Curricular Unit: Environmental Engineering and Water Chemistry

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

Quick Look

Grade Level: 8 (7-9)

Choose From: 3 lessons and 6 activities

Subject Areas: Science and Technology

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
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

Summary

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 meets 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.

NGSS Performance Expectation

MS-ETS1-1. Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions. (Grades 6 - 8)

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This unit focuses on the following Three Dimensional Learning aspects of NGSS:
Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Define a design problem that can be solved through the development of an object, tool, process or system and includes multiple criteria and constraints, including scientific knowledge that may limit possible solutions.

Alignment agreement:

The more precisely a design task's criteria and constraints can be defined, the more likely it is that the designed solution will be successful. Specification of constraints includes consideration of scientific principles and other relevant knowledge that is likely to limit possible solutions.

Alignment agreement:

All human activity draws on natural resources and has both short and long-term consequences, positive as well as negative, for the health of people and the natural environment.

Alignment agreement:

The uses of technologies and any limitations on their use are driven by individual or societal needs, desires, and values; by the findings of scientific research; and by differences in such factors as climate, natural resources, and economic conditions.

Alignment agreement:

NGSS Performance Expectation

MS-PS1-2. Analyze and interpret data on the properties of substances before and after the substances interact to determine if a chemical reaction has occurred. (Grades 6 - 8)

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This unit focuses on the following Three Dimensional Learning aspects of NGSS:
Science & Engineering Practices Disciplinary Core Ideas Crosscutting Concepts
Analyze and interpret data to determine similarities and differences in findings.

Alignment agreement:

Science knowledge is based upon logical and conceptual connections between evidence and explanations.

Alignment agreement:

Each pure substance has characteristic physical and chemical properties (for any bulk quantity under given conditions) that can be used to identify it.

Alignment agreement:

Substances react chemically in characteristic ways. In a chemical process, the atoms that make up the original substances are regrouped into different molecules, and these new substances have different properties from those of the reactants.

Alignment agreement:

  • The management of waste produced by technological systems is an important societal issue. (Grades 6 - 8) More Details

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  • Knowledge gained from other fields of study has a direct effect on the development of technological products and systems. (Grades 6 - 8) More Details

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  • Humans can devise technologies to conserve water, soil, and energy through such techniques as reusing, reducing, and recycling. (Grades 9 - 12) More Details

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  • Science and technology affect, and are affected by, society (Grades K - 5) More Details

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  • Human activity is dependent upon and affects Earth's resources and systems (Grades 6 - 7) More Details

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  • Science understanding is developed through the use of science process skills, scientific knowledge, scientific investigation, reasoning, and critical think (Grades 6 - 8) More Details

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Worksheets and Attachments

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

More Curriculum Like This

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...

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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...

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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.

Who's Down the Well?

Students learn about several possible scenarios of contamination to drinking water, which comes from many different sources, including surface water and groundwater. They analyze the movement of sample contaminants through groundwater, in a similar way to how environmental engineers analyze the phys...

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Unit Schedule

Assessment

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.

Contributors

Jessica Ray; Phyllis Balcerzak; Barry Williams; Carleigh Samson

Copyright

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

Supporting Program

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

Acknowledgements

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: October 11, 2019

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