Liquid News

Water Quality Testing Important Facet of Middle School Field Trip

Irvine Ranch Water District Partners with Discovery Science Center for Hands-On Science Programs

On May 18, 70 sixth grade students from Stonecreek School climbed out of the school bus that pulled up to the Irvine Ranch Water District San Joaquin Marsh. They were enjoying a water quality field trip to the Marsh – the culmination of the four-week, hands-on water education workshop for middle school students.

“Ecology is a big part of the curriculum at this grade level,” said Irvine Unified School District science specialist Patty Schmidt. “These presentations are great – it helps the students become more aware of their surroundings.”

IRWD partners with the Discovery Science Center to bring water science education to students in kindergarten through eighth grade throughout the IRWD service area. Programs include assembly style water education presentations to students in kindergarten through sixth grade and a four-week water quality program for middle school students.

The morning of the Stonecreek presentation, Discovery Science Center teachers Zana Bryant and Maria Torres were ready for the students’ arrival. Water testing kits and goggles were placed at each table in the Discovery Room of the Learning Center.

Students took their places and Michele Drzymkowski of the IRWD Water Quality Department provided a laboratory demonstration highlighting how wastewater is converted into recycled water for use in the community. She was quick to point out that this is water that has gone down the drain and will not be used for drinking. The students were most excited when Drzymkowski allowed them a peek through the microscope at the organisms that help clean up wastewater. A drop of the “activated sludge” containing the microbes was placed on a slide, and then the image projected and enlarged on a screen for all to see. Many “Ooohs” and “Ahhhs” were heard when an organism such as a multi-celled rotifer or stalk ciliate came into view.

Students then watched a virtual tour video of the Michelson Water Recycling Plant, outlining the steps in turning wastewater into recycled water.

Following the lab presentation and video, students took a tour of the marsh and participated in chemical water quality tests of water from the San Diego Creek both before it is treated in the marsh ponds and after.

The Stonecreek field trip of 70 students was an average-sized group. On other days, the Discovery Science Center instructors might have an entire school taking a field trip – as in the case recently of Sierra Vista Middle School when 560 students visited the marsh over three days.

“It’s nice to have the students come out to this setting,” said eighth grade science teacher J.P. Mathot. “The lab demonstration and the walking tour of the marsh is a different experience for them.”

IRWD began its partnership with the Discovery Science Center in 2008. Each year, the program has grown to include many more schools, with a record 10,000 students served during the 2010-11 school year.

For more information about IRWD educational opportunities, the San Joaquin Marsh and the Natural Treatment System, please visit our website.

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