Investigating and Using Community Resources

Follow up to the Questioning Activity
by Katy Butler, First Grade Teacher, Jackson Street School

Katy Butler sorting questions

Katy Butler sorting questions

At our last round table discussion, Renee presented work she had done with her class.
Each student was given an image of a cloud and a faucet and asked to show how the water got from one to the other (just as we did this summer). Then she had her students look closely at the representations and ask questions they had or that would push their friends’ thinking. We tried this activity ourselves, organizing and categorizing our questions.

I tried this questioning activity with my first graders (they had just recently made their own cloud to faucet representations so I could see how their thinking had evolved since the fall). I collected and typed up their questions, and noticed a couple common themes. I am planning to organize the questions with them when we return from spring vacation, but I wanted to tap into a few more resources in the meantime. After searching the Northampton Public Works website, I emailed the directors of stormwater and wastewater treatment. They sent me two resources that I wanted to share with everyone!

Here is a section of the email I sent Northampton Public Works
We came up with many questions, but most centered around gutters, drains, sewers, pipes and cleanliness. Here are some examples:

Does it fall in the sewer? Where does the water land? Does all water go in the sewer?
Does water always go in the gutter? Where does it go after the rain? Where does it go in the pipes? Where does it get transported? How does it go in the sewer? How does it get to the home?
Which house does it go to? How does the pipe go to everyones house with one pipe?
Why is there only one pipe? Which drain does it go in? How does the water get to the faucet?
Where is the cleaner? How does it get clean?

Up until now, much of our inquiry has been investigated with experiments or observable phenomenon. Now I am unsure how to help students follow these questions without being able to “see” all the pipes. I also see a misconception about waste water and drinking water that is very interesting. I am writing to see if either of you might be able to help with our inquiry. Are there maps of the water pipe lines in Northampton? Is there a location where we could visit and see the gutter connecting to a pipe or series of pipes?

I heard back immediately, and here is part of one response that may be helpful to others:
“I know the most about the stormwater system in the City of Northampton and I would be happy to help explain how the City’s different utilities work. There are three separate systems in the City:

  1. Water (clean drinking water)
  2. Sanitary Sewer (waste water from houses and buildings)
  3. Stormwater (rain water and snow melt)

I made a map of the three sets of pipes that are around Jackson Street School.

Detail from JSS map of three pipe systems

Detail from JSS map of three pipe systems

Solid blue is drinking water, red is sewer and green is stormwater with green squares for catch basins which are the grates in the roadways where rain water goes in.  I believe there are more catch basins at Jackson Street School in the parking lot and around the property that are not on the map. The students could look for these and help us add them to the map. The dashed blue lines are brooks. I know maps may be difficult for the kids to understand so I’ll look for some pictures or diagrams that might help explain all these hidden systems and where water comes from and where it goes.

Here’s a quick description. The drinking water in Northampton comes from reservoirs in Whately and Williamsburg and runs through a water filtration plant in Williamsburg before flowing through pipes to everybody’s faucet. The waste water (toilets and drains inside buildings) from houses and buildings all flows through sanitary sewer pipes to the waste water treatment plant located off of Hockanum Road. The waste water treatment plant cleans up the waste water and then sends clean water to the Connecticut River. The stormwater that is collected in roads and parking lots flows through separate pipes to the nearest brook, wetland or river and does not go through any treatment plant. That’s why we need to be careful that we don’t put anything in the storm drains except clean water.”

Perhaps we could all help fill in catch basin maps!
The map of Jackson Street School’s surrounding pipelines is especially exciting, and I plan to find more catch basins with the kids next week. I am working to plan a field trip to “see” this system in action, and may invite one of the water directors to our classroom once we have completed the storm drain map. I would be happy to help others get in contact with wastewater and stormwater departments if they are interested – perhaps we could all help fill in catch basin maps!

written by Katy & posted by Carol

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