Science teachers learn about water quality and the environment

A lone Canada goose watched as Jon Valley, of Carson City, climbed into a pair of waders Saturday morning, slogged out into the marsh near Eagle Valley Middle School and tossed an odd-looking device into the water near the bulrushes.

Valley and several other local science teachers were learning how to sample water quality, a skill they will pass on to their middle and high school students.

Such hands-on activities are becoming more important as students are taught to relate chemistry and biology lessons to real-world environmental issues, Carson High School science teacher Eric Anderson explained.

"With the testing and standards that are now in place, the students are supposed to be using this type of technology," Anderson said.

Federal funds have been used to purchase specialized testing equipment - kits that use graphing calculators to store measurements of salinity, temperature, pH and pressure - for each of the Carson City School District's secondary level science teachers, Anderson said.

The funds also paid for Val McLean, the Lovelock science teacher who is president of the State Science Teachers Association, and University of Nevada, Reno chemistry and biology professor Tom Lugaski to show the teachers how to use the sophisticated testing equipment.

"This will make science more accessible to the students by letting them experience the real-world meaning of the data they collect," McLean said. "We used to have students so busy hand-graphing all the data that, by the time they had it all charted, the teachers had to move on to the next unit. The information was not applied.

"Now, they will have the time to learn to analyze and evaluate the data and how to apply it, to make decisions based on it."

Lugaski provided examples of how factors such as water temperature, total dissolved solids, oxygen and carbon dioxide content and available nutrients combine to create an environment in any given body of water.

The testing and evaluation of samples can lead to the determination of a water quality index and a numerical expression of water quality, Lugaski said.

Eagle Valley and Carson middle schools and Carson High School all have bodies of water nearby, so science students can make short field trips to collect samples for on-going water quality projects, Anderson said.


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