After the first couple of units in the grade 11 University Chemistry (SCH3U1), students have reviewed and gained a sufficient background to begin a field assignment. 

Introduction and Collection of Prior Knowledge

By allowing students the opportunity to collect raw data, make observations, question, reason and critically analyse, I feel we are bringing real science into the class.  To begin, students' prior knowledge regarding the topics that will be the focus of the inquiry project are assessed and tabulated.  To streamline this tabulation and information gathering, the services of was used.  Several questions were asked and information was exported into an Excel file.

Field Sample/Data Collection

Students were brought to a local stream that runs off the Credit River.  Students were placed in groups and water samples from different locations of the stream were obtained.  Samples from close to the shoreline, near the centre of the stream, near the surface and close to the bottom were collected.  Using pH paper and a thermometer initial values for pH and temperature were obtained.  This samples were sealed and taken back to class.

Once in class, a PASCO probe was used to accurately measure dissolved solutes, pH and temperature.

Proposed Problem/Purpose

Students were presented with the task to write a paper that mirrored the format and layout of a "science paper".  An example of a real science paper was used to teach students the format and style.  This was was to address several questions:

  1. Given the geology of the area (limestone base), what do you expect the pH of your water sample to be?  Discuss any potential differences.
  2. Consider and discuss ecological repurcussions of your findings.
  3. Propose a method that could be used to help clean or treat water found in our local watershed.

Several other requirements are outlined in the attached file.  Also, initially, this assignment was to include soil samples but this portion was excluded at the end.

Constant Incorporation into Curriculum

Although our samples and measurements were taken in one day, assessments and evaluations were created to encourage students to reflect on their water samples.  Various topics in the grade 11 University Chemistry course lend themselve to this sort of project.  They include:

  • Acid base chemistry
  • pH scale
  • Dissociation of ionic compounds
  • Acid-base neutralization
  • Qualitative and quantitative analysis
  • Predicting precipitation reactions
  • Water chemistry
  • Solubility
  • Solution chemistry

As each topic was covered, students were directed to consider their findings.

Peer Review/Editing

Students were given time in class to peer review and edit another student's work.  This first draft was to be submitted along withh the final copy.

Review of Initial Prior Knowledge and Consolidation

As a class, we reviewed student's prior knowledge, which led to a discussion of what they had learned through their field study and how course curriculum supported their work.