Using an Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer to Teach about Water Chemistrysubmitted by
This is a partially developed activity description. It is included in the collection because it contains ideas useful for teaching even though it is incomplete.
Higher Order Thinking Skills:
Role of Activity in a Course:
Data, Tools and Logistics
Excel or other spreadsheet program
Students need a lot of guidance in generating graphs (deciding data to plot and the type of graph to make).
There is a wide range in students' proficiency with spreadsheet programs.
It is hard to find time for instrument maintenance and trouble-shooting.
Three examples follow:
STEP Summer Science Institute -- In this summer science camp, groups of three high school juniors conducted week-long research projects studying the chemistry of bottled drinking water and local surface waters. Students did web research on water chemistry and sources of bottled drinking water, conducted taste tests on bottled waters, and collected surface waters. Students assisted in all aspects of sample preparation and ICP-MS analysis. The instructor assisted students in organizing and graphing data and in interpreting their results. The week culminated in a poster presentation by students.
Introduction to Environmental Geology -- In this General Education course, students studied the chemistry of drinking water from throughout Washington state. Students first researched the sources of the tap water in their homes and their parents' homes. As a class, they chose locations around Washington state for sampling. The instructor analyzed the samples and prepared some of the data (5 elements) in a table and graphs. These results were given to the students as part of a homework assignment in which they were asked specific questions about the data.
Environmental Geochemistry -- In this upper-level course, seniors and M.S. students conducted a term-long class project on the chemistry of stream waters in the upper Yakima River drainage basin. In this project, students researched the local geology and the history of land use in the area. They then formulated questions and hypotheses that might be addressed with trace element data and designed sampling strategies. Students took the lead in every aspect of sampling, ICP-MS standardization and analysis, and data reduction. This included examining the data quality based on calibration curves, reproducibility, and quality assurance standards. They then selected data to address their questions/hypotheses and prepared tables and graphs. Finally students wrote individual reports presenting their objectives, methodology, results, interpretations, and suggestions for future work.