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 water.

Discuss the value of water before and after it has been used and initiate the cleanup activity.

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 treatment process.

Vocabulary Glossary:
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 environment
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
Grade Level:

Subject Areas:
Social Studies, Science

SD Standards for 4th grade:
Social Studies




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, non-point pollution

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