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Southmoreland students learn about water quality

| Friday, April 26, 2013, 11:38 a.m.
Marilyn Forbes | For the Daily Courier
Jake Sefchik, 14, and Brittany Hollis, 15, work on determining the characteristics of the stream by checking its depth and width.
Marilyn Forbes | For the Daily Courier
Scooping out macro-vertebrates is one of the fun parts of the testing as McKenzie Dixon, 14, Marissa Stout, 15, and Emily Urbanek, 15, see what they caught in their net.

Enjoying a day in nature's classroom, students from Southmoreland High School's Earth and Science spent some time this week knee deep in Stouffer Run as they worked on a hands-on project to determine the health of the stream.

More than 150 students participated in the Jacobs Creek Water Quality Study, an annual event that brings the students out of the traditional classroom and into the outdoors to do actual testing on water to determine its condition.

“We've been doing this for about 10 years,” Earth and Science instructor Lindsay DiCasolo said. “It's a fun project for them and they get to determine and evaluate the quality of the stream.”

Students were separated into three groups and manned three different stations that determined the stream's WQI (water quality index), the physical characteristics of the stream, and the macro-invertebrate present in the stream.

The students will then take their findings and calculate the pollution index of the steam.

“This is really fun,” Emily Urbanek, 15, said of the project, adding that the students have been learning about water quality.

After the students complete their studies of Stouffer Run, which is considered an impaired stream due to urban runoff, lack of vegetation and mine drainage, they will proceed at a later date to do the same type of stream analysis at Greenlick Creek, which is a cleaner, natural stream.

“We will go to Greenlick and do the same thing, then they will compare the two,” DiCasolo said of the students. “They will see the different between the two streams.”

Once the students have received and processed the data from both streams, they will plan, design and test a method to clean up the water.

“This is a good, hands-on way for these kids to apply what they have been learning in the classroom,” Earth and Science instructor Marie Heberling said. “A lot of these kid are not aware of what is in the water, other than reptiles, amphibians and fish.”

Patty Miller, executive director of the Jacobs Creek Watershed Association, said that projects like the Jacobs Creek Water Quality Study are a great way to get local students interested in the environment and the world around them.

“They will get to see, first hand, the difference in an impaired stream and a healthy stream,” Miller said. “It's projects like this that we hope will spark an interest in them, where they may then take more of an interest in the environment.”

Marilyn Forbes is a freelance writer.

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