Students see pollution in action

Published 10:31 pm Monday, November 7, 2016

Northern Shores Elementary School students recently learned how pollution affects the community and the watershed.

Fourth- and fifth-graders participated in three hour-long sessions on Monday. There will be additional sessions on Thursday. Jamie Durden, environmental engineering technician with the city of Suffolk, came in to assist Nina Valdivieso, the school’s gifted resource teacher.

Durden led a session using a watershed model to show students how pollution affects storm water runoff, while Valdivieso led an oil pollution activity.

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“This is great — they love this,” Valdivieso said. “It really kind of sinks in with them.”

The watershed model featured a residential neighborhood, a factory, a farm, roads and waterways. Durden explained the model and asked the students about different types of pollution.

For each pollution type, Durden had a corresponding simulator — green Kool-Aid served as fertilizer, and a variety of spices served as other pollutants.

After applying the spices to the model, Durden and a student poured water — representing a storm — at different points on the model. The water carried the “pollutants” to the basin at the base of the model, which changed from clear to a reddish-brown hue.

Students looked on with excitement as they visually experienced how pollution travels with storm water run-off.

“After we tell them what they are looking at, they realize what’s happening,” Durden said.

“They are learning different sources of pollution and how to prevent it.”

In Valdivieso’s room across the hall, students learned about oil spills.

Valdivieso read about major oil spills over the years and the ways they were cleaned up. Then, students were tasked with cleaning up “oil spills” of their own.

At each desk was a baking pan and an array of “cleaning utensils,” which included plasticware, a pipette and a cotton ball. The pans were filled with water, and the teacher placed a few drops of “oil” in each one.

Students toyed with each cleaning instrument to determine which one cleaned the spill most effectively.

The students thoroughly enjoyed the activities and agreed it would help them retain the information better.

“I like hands-on things,” said Ryan DeLong. “You got to see how you do it.”

“Putting fun into it makes me remember it a lot more,” said Jenna Lautieri.

“When you do this, it makes you learn how it affects the wildlife.”

The teachers have noticed the effectiveness of the seminars as well.

“They’re using scientific steps in everyday life,” said Eric Pulley, fifth-grade math and science teacher at the school.

“We think these are lessons they are going to take into adulthood and be better stewards of the environment,” Valdivieso said.