Objective: To introduce students to the study of wastewater and water pollution control.
Materials: For each group: PART I - 1 quart jar 2/3 filled with clean water, 1 empty
quart jar, 1/4 cup sand and small rocks, 1/4 cup dirt (may include decaying leaves,
sticks, etc.), 1 tablespoon salt, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. PART II - Jars of various
sizes, 1 small square of wire screen, cheesecloth, 2 spoons, small funnels.
Divide the class into small groups of 3-5 students.
Have students make lists of the various contributors to wastewater in the area (for
example homes, businesses, factories, non-point pollution).
Have students "make" wastewater by adding all of their ingredients to the jar of clean
Discuss the value of water before and after it has been used and initiate the cleanup
Students should use the screen, cheesecloth, funnels and spoons to remediate/filter
their wastewater. The water should appear cleaner and be relatively free of any floating
debris. What state of the wastewater treatment process have you emulated?
Is the water really clean? What other impurities might still be present? What additional
procedures might be necessary to clean up the water? How might water pollution be
avoided in the first place? (Note: This is an excellent opportunity to begin discussion of
personal responsibility and non-point pollution.) What type of wastewater treatment
system is used in your area?
Set up a tour of the nearest wastewater treatment plant.
Show video "Nature's Way" which can be borrowed from the Big Sioux Water Festival
lending library at no cost. This video is a 12-minute show describing the wastewater
Filter: Any medium through which liquids or gases are passed to remove particulate
material or other undesirable constituents
Impurities: Something that, when mixed into something else, makes that mixture unclean
or lowers the quality
Non-point pollution: pollution that cannot be traced to a single source (Ex: outlet or pipe)
because it comes from many individual places or a widespread area
Pollution: Contaminants in the air, water, or soil that cause harm to human health or the
Wastewater: Water that has been used for domestic or industrial purposes
Wastewater treatment system: Physical, chemical, and biological processes used to
remove pollutants from wastewater before discharging it into a water body
Activity source: The Association of Environmental Authorities
Social Studies, Science
SD Standards for 4th grade:
Prior Preparation: Prior to this
activity, students should become
familiar with the wastewater treatment
process by reviewing the US EPA
poster "How Do We Treat Our
Wastewater?" and completing the
activity "Where Does Your Used Water
Go?" activity on the back of the poster.
After completing this activity and to
become familiar with additional
terminology, have students complete
the "Wastewater Word Search".
wastewater, filter, impurities, pollution,
wastewater treatment system,