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Inside the Classroom

What's in your water? Local students' projects take a look

Jamie Martines
| Tuesday, April 17, 2018, 4:57 p.m.
Junior Faye Metzgar, checks a water sample for phisphorus levels, while studying the water quality of Haymaker Run in front of Sloan Elementary School, in Murrysville, on Friday, April 13, 2018. The Franklin Regional students are part of the Creek Connections program through their environmental science class.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Junior Faye Metzgar, checks a water sample for phisphorus levels, while studying the water quality of Haymaker Run in front of Sloan Elementary School, in Murrysville, on Friday, April 13, 2018. The Franklin Regional students are part of the Creek Connections program through their environmental science class.
Sophmore Devin Richardson (left),  and junior Madi Dover, search for macro invertebrates while studying the water quality of Haymaker Run in front of Sloan Elementary School, in Murrysville, on Friday, April 13, 2018. The Franklin Regional students are part of the Creek Connections program through their environmental science class.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Sophmore Devin Richardson (left), and junior Madi Dover, search for macro invertebrates while studying the water quality of Haymaker Run in front of Sloan Elementary School, in Murrysville, on Friday, April 13, 2018. The Franklin Regional students are part of the Creek Connections program through their environmental science class.
Sophmore Devin Richardson (left),  and junior Madi Dover, search for macro invertebrates while studying the water quality of Haymaker Run in front of Sloan Elementary School, in Murrysville, on Friday, April 13, 2018. The Franklin Regional students are part of the Creek Connections program through their environmental science class.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Sophmore Devin Richardson (left), and junior Madi Dover, search for macro invertebrates while studying the water quality of Haymaker Run in front of Sloan Elementary School, in Murrysville, on Friday, April 13, 2018. The Franklin Regional students are part of the Creek Connections program through their environmental science class.

Area students studying local waterways will present their findings at the annual Creek Connections student research symposium Friday.

The event will feature projects by students from across Southwest Pennsylvania.

An outreach program of Allegheny College, the primary goal of the Creek Connections program is to teach middle and high school students about caring for the environment, said Laura Branby, the Pittsburgh-area educator with Creek Connections.

"The whole purpose of the project is to get kids out and understanding the importance of clean, fresh water," Branby said.

Ultimately, the hope is to get them interested in protecting the environment and to give them the tools to make environmentally-friendly decisions as adults, like how to choose fertilizers for their yards or oil for their cars, Branby said.

"We all have a need for that information, whether or not we continue on it as a career," she said.

Students participating in the program collect water samples and conduct research on local waterways throughout the school year.

Franklin Regional students chose their own research questions, environmental science teacher Amy Smith said. Some students compared water chemistry between area creeks and ponds, while others caught and examined macroinvertebrates--little critters living in waterways--to determine stream health.

"This requires them to actually think about their surroundings," Smith said of the projects, explaining that the students lay the groundwork for projects in the classroom then bring them to life outside.

"It doesn't really mean anything to them until they actually see it," Smith said.

Other schools participating in the symposium include East Allegheny Junior-Senior High School, Elizabeth Forward Middle School, Fern Hollow Nature Center-Quaker Valley High School Creekers, Gateway Middle School, Holiday Park Elementary School, Hopewell Memorial Junior High School, Leechburg Junior/Senior High School, North Allegheny High School, North Hills High School, Riverside Middle School, Seneca Valley Intermediate High School, Seneca Valley Middle School, Seneca Valley Senior High School, Shady Side Academy Middle School, Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, West Mifflin Area High School and Woodland Hills Junior-Senior High School.

The symposium will take place Friday, April 20 at YMCA Camp Kon-O-Kwee in Fombell, just west of Zelienople. Community members can view students' projects from 9 to 11 a.m.

Jamie Martines is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at jmartines@tribweb.com, 724-850-2867 or on Twitter @Jamie_Martines.

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