Earth as a giant water filter: Students learn to engineer clean water

An article in the October 2018 issue of Science and Children looks at groundwater and the natural processes of infiltration as a vital means for cleaning our water. Co-authored by Jonathon Kilpatrick (Greenwood Elementary School in Pennsylvania), Nanette Marcum-Dietrich and John Wallace (both of Millersville University of Pennsylvania), and Concord Consortium Senior Scientist Carolyn Staudt, “Engineering a Model of the Earth as a Water Filter” describes ways our Water SCIENCE project helps students learn that as water travels through the Earth’s layers, it’s cleaned.

Students build simple water filters

Since about half of the nation’s drinking water comes from groundwater—over 15 million households rely on private groundwater wells as their source of fresh water—including the natural process of water filtration in the school curriculum is essential, but is often overlooked. By constructing simple stackable filters with cups and various filtering agents such as charcoal, soil, and gravel, young students were able to model the Earth’s natural processes and compare the most successful filtering agents.

“Allowing students time and access to materials to test and retest their ideas reinforces the notion that science is not a series of discrete lessons but an ongoing cycle of ideas, investigations, and experimentation, and that designing engineering solutions involves multiple iterations of testing and revising.”

Read the article and find out what intrigued students most.

Plus try our “Can you filter your water?” activity from our @Concord newsletter. (And subscribe for free so you don’t miss any issues.)