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Ready-Set-Tech: New York City Water Quality Assessment Project
New York City Water Quality Assessment Project

This project is designed to support an integrated science curriculum. Students learn about the chemistry of water and how its molecular structure supports life through its biochemical, physical, and environmental roles. Students investigate the quality of water as it interacts with the environment, determining how these components affect ecosystems. Finally, students analyze case studies of a water body in their area and make recommendations to the community about the current drinking water and water ecosystem.

Students are accountable for their own learning in order to educate their peers, staff, and parents of the school community. A WebQuest with structured research activities helps guide students through their experiments and interpretation of data. Other resources include an audio-streamed NPR segment on the vitality of the Hudson River. With connection to Thirteen-Online, the students published their results online with the goal of community activism in mind.

Annie Chien

Annie Chien has been teaching at the School of the Future in Gramercy Park, New York City for the past five years. Her academic background includes biology, psychology, and educational technology. She lives in Brooklyn with her two cats, Bitty and Doozer, along with her husband, Brian.



biology, health

Grade Level: 6-9

Time: This is a long-term writing process project that will take place over the course of several months

Materials: Computers with Internet access, a web authoring program such as Dreamweaver, an overhead projector for presentations, and related science lab materials (see lesson plans)








Students will:

1. Understand the interdependence of abiotic and biotic systems.

2. Investigate the components of water as it interacts with the environment.

3. Understand how water components affect ecosystems.

4. Analyze case studies of a water body in their area and make recommendations to the community

5. Utilize technology for research, communication, and publication to a wide audience.

Web site:




Day One:

Title: Immersion into the Hudson River Water Quality Investigation

Instructional Objectives:

•  Students become aware of a Hudson River ecological problem linked to urbanization, industrialization and sprawl.

•  Students generate their own questions for investigation throughout their water quality research.

Materials Check List:

•  Access to NPR radio archive online at (“Hudson River Trouble”) http://npr.org/features/feature.php?wfId=1117383

•  Class computers with access to the Internet for the Water Quality Assessment Webquest http://webquest.mschien.com

•  Large pieces of paper for investigative questions, one per class.

Pre Class Activity: None

Aim: What's the big deal about the Hudson River?

Do Now (Individual): The Hudson River is a vital part of New York State and New York City. List at least 10 things that you know about the Hudson. Feel free to share some experiences you had, or would like to have (Circle Line, railroading, camping, etc) on the Hudson River.


Class share: Class share their DO NOW responses.

Introduce NPR radio show about the Hudson River. Instruct students to listen carefully for any new and interesting information about the Hudson.

Individual Activity: Free write—What is some new information you've learned about the Hudson River? In what ways do you see yourself connected to the overall issues of urbanization and industrialization?

Pair share/Class share: Pair-share individual responses. Students then class-share their chats about the radio show. Be sure to clearly define the meaning of urbanization, industrialization and sprawl in environmental science.

Introduce the project by presenting the case to the students as water quality scientists working for the EPA. Present past student data on the website, and emphasize the students' job to contribute to the annual School of the Future monitoring of the water quality of the Hudson River. Emphasize that their results will be published online for the public to view.

Pair Activity: Students brainstorm questions about Hudson River water quality they want to investigate.

Class Share: Students share questions for investigation. Questions are then documented on a class poster board for constant reference and research.

Students will be given their research teams. Teams are assigned to a specific water quality component (2-3 person group). Demonstrate the WebQuest that accompanies the research project to help guide their ultimate product.

Team Engagement: Teams breakout onto class computers and browse the WebQuest for 10 minutes. Teams assign a team facilitator, resource person and team leader.


Download the TASK SHEET off the WebQuest and complete question #1-2 under Research Decomposition. Be prepared to meet with your teams tomorrow to present your understanding.


Instructor should utilize this time to answer any technical and logistical questions about the WebQuest.


Day Two:

Title: Engaged as Young Scientists – The Water Quality Lab (in-field or laboratory setting)

Instructional Objectives:

•  Students utilize the scientific method to examine their assigned component of river quality.

•  In their research teams, students share and refine their understanding of their assigned water component.

Materials Check List:

•  Water quality testing kits

Pre Class Activity: Previous assignments need to be completed to actively participate in team activities.

Aim: Getting Down and Dirty – What IS the quality of the Hudson River Water?

Do Now: Break out into your teams. Share your homework assignments. Team leaders need to assure that all team members understand the nature of their water component. Team resource person obtains a class transparency to bullet point key information of their specific water component. Team facilitator leads in discussion using the TASK SHEET questions as a guide. (The transparency will serve as a tool for class team share later, as well as a resource when they sketch out the layout of their webpages).


Class presentations: Teams present their research findings via overhead. Presentations should be 2 minutes each. ALL students must take notes on WATER QUALITY RESEARCH MATRIX as each team contributes.

Research team challenge : Research teams break out and conduct water quality exams on 3 samples of water from 3 points on the Hudson River. Teams note results in their field journals for record and for later jigsaw activity.

Team meetings : After results are taken, teams sit and examine results. Use RESEARCH DECOMPOSITION QUESTIONS #4 and #5 to guide your meeting.


Individually, complete questions 4 and 5 of RESEARCH DECOMPOSITION on your TASK SHEET thoroughly. Be prepared to use your previous research and your data to support your thoughts. Expect to contribute to your teams tomorrow.


Class brainstorm on possible error analysis in their experiments. Teacher should jot down ideas and responses on poster paper so that students can refer to them as they create their team report.

Day Three:

Title: Looking at Connections within Water Quality

Instructional Objectives:

•  Research teams establish their conclusion about their water component.

•  Teams interact with other teams to share results.

•  Students understand that water components and characteristics work interdependently with one another in maintaining river health and stability.

Materials Check List:

•  Students should have their WATER QUALITY RESEARCH MATRIXES to be actively involved in the jigsaw.

Pre Class Activity: Homework assignment from the previous night is completed.

Aim: How is my team's research connected with that of other research teams?

Do Now: Break out into your teams. Share your homework assignments. Team leaders need to assure that all team members share their answers, and make sense of their results. Team resource person obtains a class transparency to bullet point key information of their specific water component. Team facilitator leads in discussion using the TASK SHEET questions as a guide. Teams should focus on questions 4, 5 and 6.


Jigsaw Session I: Like team roles get together and share their results and team conclusions. All students are accountable in documenting their fellow researcher's work in their WATER QUALITY RESEARCH MATRIXES.

Jigsaw Session II: In their current jigsaws, students connect their own research component with two other teams' research focus.

Research team meetings: Teams get back together and share their connection findings. At this point, the instructor should describe the homework assignment. The team should complete the items on the task sheet so that all information is available for the assignment.


Each team must create three components of their assessment report in HTML format. The facilitator will write about their team's component background information. The research person will present their results and state the conclusion of the research team. The team leader should wrap up their research by connecting their research with that of two other team's. Be sure that the explanations provide specific examples from your jigsaw share.


Instructor should take any last minute questions.

Day Four:

Title: Young Scientists Create Recommendations

Instructional Objectives:

•  Students propose solutions on the issues facing Hudson River water quality based on their investigation and research.

Materials Check List:

•  Poster paper for class idea construction

Pre Class Activity: completed HTML files for refinement.

Aim : What are our recommendations to improve the health of the Hudson River?

Do Now : Break out into teams. Your team should answer the last question on your TASK SHEET. Be sure to incorporate your jigsaw discussions into your response. Be prepared to contribute to a class product.


Class share: Using a student leader, the class comes up with a bulleted list of recommendations for the Hudson Valley to maintain river health. Expected ideas include:

•  Reduction of sprawl by creating gardens and other greenery in the Hudson Valley.

•  Support the enforcement of environmental protection laws that punish polluters (students can site specific cases and laws, including the PCB cases).

•  Reduction of the harmful effect of street runoff by reducing street garbage, follow curb laws.

•  Maintain a habit of water conservation.

•  Watch for fishing and swimming advisories.

Team engagement: Teams breakout into their groups and work on piecing their HTML formats into one big webpage.


Students submit their work for consolidation.


Students demonstrate competency in the following performance objectives:

  • Water's molecular structure allows it to behave in ways to support life in a multitude of ways.
  • The Water Cycle allows the mobility of other cycles in nature, powered by solar energy.
  • Due to the behavior of water, water interacts with the environment to consist of several important components for life.
  • Human technology may enhance or exploit the water cycle and its components.



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