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Teacher's Introduction to Soda Bottle Hydrology

The following activities are designed to give students a better grasp of concepts relating to groundwater, aquifers, and hydrology. The first activity, Pre-Lab Construction, sets up the materials for the following activities. Activities can be conducted in sequence or individually; feel free to improvise or expand at any level, and feel free to make copies of all or any part of these activities. The suggested materials are commonly available at drug, hardware, and grocery stores. They are listed in the order they are used in the activities. Depending on what grade level you teach, and your class objectives, these activities can be used individually or collectively. They can be conducted as demonstrations (especially or younger students) or as a laboratory activity by students in higher grades. Younger students may have difficulty performing the experiments without making a mess. Students who will perform the activities can collect clear plastic two-liter soda bottles at home about two weeks before the class begins these activities. For the activities to work best, students should collect only clear bottles with formed (not attached) bottoms. The bottles need to be stabilized for the activities to work well without making a big mess. This can be done with a ring stand and a clip or rubber band. Also, each activity should be started with dry sand.

Sand can be purchased at hardware stores. Ask for "play sand," the sand used in children's sand boxes. It has less dust, is inexpensive (usually about $3 for 50 pounds), and can be put in sand boxes after the activities are completed. You can use dirt, small rocks, limestone, marbles, or even cat litter instead of play sand. For students to learn about porosity and permeability, different kinds of cat litter can be compared. Construction sand should not be used because it can sometimes harbor an infectious skin disease.

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Student's Introduction to Soda Bottle Hydrology

These activities are to help you better understand concepts relating to groundwater, aquifers, and hydrology. The first activity, Pre-Lab Construction, must be done before any of the other activities can be done. Your teacher will talk to you about getting the supplies you need.

Hydrology refers to the study of water. In this set of activities we will be studying groundwater. Groundwater makes up only 0.61% of the Earth's total water supply but accounts for approximately 5% of the Earth's total fresh water supply. When it rains some of the water flows down into the ground into regions called aquifers, which are porous rock structures that hold water (sometimes for thousands of years). Water under the ground is not pure and it dissolves small amounts of soil and rock.

We tend to take the abundance and purity of our water for granted, but we shouldn't. There is not an endless source of fresh water, and some scientists fear we could run out of it someday. Pollution and contamination of both surface and groundwater reduce the amount of clean, fresh water available. Common pollution sources include: chemical fertilizers, pesticides, waste discharge, leachate from waste dumps, accidents, leaking underground gasoline/fuel storage tanks, and illegal dumping.

Since Americans use an average of 325 liters or about 85 gallons of water a day, it is very important to understand where our water comes from and how it gets there. These activities will hive you a glimpse at the fascinating world of water.

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Copyright 2006 Drs.Cavanaugh  Last modified: March 06, 2008