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Water Quality Testing

Name of Corresponding Unit Plan: Human Impact on Lake Champlain

Grade Level: 4-12

Common Core Standards
RS.3. Follow precisely a complex multistep procedure when carrying out experiments.

WH/S.7. Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question or solve a problem.

WH/S.1. Write arguments focused on discipline-specific content.

Content Areas: Science, Language Arts

Recommended Length/Duration: Three 45-60 minute class periods as well as time to gather water samples.

Learning Goals: Students will learn about the factors that affect water quality. Students will measure the chemical components of various water samples. Students will use water quality measurement data as evidence to support an action position.


  1. Introduce the activity by describing the components of water that can be measured in your water test kit. Discuss the importance of each component and how it affects the water quality.
  2. Assign students to collect water samples from a variety of local sources. These might include:
    • School tap water
    • Home well
    • Free flowing stream
    • Road ditch
    • Small pond
    • Large lake or reservoir
  3. Divide students into lab groups and distribute water test kits. Review instructions for using the kits provided by the supplier. Include any safety precautions.
  4. Have each lab group assess one of the lab samples and record their findings on their lab sheets. When the tests are complete, record the data for each group on the board and have students copy the data for other groups on their own data sheet.
  5. Discuss how the measurements for the water samples were similar or different.
  6. Have student use the data as evidence to support a position on each of the two questions posed at the bottom of the lab sheet. Responses should be presented as a coherent paragraph.
  7. Have students share their writing. Discuss competing points of view or any disagreements about the use of evidence from your water quality data.

Assessments: Evaluate lab sheets for completeness and accuracy. Use the provided or another writing rubric to evaluate the responses to the questions.

Materials/Resources: Water test kits that includes at least four test components (e.g. dissolved oxygen, chlorides, phosphates, water hardness, nitrate, ammonia, pH), Water Quality Testing worksheet and lab sheets (pdf).

Special Considerations: The worksheet is designed so that it can be adapted for use with a variety of water testing kits. Some tests are best performed in the field. You can arrange for students taking the samples to do this, or have them perform the test in the lab for practice and describe how the results might be different in a natural setting. Students with writing challenges may dictate or present their responses orally. Teachers may substitute or add tests for other water components.

Extensions: Students may want to analyze additional water. A field trip to the local waste treatment facility would be appropriate.

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