Tips here are presented in the context of using our Kids’ Testkit as part of your excursion.
hese tips were originally written with school groups in mind, however, they also work for planning fun sessions for adults and community groups. If you have run a session and have tips for others, please share [share link].
You can use the Water Rangers testkit, or modify what you do based on equipment you have. Citizen science can be done with just your eyes, after all!
Before you start planning your excursion, we suggest you follow these steps in order to have a successful day of water testing.
- Decide where you are going. Your location should have an easy access point to the water.
- Scout out the area. Make sure your location is right for your group. For example, an open area with shallow water is much better than an area that is narrow. Choosing a good site is integral! Make sure there is enough space to gather everyone together, and so you can monitor activities.
- Ask the administrator of your school/organization. Tell them dates, cost and, if you have a curriculum, how this excursion relates to it. Inform the parents. Whether that’s through a permission form or an email.
- Arrange transportation. Are you walking or taking a bus?
- Choose your time. What time will you be going out? Mornings can be cooler. How long will the program take? If it’s longer, will you be providing the snacks/lunch? Will the group pack their own snacks/lunches? Consider the attention span of the group leave time for unexpected problems.
- Gather supplies. We suggest that you have a table to serve as a focal point for the group and allow you to display the testing equipment.
- Check the weather. Remind the group to wear sunscreen, hats, bug spray, and appropriate footwear (we suggest rubber boots).
- Figure out supervision and group size. We suggest to have at least two adults, one to lead, and one to help. Smaller groups work better. When we run excursions, we use multiple testkits, so each testkit is assigned per 4 people. While you can have less kits, it will take more time for everyone to try the tests (and some may be left out). For the best experience, limit to 20-25 students, unless you have extra help.
- Get knowledgeable! Read through this document and do your own research on water and the body of water you will be visiting. We also suggest trying out testing before teaching others.
Making the most of your test day
- It is important to consider how much time you have. Many teachers find that doing an introduction before they go allows them to focus just on the physical components (testing, collecting garbage). You might also want to leave extra learning lessons for after.
- A fun way to add excitement to your trip is to use challenges to get the students involved and motivated to participate. For example, at the end of the testing, have a round of questions: What do you think the water temperature will be? (Closest answer wins)
- Start by explaining how the pH relates to conductivity. (In the Ottawa River, the pH is about 7 and the conductivity is about 100. In the Rideau River, the pH is about 8 and the conductivity is between 300-500.) After taking the water’s pH, ask: what do you think the conductivity will be? (Closest answer wins)
- We suggest you include a shoreline cleanup as part of your day. Bring garbage bags and have students collect any trash they see along the shore. Have a second bag for recyclables.
- Use challenges and prizes (like our badges and stickers) to encourage students. Some examples of challenges include:
- Who can find the most unusual object in the trash collected?
- Who can collect the heaviest bag of garbage?
- Who can collect the most recyclables?
- Who found the largest item?
- Who found the most cigarette butts?
NOTE: If you are conducting a shoreline clean-up, bring gloves and/or hand sanitizer for after. Garbage pickers (available at the dollar store) are also a popular addition. Use these at your own risk though… many kids like to ‘have fun’ and you’ll need to supervise!
Use a few of these questions to begin your session.
Where does the water you drink come from? Fill in with the right answer according to your location. Many come from a local river or aquifer.
What do you know about where your water comes from? Fill in the answer according to your location. Answers will vary.
How you ever tested water quality before? Most people say no. We love this stat! Please share your % result with us! With prompting, some students will have tested their pool.
What does conductivity mean? Conductivity is how we measure the water’s ability to conduct electricity. We record out information in μS/cm (micro-seimens).
What does it mean when your water is hard? It means that there is a higher amount of mineral content in your water. When you wash your hands in hard water, the soap doesn’t lather much because the minerals in the water combine with the soap molecules.
What is a watershed? A watershed is a piece of land that catches rain and snow and drains into a marsh, stream, river, lake or groundwater.
Why does the pH of water matter? pH stands for “potential of Hydrogen”. The pH matters because it controls how easy it is for nutrients to be available and how easily toxic substances can dissolve in water.
Why is it important to test water temperature? Water temperature is important because it impacts other aspects of water quality such as pH, conductivity and dissolved oxygen.
For the ambitious teacher, you can also introduce your class to bio-indicators.
Bio indicators are: fish, periphyton (benthic algae that attaches to rocks/plants), macrophytes (aquatic plants) and benthic macro-invertebrates.
“Macroinvertebrates are organisms that lack a spine and are large enough to be seen with the naked eye. Examples of macro- invertebrates include flatworms, crayfish, snails, clams and insects, such as dragonflies. “ [HamiltonHarbor.ca]