Multifaceted Approach to Increase Environmental Stewardship through Classroom Living Stream

Ona Elementary Project Examines Human Impact on Water Quality
Posted on 10/31/2017
Ona teachers and partners work together to help students learn.Students in 5th grade at Ona Elementary are getting to experience a project first hand that will hopefully last a lifetime.  

As we all know, pollution in our streams is a real problem.  According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, sedimentation is listed as the number one pollutant in our streams.  

5th Grade teacher, Ann Henry, was awarded a grant through American Water Works Company, Inc. The funding from this grant provided funding for the equipment through their Environmental Grant Program.  In addition to this grant, Mrs. Henry is working closely with Steve Foster who is a local limnologist/ichthyologist who comes and speaks in her classroom and Mrs. Dehart’s classroom at Milton Elementary. This grant provided a “wetlands” model for Ona Elementary and Milton Elementary in order for them to collaborate in this STEM process.   

These students are also getting technical support from Fourpole Creek Watershed Association who provide guidance on this project including classroom tasks and checklists.  By increasing the understanding of human contributions to sedimentation and its water quality implications, students will gain a respect for clean water and seemingly trivial watershed disturbances.

Students are given an opportunity to personally measure and evaluate a living stream gaining a real-world comprehension of impacts from their actions on aquatic resources. Although the tanks were located in classrooms, all grades and classes are given an opportunity to visit the tanks and ask questions about the project.      

This project enables students to participate in hands-on classroom activities, to engage in real-world water quality monitoring and problem solving while inspiring them to seek solutions. It cultivates a multifaceted in-classroom STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) opportunity to raise awareness of how everyday activities influence water quality for both aquatic organism and municipal water companies.     

This interdisciplinary project advances an understanding of complex chemical, physical and biological interactions that are the cornerstone of aquatic ecosystems while developing mathematics and responsibility.  In addition, it fosters an appreciation of water resources, develops a conservation ethic and cultivates an understanding of ecosystem interactions. Two 55-gallon aquaria complete with lights, stand, filtration, basic water test kit, air pump, local warm water fish species and an aquaponics “wetland” were set up at Ona Elementary and Milton Elementary schools. Students care for the fish and plants documenting water quality, temperature, and growth.  

Students are taught the importance of clean water and how fine sediment in the EPA’s Western Allegheny Plateau Ecoregion contribute to water pollution.  They also get to experience and see how sediment inputs affect lithophilic spawners and other intolerant species by smothering habitat and hindering foraging.  In addition, they learn how pollutants travel with fine sediments and how municipal water plants treat raw water to remove sediment and make it safe to drink from the faucet.  They also learned how wetlands act as water filters removing nutrients and pollutants. Daily and weekly checklists were given to each school along with a few classroom activities to engage students in the project. Students are assigned responsibilities for the tank maintenance and fish health while the fish are maturing at each school.   

Primary Contact: Ann Henry 
Ona Elementary School 
2701 Elementary Dr., 
Ona, WV 25545 
(304) 690-2692   

Secondary Contact 
Steven Foster 
Rt. 1 Box 114 
Milton, WV 25541 
(304) 928-8835
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