhanging vegetation.

Make a general description of the area surrounding the water body,

Art work  - sketching plants and animal specimens.

PHYSICAL EXAMINATION OF WATER (Group 2)

Is the water clear , coloured , cloudy 

Is there algae , foam , vegetation  on the surface.

Is there an odour from the water?   Yes     No.

TAKING SAMPLES OF WATER.

Fill 4 – 5 jars with samples of water

   ODOUR TEST

Examine the samples for colour and any signs of pollution.  Seal the jar and leave to stand for 1 minute.  Open and smell.  Note whether or not there is an odour.

   FOAM TEST.

Fill a small jar with stream water.    Shake it hard for 30 seconds.

Is there any foam on the surface of the water    Yes    No.

How long did it take the foam to disappear  ---------------------------.

Long lasting foam is a sign of pollution

Results may be recorded on a simple worksheet.

SAMPLES

COLOUR

ODOUR

FOAM

SIGNS OF POLLUTION

Sample 1

 

 

 

 

Sample 2

 

 

 

 

ETC

 

 

 

 

TAKING MEASUREMENTS  (GROUP 3)

1.                  Measure the depth of the stream at the edge and in the middle

(Use the stick and measuring tape)

2.                  Measure the length and width of the study area  (Use the stick and measuring tape)

3.                  Use the compass.  Find the direction in which the stream is flowing.

4.                  Measure temperature

Use the thermometer.

1.      Hold the thermometer in a shady spot.

2.      Measure the temperature of the air.

3.      Put the thermometer into water.

4.      Measure the temperature of the water.

MEASURE THE FLOW RATE  (GROUP 4)

Two pupils stand on the bank, one 5 m. downstream of the other.  A third pupil drops a light object e.g. a tennis ball on the surface of the water.  A fourth pupil measures the time it takes for the object to pass between the pupils on the bank.  This time is recorded on a flow rate table.

OBJECT

TIME TAKEN

DISTANCE

FLOW RATE

Tennis Ball

 

 

 

etc

 

 

 

STUDY OF PLANT LIFE  (GROUP 5)

Aquatic plants are rooted in the substrata.  Examples include the Waterlily, Duckweed and Pondweed.

Semiaquatic plants include the common reed, the Flag Iris and Water Mint.  Common waterside plants include Meadow Sweet and Rushes.

If a stream is clean and slow moving you may find Watercress, Canadian Pond Weed and Mares Tail.

If the water is polluted you may find green algae that looks like a large area of green slime.

Brown fungus grows on water polluted by sewage.

TASKS FOR PUPILS.

1.                  Collect one sample of a plant growing in or near the water.  Examine them and use a guide to identify them.

2.                  Make a list of the plants along with sketches or photographs.

3.                  Are there many green plants present?  

4.                  Is algae present? Why  do you think this is so?

5.                  Is  brown fungus present? Why do you think this is so?

ANIMAL LIFE  (GROUP 6)

The presence of freshwater Shrimp, Mayfly larvae, Caddis fly larvae and Stonefly larvae indicate that the quality of the water is good.  Indicator animals of poor water quality include the Bloodworm and Water Louse.  Children may respectfully gather some of these creatures.  They may use the nets or gently turn over stones.  Hold the stone over a collecting tray and rub gently to remove the invertebrates.  These creatures may be brought back to the classroom in a bucket of streamwater.  This may be put in an aquarium to be examined.   They may be examined under a microscope.  They are then returned safely. 

AFTER THE FIELD TRIP - BACK IN THE CLASSROOM.

·        All groups are given the opportunity to examine and record their findings on water samples, plant and animal life.

·        All groups are given the opportunity to study the ordinance survey map or other maps of the locality.  (This will enable the pupils to see how the stream is connected to other water bodies).

·        All groups are given the opportunity to study the water cycle and study the effects a local stream may have on a larger body of water.

·        All groups are given the opportunity to sketch plants and animals, write up reports, do further artwork, creative writing, study local geography and history.

·        All groups will report on their findings to the whole class.

·        All work is displayed.

Contributed by Mary Keane who teaches in Togher N.S., Dunmanway, Co. Cork.  Togher N.S. is lead school of Schools Integration Project No 22 with a project entitled “ An Awareness, Appreciation and an Enhancement of the local Environment”

 

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