Amherst Elementary Students Know the Water Cycle

December 20, 2019

Through the town’s drinking water permits, the Amherst Department of Public Works (DPW) funds Hitchcock Center educators, Helen Ann Sephton and Aemelia Thompson to teach a series of Water Conservation classes in all Amherst and Pelham classrooms grades 2, 4, 5, 6. By engaging youth in water system cycles and uses, these standards-based classes help develop communities that can more effectively use and manage water resources.

The programs guide students in understanding the water cycle, where our water comes from, how our water is managed, and how water issues, like pollution, in our community may impact our lives through drinking water. This year, the one-hour hands-on programs reached 37 classrooms and approximately 740 students.

Second grade students learn about water conservation. They talk about where their own water comes from and how much they think they use in a day. Students learn that typical average use is 60 gallons per day per person in the US and that most of this high quality drinking water gets flushed down toilets. But students also learn alternatives for using less water, including the simple use of an aerator on a faucet, and are able to observe this simple solution in action.

In fourth grade, students learn about the water cycle – evaporation, condensation, and precipitation — about local Atkins and Pelham reservoirs, wells, and surface versus ground water — and complete a hands on activity extracting ground water from a clean well and documenting how quickly nearby pollution will make its way into the well, to understand how contaminants might infiltrate a water supply.

Fifth graders learn about what happens to waste water in Amherst. This includes how the waste is treated, how much waste water is managed in town, and how soils naturally filtrate and clean our ground water. Students complete hands-on projects filtering water and hypothesize on effective ways to remove pollutants from this water.

In 6th grade, students get to work with a groundwater model to observe how pollution works its way into water. The hands-on portion of the lesson requires solving a mystery of arsenic contamination in a community’s water supply. Will they drill wells for more information? Look at surrounding land uses? Or, will an alternative solution be more effective to determine causes and solutions.

These water education classes are offered annually and the Hitchcock Center appreciates being a partner with the Amherst DPW to encourage water resource protection through education.

Look for more news on this growing program as the Hitchcock Center expands its partnership with the Amherst DPW’s Environmental Scientist Beth Willson to add storm water programs to the established water conservation program next year!

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