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After learning about insects, dissecting owl pellets and exploring the biomes of Africa - part of a broader focus on biology and the second Montessori Great Lesson, the Coming of Life - 6-9 students are closing out the year by diving into water studies. They're learning that water is what all living things need to survive, how water filters through soil, how water picks up pollutants and which organisms can and cannot tolerate pollution.

6-9 water studies

On Friday, they kicked off their water unit with a visit from Connie Nye, environmental educator, author and owner of SWEET, who taught them about water usage, conservation and pollution. Students took turns pouring water through layers of soil and along the roadways, waterways and land of a model town to examine how water carries matter in its path and gets absorbed into the ground or runs off.

In the next few weeks, the 6-9 students will also be learning about pH levels and building water filters using sand, cotton, cloth and rocks. Next Friday, they will take a field trip to the DuPont Environmental Education Center for a program called Water Wise and learn about the water cycle, tidal pools and wetlands. Their water studies will culminate with a trip down to the stream in the WMS woods, where students will look for the presence (or absence) of macroinvertebrates like dragonfly and mayfly nymphs to help them make conclusions about the stream's water pollution level.

"Because we have this outdoor space, we have the ability to personalize the problem of pollution," said lead 6-9 teacher Melissa Connelly. "It's important to keep our stream clean because it affects other areas. Pollutants [in the water] can threaten some species' survival."

Melissa hopes observing environmental effects on the water running through our own backyard will lead the Lower Elementary students to a greater understanding of our human impact on the planet.

"We can be a positive force on these things ...or a negative force," she said.