Tuesday, July 28, 2015

WaterWorks! Wednesday, August 6: History of Water in Minnesota & Groundwater Unit Study

by Steven Beardsley

Lee presents “All the Water in the World”
Last Day:
Today marked the last day of WaterWorks! 2014. Lee Schmitt led the group in a brief demo illustrating the amount of water available for public consumption. Participants also got to discuss ways of engaging students in understanding water as a limited resource and how it affects communities with limited access to it. Then, Dr. John Afinson from the National Park Services presented an early history of water in Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Participants were surprised to learn that folks in Minneapolis and Saint Paul did not learn about water as a conduit for illness until the early 1900’s. Prior to that, hundreds of people in both cities died of typhoid fever from contaminated water from the Mississippi river and nearby waterways. The presentation highlighted the importance of clean water in the cities today and how Minneapolis and Saint Paul have grown because of access to water resources in nearby waterways.

Dr. John Afinson on History of Water in Minneapolis and Saint Paul

Justin Blum on Groundwater Protection & Hydrogeology

PFCs and Groundwater Protection

Tannie Eshenaur and PFCs in Minnesota Water

Following Afinson’s presentation was Tannie Eshenaur from the Minnesota Department of Health. Her presentation talked about perfluorochemicals in Minnesota Water and how the Legacy Amendment and Clean Water acts help her and individuals in the Department of Health monitor new chemicals in the water. She talked about the challenges of identifying these chemicals and analyzing if high amounts have any lasting effects on the human body. Then, Justin Blum, from the Source Water Protection Unit in the Minnesota Department of Health, presented on groundwater protection and hydrogeology. He focused on the construction of wells and the difficulties of taking water from aquifers in the ground.

Science Museum & Final Conversations

Superintendents come to talk to teachers
The last part of the day involved conversations with superintendents within different school districts along with a unit study led by Larry Thomas from the Science Museum of Minnesota. Larry Thomas had participants look at how water is absorbed into a rock through a high powered microscope. He then had participants experiment with groundwater models to see how water is stored within and in between the rocks underground. Participants also followed along by demonstrating various learning goals such as being able to show that water moves freely underground. After experimenting with taking out and putting water in their models, participants added painted sponges that served as models of point source pollution. When teachers used their beakers to rain water on the sponges, they got to see how pollution spreads through a lake and into the groundwater. The rest of the day involved getting into grade groups to discuss how teachers would implement what they’ve learned from the institute into their teaching.
Pollution getting into the water

Larry Thomas from the Science Museum

Concluding Thoughts:

Conversations in Grade Groups
Teachers got to engage in hands-on activities and listen to compelling presentations on water, water chemistry, and conservation. The institute also helped teachers connect these ideas to art and community service in addition to connecting these issues with contemporary problems in the community. The growing challenge that teachers cited throughout the institute was convincing their students to care about water conservation despite living in a state with ready access to clean water. I believe that the institute helps teachers meet this challenge by highlighting places where people have to walk miles to get clean water to seeing how local communities are struggling with lower water levels such as White Bear Lake. The idea is to help students see how precious water is and how water conservation and consumption affects everyone.

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