Students Find Testing the Waters Educational

Article excerpt

Though the air and water temperatures were in the low 50s, Peter Black told his students they couldn't study Breakneck Creek from its banks.

"You'll all get wet soon enough," Black told the group. "You'll all get in the stream at some point."

A group of three fifth-grade classes from Mars Area Elementary School along with a dozen high school students traveled to Valencia last week as part of the district's water protection program.

Black, an environmental science teacher at Mars Area High School, said the program started about 12 years ago under the direction of Bill Wesley, a science teacher at the high school.

Once a year, rain or shine, each fifth grader spends a day at the creek learning about the kinds of things that can endanger it and its watershed while gaining hands-on scientific experience, Black said.

He told the students they would be testing to see if the creek was polluted, and if it was he would contact the state Department of Environment Protection.

"No one else tests this creek," he said. "You are the ones. This is the only thing that keeps this stream clean."

After taking preliminary instructions, the students broke into groups and spent time conducting tests and taking measurements at three stations: physical, chemical and biological.

Whitney Stewart, a 15-year-old sophomore from Valencia, manned the biological station where the students got into the creek and did an 'Indian dance' designed to stir up sediment from the creek bed. …