This year, high schools across Canada are conducting water quality tests on their local water sources, using testing kits provided to high school science classes by an outreach group called Science Rendezvous. According to an information packet, “The Canada Wide Experiment, from Science Rendezvous is an outreach activity to engage students and get them excited about water science. This is a unique field trip opportunity where students will learn about watersheds.” Teacher Ms. Brenda Yorke and Riverside’s librarian, Ms. Susan Henderson, are coordinating the experiment at Riverside – students here tested water samples from the Coquitlam river and the Oxford pond with help from visiting SFU students on October 6, 2017.

Students testing water quality at the Coquitlam River.

This is a unique field trip opportunity where students will learn about watersheds.
Ms. Brenda Yorke

Each testing kit had nine different tests for the parameters used to determine water quality: temperature, acidity, alkalinity, etc. Ms. Yorke’s Science 9 class was split up into groups to do the tests, then convened at the end to combine all the different results to find the overall water quality of the river. “It was cool how each student got to do a different part of the kit, so no one was excluded. Everyone was working together towards one goal,” said Katelyn Fleming, a student in Yorke’s class. The kit provided by Science Rendezvous is more complex than basic chemistry, thus the students need someone to guide them through the steps of using the kits, said Yorke. SFU is the coordinator for the experiment in the greater Vancouver area, so they send a mentor down to each of the participating schools.

According to Fleming, the students had independence to complete the experiment. “The people from SFU came and told us what to do; they were there to assist us if we needed help, but it really, it was in the hands of the students to do the experiment and figure the different parts of the testing kit out.” After all the tests are done, schools are encouraged to upload the results to Science Rendezvous’ website, to be compared with all the other data from across the nation. The tests revealed that right behind Riverside, the Oxford pond was rated 82 out of 100 on the Water Quality Index, while the Coquitlam river rated 89.

For Ms. Yorke’s class, the tests have a very different meaning than the cross-Canada experiment. “For our class, we’re looking at how the Coquitlam river watershed’s water quality impacts the plants, animals, atmosphere, and our community – as well as how we live in the community impacts all of those in return,” said Yorke. “We’re looking at the water quality and the class will be comparing it to the living things that use the water, to see if we can make any connections. It also matches well with what we’re doing in class – it’s a good fit.” The experiment was also an opportunity for students to do a more hands-on type of science. “I think it’s important because it gives students a different perspective on learning, because some students learn better doing hands-on experiments,” said Fleming. “It was cool because we got to interact rather than sitting, listening, and reading.”