Saturday, October 17, 2009

Chemistry in the Rain

Friday was spent standing on a pebbly spit beside a stream in the middle of the woods surrounded by twenty five high school seniors (17 years old). The kids were testing the stream water for: fecal choliform (eewwww!), organophosphates, nitrogen, dissolved oxygen, two temperature readings, turbidity (cloudiness) & some other stuff. The park ranger says the stream is the standard for purity in our area because it flows through both the park and the military base beside it, which means the land around it is protected from development & thus protected from pollution. The weather was chilly and drizzly, made worse by pouring rain the all the previous day.

Fortunately I was dressed warmly and I made sure I stayed dry so it was fun. I love the woods. One of the boys nearly fell face first off of a log into the water trying to take the upstream temperature. I have to be honest here and say I laughed, although it would've been a serious issue if he'd actually fallen in. Stupid kids are always afraid of not looking the part or whatever, so only one of them was dressed warmly- the rest of them were in t shirts or other thin shirts and sweatshirts, no warm jackets or (heaven forbid) raincoats. No hiking boots or wellies for their feet, sneakers all around. They all spent the entire morning whining about how cold it was & how they couldn't wait to get back to school because it was warm!!

Luckily the teachers ignored this & wandered around making sure they finished all of their experiments. She only had one parent chaperone (ie: me), so she had to ask one of the administrators to accompany us so she didn't have to cancel the whole thing. The park doesn't have the funding to support this type of event, so a nonprofit called The Alice Ferguson Foundation steps in to provide an extra resource teacher/biologist and all of the equipment the kids used for the experiment. It was really neat watching her lead the kids along to recognizing that all of the development they enjoy can damage the environment and thus the water they drink, bathe in and cook with.

It was a relaxing if chilly way to spend the morning watching the kids play in the water & realize that in science, as in many other things, one must follow the directions to get optimal results or else start all over. LOL :)

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