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Making a splash with clean water experiment

OUR practical goal was to obtain qualitative (that we could see and observe) evidence of substances in school fountain water and compare them to outside water from canals or ponds. The reason for doing this is that there is new evidence to suggest that indoor pollution caused by unwanted substances is just as harmful and in some cases even more harmful than outside pollution.

We therefore examined the water for micro organisms using microscopes and wall charts; metal ions and non-metal ions using chemical tests and indicators. We also have a variety of other tests which involve color changes when certain substances are in excessive amounts in our water samples.

These experiments are part of ongoing research, and in future lessons we will be testing for air pollution both indoors and outdoors.

The reasons why scientists are looking at this new theory is because of the excess use of air conditioning units, indoor heating, cooking and more obvious effects such as smoking.

We hope to be able to take our results and present them to pupils and parents in the hope that people will then be better informed and can make healthy decisions about their living environment.

Environmental Systems and Societies is a new course at British International School Shanghai for IB students and designed to bridge the gap between environmental studies and the sciences. It is also very topical, in that it involves many environmental issues such as global warming, pollution, conservation and biodiversity in ecosystems. All of these themes are studied in a manner that will enable students to appreciate that human society is both directly and indirectly linked to the environment. It also promotes critical awareness of a diversity of cultural perspectives, and that appreciation is needed and will be valued at both a local and international scale.

Although the course is not totally science based, many of the experiments are designed using chemistry, biology and physics techniques. These are then used to analyze the concepts being studied. All of them involve planning/design, data recording/processing, evaluating and drawing conclusions. The personal skills of performance techniques involve working safely and ethically as a team.

Some examples of experiments being carried out are: feeding relationships in habitats, studies of plants/insects/animals, productivity of biomes, population counts, species diversity, natural selection simulation, seed growth experiments, studies of pond/canal water, population growth, and the human impact on diversity.

When performing all of these, students are not just doing laboratory design but attempting role play and computer simulations. It involves analyzing DVDs, models and Websites. There is also a great deal of field work involved both within China and possibly abroad.

These will all be set in a global context which is especially relevant to life in China as it has developed so quickly. The need for qualified and environmentally aware personnel will be critical.


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