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Runoff to Rivers Program

Runoff to Rivers: An Issues and Actions Approach to Water Quality Education

The Runoff to Rivers Project is a five-lesson water quality issues and actions curriculum that targets students in grades 6-12 in Kansas City, MO. Each lesson is aligned with the Missouri Show Me Science Standards. 

Lesson 1- Watershed Introduction: Students learn about the watersheds of the Kansas City, Missouri area and how to identify the watershed in which their school is located. They participate in an activity that targets the “horizontal water cycle,” i.e. how stormwater, drinking water, waste water, and ground water are connected. Students identify how impervious surfaces, agricultural runoff, and other human activities contribute to water pollution problems and how these problems become issues. The concept of Best Management Practices (BMPs) is introduced and examples of how BMPs are used to mitigate water quality issues are given.   

Lessons 2 and 3- Field Experiences: Students participate in two days of hands-on, data-generating water quality lessons at a water site. Small groups of students rotate through a set of activities that include: non-chemical monitoring tests, chemical monitoring tests, measuring the amount of oxygen in the water, and seining for and identifying macroinvertebrates. Each activity includes a data collection component and all collection protocols are followed. Adult mentors are recruited to assist students with the field activities.

Lesson 4- Understanding the Numbers: Data collected from each field activity is analyzed to determine the overall condition of the water site. Connections are made on how runoff volumes and stream flow impact pollutant levels and how that, in turn, impacts the quality and quantity of macros (water quality indicators) found there. Based on the analyzed data, students generate a list of water quality problems and issues associated with the tested water and discuss appropriate BMPs that could be used to improve water quality.     

Lesson 5- Issues and Actions: Students work in small groups and as a class to choose a problem from the data analysis checklist, identify an associated issue, and design a BMP to address the problem. Class discussions focus on solutions to the identified problem, obstacles that may arise in coming up with a solution, and how to overcome those obstacles in order to develop an implementation plan. Each group then gives a short presentation explaining their BMP plan.  

Follow-up: Upon completing the Runoff to Rivers Project, students will be given the same survey to assess changes in knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors. The results are also used to evaluate the effectiveness of the Runoff to Rivers Project and to make changes to the lessons as needed. Teachers will be encouraged to have their students adopt a group’s issue to investigate and research further and to implement an appropriate BMP for that issue. The Project’s staff will provide assistance and supplies as needed. 

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