Kids About Water (KAW) Project

Students from Lexington Trails Middle School testing water at a small pond on school property

Students from Lexington Trails Middle School testing water at a small pond on school property in October of 2014.

The KAW Project is a five-lesson water quality issues and actions curriculum that targets students in grades 6-12 classrooms and other education organizations. Each lesson is aligned with the Kansas Next Generation Science Standards. Prior to the KAW Project, students are given a survey to assess knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors concerning water quality issues and actions.

Lesson 1- Introduction to Watersheds and BMPs: Students learn about their local watersheds and identify the watershed in which their school is located. They participate in an activity that targets the “horizontal water cycle,” i.e. how stormwater, drinking water, waste water, and ground water are connected. Students identify how impervious surfaces, agricultural runoff, and other human activities contribute to water pollution problems and how these problems become issues. The concept of Best Management Practices (BMPs) is introduced and examples of how they are used to mitigate water quality issues are given.

Lessons 2 and 3- Field Experiences: Students participate in two days of hands-on, data-generating water quality lessons at a water site. Small groups of students rotate through a set of activities that include: non-chemical tests (air and water temperature, turbidity, conductivity and pH); chemical tests (phosphates, nitrates, coliform bacteria); dissolved oxygen; and seining and identifying macro invertebrates. Each activity includes a data collection component and all collection protocols are followed. Adult mentors are recruited to assist students with the field activities.

Lesson 4- Meaning in the Data: Data collected from each field activity is analyzed to determine the overall condition of the water site. Connections are made on how runoff volumes and stream flow might impact pollutant levels and how that, in turn, might impact the quality and quantity of macros (water quality indicators) found there. Based on the analyzed data, students generate a list of water quality problems and issues associated with the tested water and discuss appropriate BMPs that could be used to improve water quality.

Lesson 5- Issues and Actions (Problem Solving Strategies): Students participate in discussions on the connections between a problem and an issue and how issues develop around solutions to a problem. Problems and issues relating to water quality, energy consumption, climate change, and public health are targeted. Students produce a list of problems related to the water quality data collected in lessons 2 and 3. Working in small groups, students choose a problem from the list, identify an associated issue, design a BMP to address the problem, and generate a list of implementation obstacles. Each group gives a short presentation explaining their plan.