Lesson 6: Challenges for Earth's Reservoirs


Activity 1: Investigating and Asking Questions

Materials: access to information about water reservoirs, phone book and phone
In this activity, you will search a local, national, or even global news source for evidence of changes in a water ecosystem. In your search, you will be looking for either abiotic or biotic factors that have caused a change, disruption, or improvement in the water ecosystem. Your goal is to consider the questions from the reading and use the answers to develop a question that will aid in an investigation to solve or prevent the problem. You may use one of the following examples or find one of your own:
  • Introduction of Asian carp to the Mississippi River
  • Introduction of snakeheads to local freshwater sources
  • Zebra mussels in the Great Lakes
  • Agricultural (non-point source pollution) run-off
  • Influence of oil spills and their clean up
To develop a topic other than the ones listed, try calling a local water official and asking questions about challenges with water in your local area involving either abiotic or biotic factors. Remember that the focus of your investigation is to ultimately develop a question that will lead to inquiry and discovering or aiding in the resolution of the problem you discover.

Once you have a topic, think about what you want to focus on. If your topic is lakes, for example, what do you want to focus on about lakes? Once you have an area of focus for lakes (pollution, water purity, eutrophication, etc.), think about possible problems associated with the area of focus (causes and effects). From the problems, begin to think about possible solutions. What will help fix this problem? What will prevent this problem? From these questions, you will develop a question that will drive the inquiry that you desire.

The "Investigating and Asking Questions" activity sheet includes similar questions from the reading. Use each section to jot down notes from your investigation. As you progress, think about what it is that you want to know and then make sure that you are finding information to develop a question that will help you. The hard part is going to be to thinking about something in a solution that can be tested. For example, say you are going to focus on the impact of run-off on a lake. You want to test something to reduce run-off, so you need to think about how this can be tested. This is the root of your inquiry question. Choose one small part of the solution that can be tested and write your question so that you are looking at that one thing. You can refer to the answers to the last question of today's reading for examples. Just be sure that your own questions are unique for the activity that you have developed.
For this activity, your child will be focused on understanding how to investigate and recognize a problem with the intent of developing a meaningful question. There is always the possibility that your child will go further than is necessary with the investigation process. Be sure that she has focused on developing an inquiry question that will guide an investigation. Good inquiries have the following characteristics:
  • Student poses a question or claim that can be tested.
  • The question is based on important scientific background knowledge.
  • The inquiry leads to an investigation that allows data collection.
  • Student will be able to look at a variable that can be adjusted.
Your child will be focused on developing a question at this point, so the goal is to consider a question that will focus the inquiry on a specific issue associated with the solving of a problem or the prevention of one. Just for the sake of time, be sure to stop at the question development stage.
Here are some examples of good inquiry questions:
  • When deicing roads to melt snow, what concentrations of salt are acceptable to use?
  • What types of materials can be used to prevent landfill seepage from entering a local aquifer?
  • What are some procedures to ensure sewer lines do not break?
The student plan section includes an example on issues with a lake. Sample inquiry questions from that topic might be "What types of practices can be used to reduce or prevent agricultural run-off from entering a lake?" or "What practices will reduce the impact of run-off from a lake?"