Academy Prep St. Petersburg (APSP) partnered with USF St. Petersburg to complete testing for lead in the water. USF St. Petersburg (USFSP) received a grant to test the Midtown community in St. Petersburg and APSP middle schoolers were eager to help. They were interested in understanding why Flint, Michigan had lead in the water and if there could be lead in the water locally.
The securing of the water bottles and lab to do the testing was done by USFSP. My responsibility was to find a committed group of students to spearhead the testing and educate their peers. I started an after-school program on Friday afternoons with 13 interested and motivated students. We ran the group from 3:30-4:45 and met for 8 weeks.
Research: As with any science experiment, the first step was getting the group to do research. They researched what lead was and what happened in Flint, Michigan. They also researched harmful effects of lead on the body. They used ChromeBooks to do their research and submitted it through Google Forms.
Practice: After the research we practiced the actual water sampling with a set of water bottles. I trained the students so that they could successfully complete the water sampling at home.
Parent Consent: A parent consent form went home with each student and I required a parent/guardian signature on a separate form where students filled out the information about where they collected the samples.
Recruit: I had students in our after school program recruit their classmates to see me at lunch to get trained on the water sampling process.
Collecting Data: I used an Excel spreadsheet to track the date I gave the bottle to each student and when I got it back. This was really important because when we got the results back, it allowed me to be able to contact families to explain to them the results.
Community Education: I sent home letters with each family explaining how much lead was in their water and inviting them to join us at a presentation about lead provided by the Department of Health
An experiment like this has many moving parts. Additionally, you must have a large level of trust in your students. Not only did my students have to actually complete the sampling, they had to do it correctly. Finally, parent/guardian support was essential, as water could not have been collected without their permission.
My students and I grew a lot from completing this research. I would recommend student lead research to any other educators hoping to inspire a future generation of scientists.
Ms. Laura Manke
5th and 6th grade Social Studies and Health Teacher
Academy Prep St. Petersburg