Beacon Lesson Plan Library

The Water Detectives

Daric White


This is a research project designed for students to collect, analyze and present environmental water quality data.


The student organizes information using appropriate systems.

Relates the concepts of measurement to similarity and proportionality in real-world situations.

Selects and uses direct (measured) or indirect (not measured) methods of measurement as appropriate.

The student knows the ways in which humans today are placing their environmental support systems at risk (e.g., rapid human population growth, environmental degradation, and resource depletion).

The student knows that investigations are conducted to explore new phenomena, to check on previous results, to test how well a theory predicts, and to compare different theories.


-LaMotte Limnology Test Outfit (Ward’s Geology Catalog 2000: cat. no. 21 H 0020)
-Student access to a small surface water body. (natural pond, lake, stream, retention pond -LaMotte Storm Drain Detection Outfit (Ward’s Biology Catalog 2000: cat. no. 21 W 0003)
-Ward’s Coliscan Kit (Ward’s Biology Catalog 2000: cat. no. 88 Y0955
-Computer with word processor and spreadsheet (EXCEL) capabilities.
-Incubator (optional)
-A copy of the Florida state surface water standards. (This can be obtained from any Florida Department of Environmental Protection Agency}


1. Identify a body of water that meets the needs of this project and locate sampling stations.
2. Prior to arriving at the site go over sampling stations on a map with the students
3. Become familiar with all tests used in the water quality sampling.
4. Make sure students understand how to use the test kits.
5. Obtain examples of scientific papers for student reference.
6. Obtain a copy of the state surface water standards from the local Department of Environmental Protection.


Background: Students should be familiar with basic water pollution prior to beginning this project. Students should also become familiar with how the test kits work prior to beginning this project. Students rotate individual tests from the kits each week , thus giving them an opportunity perform most of the tests. This lesson is designed as an ongoing project but can be used for any period of time.

I: Sampling Procedures
1. Students should work in small groups of 3 to 4 students. Each group being responsible for one or two tests. (This will depend on class time, and class size)

2. Student groups are assigned specific tests from the test outfits listed above. Students should be sure they feel comfortable with their particular tests. This can be done the day before by providing students water samples in the classroom and conducting the tests according to the instructions provided with the kits.

3. On a map of the sampling site, at least two sites per test should be established. These are the designated sampling stations for the entire project.

4. At the sampling site student groups will conduct their tests at the designated sampling stations. One member of each group will record the data.

5. At least one sample per station will be brought back to the classroom for the coliform tests. The Coliscan kit provides pre-sterilized sampling containers for this test.

6. After students have collected data from the site and returned to the classroom, one member from each group will enter the data into the computer on a spreadsheet. Two students will perform the coliform tests according to the instructions provided with the Coliscan kit. This test takes at least 24-48 hours depending on whether an incubator is used. At room temperature it may take up to 72 hours for growth to occur.

7. After data has been collected for five consecutive weeks students average their data for each test parameter as a class. Students then compare their data to previous class’s data in their final paper.

8. The first class to start this project will compare their data to the to the Florida state standards for surface water.

II Final Paper
1. Students write a scientific paper describing their results. The paper should be in the following format.

A. Introduction: This should include an introduction to water pollution in general and a description of the sampling site.

B. Methods: This should include a detailed description of how the tests were performed and how the data was analyzed.

C. Results: This should include the results of the students’ tests as well as any comparisons to other data used. Results should be presented in tables and graphs.

D. Discussion: This is should include the interpretation of students’ data.

E. References: This section contains a list of all reference material used by the student


Final Paper: Rubric
1. Paper should demonstrate students' understanding of the human influences on water quality.
2. Paper should be set up in proper scientific form and include the following:
A. Introduction: Students demonstrate a basic understanding of water pollution. (15 points)
B. Methods: A detailed section on how the tests were performed and how the data was obtained. (15 points)
C. Results: Students should include tables and graphs of data. (25 points)
D. Discussion: Students should demonstrate their abilities to analyze and interpret scientific data. (40 points)
E. References: Students should include a list of all references used in writing this paper. (5 points)
The teacher may wish to use another evaluation method, however, the discussion section of the paper should carry the most weight. The section demonstrates students comprehensive and analytical skills.


A prior understanding of the mechanisms involved in water pollution is required.
This project can become an ongoing project by having students compare data to that of previous classes.

Web Links

Web supplement for The Water Detectives
US Enviornmental Protection Agencey

Web supplement for The Water Detectives
Florida Department of Environmental Protection

Web supplement for The Water Detectives

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