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Classroom Happenings: Watershed Discoveries

The Steward School
Middle Schoolers learn about healthy waterways
Middle School Science Teacher Claire Bailey walked through her classroom with a spray bottle filled with water. 

“I’m going to make it rain!” she exclaimed as she poised the bottle above the projects her sixth-grade students were working on: large squares of wax paper that they had crumpled, flattened, and drawn on with different colored markers. The various colors represented components that feed into a watershed (an area of land that drains to a lake, river, or wetland, or to another waterway): blue for rivers; brown for farmland and cities; green for forests, grasslands, and trees. 

The water droplets from Mrs. Bailey’s spray bottle made the colors blend together, illustrating the effects that polluted water can have when it travels from one place to another. 

“What happens to the rivers?” she asked her students. “How do the forests positively affect the rivers?”

Everything is Connected

This semester, Mrs. Bailey’s students are learning that human behavior is essential to a healthy watershed. A city’s pollution goes into the sewers and the watershed as runoff; on a farm, nutrients from fertilizer seep into the ground as groundwater and then travel to the watershed. In addition to learning that their own behavior is essential in helping prevent pollution, the sixth-graders discovered that a riparian buffer — plants flanking a stream or pond — can help prevent or repair erosion and filter pollutants that may get into the waterway. 

“Throughout the semester, and through this project, students see that tributaries can connect to form river systems that make up the watershed, which is the land area (where we live) that collect and channel water to a greater body of water,”  said Mrs. Bailey. “They also observe how pollution will travel from one mountainous region or other high elevation and travel to all of those watersheds. Everything is connected.”

Surprising Changes

Studying the colorful wax paper in front of her, Kate Gresock ’28 said, “I’m enjoying that we get to be hands-on … this project is a good example of how cities and farmlands can pollute water.” Her classmates Cece Lentz ’28 and Emma Robbins ’28, excited about the project, chimed in.

“I like this lesson because we got to do it ourselves … it’s fun,” said Cece. Emma, peering at the watery colors, said she enjoyed the project because “when Mrs. Bailey sprayed the paper with water it changed. I didn’t expect it to work. I was surprised!” 

Check out Steward Snaps for more photos of Mrs. Bailey’s class.
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