Unit Environmental Engineering and Water Chemistry

Three images: The Earth ablaze, a round water droplet, the three-arrow recycling symbol around the planet Earth.
Environmental Engneers help protect the Earth and the environment
Copyright © (left to right) Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne's Kids' Page; 2008 José Manuel Suárez, Wikimedia Commons; Howard County, Maryland http://kids.azag.gov/content/teens_globalwarming http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Water_drop_001.jpg http://cc.howardcountymd.gov/displayprimary.aspx?id=6442459560


Students are introduced to the fundamentals of environmental engineering as well as the global air, land and water quality concerns facing today's environmental engineers. After a lesson and activity to introduce environmental engineering, students learn more about water chemistry aspects of environmental engineering. Specifically, they focus on groundwater contamination and remediation, including sources of contamination, adverse health effects of contaminated drinking water, and current and new remediation techniques. Several lab activities provide hands-on experiences with topics relevant to environmental engineering concerns and technologies, including removal efficiencies of activated carbon in water filtration, measuring pH, chromatography as a physical separation method, density and miscibility.
This engineering curriculum aligns to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Engineering Connection

Environmental engineers are specialists in a wide variety of topics concerning our natural world, energy and the sustainability of our planet. Currently, areas of peak interest include global climate change, reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide, alternative fuel sources, and groundwater quality. Engineers have introduced geologic carbon sequestration as an option for capturing anthropogenic carbon dioxide released from industrial plants and on-road and off-road vehicles. Other engineers have investigated ethanol, hydrogen and algae as creative fuel alternatives to gasoline. Because of the importance of worldwide clean drinking water, some engineers have developed remediation technologies for contaminated groundwater. Skills important to engineers include problem solving and design, preparing presentations and lectures, communication and creativity, as well as a good working knowledge of the physical and chemical properties and behavioral characteristics of water and contaminants.

Unit Overview

Begin this unit by conducting the environmental engineering sub-unit: Introduction to Environmental Engineering lesson, which begins with a PowerPoint presentation, and move to its associated activity, Thinking Green!, as a prelude to the next sub-unit.

Next, conduct the water chemistry sub-unit: Introduction to Water Chemistry lesson, followed by its associated activities, Chromatography Lab, Red Cabbage Chemistry and Water Remediation Lab, which can be taught in any order. Then conduct a two-part lab, presented as Density Column Lab – Part 1 and Density Column Lab - Part 2 activities, and conclude by presenting the Density & Miscibility lesson.

Educational Standards

Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.

All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN), a project of D2L (www.achievementstandards.org).

In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.

See individual lessons and activities for standards alignment.


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Unit Schedule

Worksheets and Attachments

Visit [www.teachengineering.org/curricularunits/view/wst_environmental_unit] to print or download.

More Curriculum Like This

Middle School Lesson
Density & Miscibility

Through the density column lab activities, students see liquids and solids of different densities interact without an understanding of why the resulting layers do not mix. This lesson gives students insight on some of the most fundamental chemical properties of water and how it interacts with differ...

Middle School Lesson
Introduction to Water Chemistry

Students are presented with examples of the types of problems that environmental engineers solve, specifically focusing on water quality issues. Topics include the importance of clean water, the scarcity of fresh water, tap water contamination sources, and ways environmental engineers treat contamin...

Middle School Lesson
Introduction to Environmental Engineering

Students are presented with examples of the types of problems that environmental engineers solve, specifically focusing on air and land quality issues.


Pre- and Post-Unit Quiz: To conduct an overall pre/post assessment of this curricular unit, administer the Pre-Unit Assessment to the class before anything has been taught. Then, after completion of lesson 3, administer the Post-Unit Assessment to the same students and compare pre- to post-scores. The Post-Unit Assessment also includes questions about the individual activities performed during the unit. Compare pre- to post-scores to gauge the impact of the curricular unit on students' learning.


© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2010 Washington University in St. Louis


Jessica Ray; Phyllis Balcerzak; Barry Williams; Carleigh Samson

Supporting Program

GK-12 Program, School of Engineering and Applied Science, Washington University in St. Louis


This curriculum was developed with support from National Science Foundation GK-12 grant number DGE 0538541. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the NSF, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.

Last modified: March 21, 2020

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