Recently I’ve been researching the importance of minerals in our drinking water. Unfortunately, all of these important minerals are removed through distillation and purification processes. Therefore, I wanted to experience fresh mineral water straight from the source and not from a plastic bottle. A quick search revealed a spring not too far from our home. But with all the pesticides and pollution of today’s world, I was concerned about the quality of the water. Is it safe for consumption? This sounded like a great opportunity for some homeschool science!
We got together with friends of ours for a field trip to the spring. There we acted as chemists as we tested the water. Then we went on to be engineers with a STEAM activity designing water filters. The day was full of learning and water fun .
Before arriving at the spring, we bought 2 complete water analysis kits. One from Home Depot and the other from Walmart. Why two kits? First of all, for all the children to be able to participate in the testing. Secondly, so we could compare the results. The kits included separate tests for each contaminate to be tested along with easy to follow directions.
Fortunately our spring water tested negative for pesticides, nitrates and nitrites, as well as lead. Look at how high the hardness level is! This is due to all of the minerals that are present. The score sheets only indicate an “ok” range which would be acceptable within a home. We would expect spring water to score high for hardness and to be well outside the ok range. Although the minerals have health benefits for us, they are not ideal in our homes as they cause stains and other issues.
Our Spring Water Results
|Copper||Lowest on scale||Okay|
|Iron||.5||Above ok level for a home|
|Hardness||250||0 is ideal for a home|
|pH||7.5||In ok range|
After all the tests were completed, we determined that the water was drinkable. Excitedly everyone gathered the cold, falling water into cupped hands and took a drink. Due to the minerals, the water not only has a scent about it, but also a taste. A taste that the children appropriately described as “like drinking pennies”. This is quite different from our tasteless purified water.
Important Notes: We ran the tests on some creek water for comparison. The creek water tested positive for coliform bacteria. This was beneficial in showing the children the importance of drinking only the spring water as it is spouting out and not to drink from the creek it is flowing into.
We also took home some water from the spring in a plastic bottle. After letting it sit on the counter for 24 hours, we conducted the coliform bacteria test again. This test came back positive for bacteria. Here’s our theory as to why this happened. The bottle had not been sterilized beforehand. It had only been hand washed with dish soap. So we believe this introduced the water to bacteria. Then by letting the water sit on the counter, at room temperature, we likely created an environment where bacteria could grow. This is something to keep in mind if you are trying to bring spring water home for consumption later on.
So how is it that the spring water is not contaminated with pollutants?
As water soaks into the ground it is naturally filtered as it passes through layers of soil, sand, and rocks. Furthermore, the rocks infuse the water with their mineral goodness, leaving us with natures clean, cool water.
After the children learned how water is naturally filtered, we spoke about how people around the world obtain water. How fortunate are we to be able to go to the sink anytime we want and get clean water! This is not the case in some parts of the world.
How can dirty water be cleaned for human consumption?
Engineers are hired to solve these problems. So our children were asked to act as engineers to design a water filter using the STEAM activity, Water Filtration Project: Make Your Own Water Filters, from TeachEngineering.org. This website is a wonderful resource for those of you with budding engineers!
The object of this activity is to make a filter to clean dirty water, and compare the results with the sample test tubes. I limited our children to using only three of the provided supplies (fish gravel, cotton balls, coffee filters, paper towels, etc.…) in their filters. Their filtered water was then compared to the three sample test tubes, which are said to be almost ready for: plant use (C), animal use (B), and human use (A). Creating the cleanest water is the ultimate goal.
The children really enjoyed this project. They built their filters and adjusted them if needed to reach the cleanliness of test tube A. But then they wanted to take it a step farther. They wanted to create even cleaner water than what was demonstrated in test tube A. To do so, they discovered that by taking their already filtered water and putting it through the filter again, it created even clearer water.
All in all it was a great day with beautiful weather. We learned a lot about water, tasted some spring water, engineered our own filters, and caught a few crawfish while playing in the creek. Who could ask for more!😊
Down To Earth with Zac Efron – This is a documentary series on Netflix. Efron and wellness expert Darin Olien travel the world exploring healthy, sustainable ways to live. My children and I have enjoyed watching this series together. Episode #2 France is all about water! This episode sparked my research and our visit to the spring.
The Water Princess by Susan Verde – I highly recommend this picture book. It is based on the childhood experiences of Georgie Badiel, a model and founder of the Georgie Badiel Foundation. The Georgie Badiel Foundation is committed to bringing clean drinking water to the people of Burkina Faso and other African countries.
Have a wonderful day!
With a grateful heart,