School water project makes math, science fun


by Jay Crandall

Posted on February 22, 2012 at 4:10 PM

Updated Wednesday, Feb 22 at 4:11 PM

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- On a recent school day, students from Ms. Marsh’s science class flowed like a river down the halls of Mountanside Middle School in Scottsdale.

Sixth-grader Nolan Allen said their mission was simple.

“We are taking these low-flow aerators and putting them on all the science sinks in the school,“ he said.

But what on the surface seems straightforward is a lot deeper, according to Kerry Schwartz, with Arizona Project WET.

“It is really about that stem focus, that science technology engineering and math,” Schwartz said.

Project WET stands for Water Education for Teachers. They have teamed up with the Nature Conservancy and with a focus on water usage, they work with teachers to bring learning to life.

“How do we get kids to become creative and critical thinkers, that is what the whole program is about and we work with best instructional practices," Schwartz said. "We try to help teachers become facilitators of learning so that it is a very student-centered classroom instead of the teacher-up-front type of classroom.”

For science students at Mountainside, it started with a water audit at school.

“We turned on the water and conducted three trials," said sixth-grader Lauryn Kustudia. "One with the current aerator they had that they were using, one without the aerator, which was a lot of water being wasted, and then we put on the new low-flow aerator and we saved so much water with it. “

But to know that, they were suddenly, and happily doing complicated math conversions.

“We've got to get from milliliters per second to gallons per year,“ Schwartz said.

It is scientific practice come to life and Nolan said they loved it.

“You get to actually put them on and test the water, it is really a fun experience," Nolan said. "When we do the experiment it is not just looking down and reading, like doing nothing.”

But the students did more than test, they extrapolated what they learned to a bigger picture. What if they put aerators on all the science class sinks?

“And we conducted an experiment and we discovered we would be saving 80 liters of water per minute for the science sinks,” according to Lauryn.

And without even thinking about learning, they put those math formulas to work and totaled up some big savings.

“For just one little small hunk of metal, it is saving about 208,014 gallons of water per year,” Nolan said.

The students then turned scientific proof into practical knowledge to convince the city of Scottsdale to buy the aerators.

“To save money, and that old saying you've got to spend some to earn some,“ Nolan said.

And it is that seamless stream of knowledge that Schwartz said pays off for all of us.

“But it is worth it when you can see those students really getting it and those light bulbs going off in their heads," Schwartz said.