This phase of the program introduces the students to fieldwork at a
local water body, preferably a stream or creek. Taking students into
the field after the in-class lesson gives them a chance to apply the
information they have learned in a tangible way. The purpose of this
phase is to help students gain a greater understanding of the complex
ways in which environmental factors and pollution can directly or
indirectly affect aquatic life via effects on water quality. One student
claimed that the program “made me see how small differences in the
water can have such a large effect on various animals and small organisms.” This phase bases the water quality collection methods and supplies upon a community science program, Adopt-a-Stream, and can
be adapted to local or regional water quality testing standards.
Students are split into small groups of three to five, with one men-
tor or instructor available to work with the group for the entirety of
the field activity. Mentors work with students to develop hypotheses
regarding the data students can collect. This practice helps provide
focus and guidance as the students (1) conduct a macroinvertebrate
survey, (2) test various water chemistry parameters, and (3) collect
samples for bacterial counts (Table 1). Guidelines and procedures
for each of these tests as outlined by South Carolina Adopt-a-Stream
(Callahan et al., 2017) can be found in the Supplemental Material.
Additional water quality tests can be utilized to supplement classroom
learning, such as tests for nitrogen, phosphorus, and other pollutants.
Depending on available funding, the number of water quality tests
and the types of materials and equipment used for the tests can be
modified (e.g., using low-cost testing kits instead of high-end testing
equipment, or even accessing free data from sources such as the
Adopt-a-Stream website). A list of the materials used during this case
study can be found in the Supplemental Material.
No particular order needs to be followed in which students collect data, although it is ideal to start students downstream and work
upstream to prevent downstream disturbance of collection sites.
Figure 1. A four-step framework was utilized that included the phases Learn, Collect, Report, and Communicate (LCRC) to
Table 1. Layout of tests conducted as part of the Adopt-a-Stream program, with estimated time
maximize student learning. Steps for each phase and expected outcomes are included.
allotment and explanation of tests.
Test Time Allotment Explanation
Water chemistry 30–45 minutes Measurements of parameters including oxygen, temperature (air and water), pH,
Bacterial 15–20 minutes Plating of collected water samples for detection of E. coli; incubation period of
24 hours needed following plating
Macroinvertebrates 45–75 minutes Collection of macroinvertebrates from the water source through leaf packs,
streambed disturbance, or kicknets, followed by identification using published