Teach the Earth > Undergraduate Research > 2014 Workshop > Activities > Water Sampling Activity

Water Sampling Activity

Marianne Caldwell, Hillsborough Community College
Author Profile

This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process. This review took place as a part of a faculty professional development workshop where groups of faculty reviewed each others' activities and offered feedback and ideas for improvements. To learn more about the process On the Cutting Edge uses for activity review, see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This page first made public: Aug 8, 2014


Undergraduate students sample surface water in on-campus ponds using scientific techniques and analyze results.



This activity is intended for undergraduate introductory physical geology and earth science courses.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

On a broad scale students will learn about use of the scientific method and accepted sampling techniques. They will learn how to use data sets and analyze the data.

How the activity is situated in the course

The activity is part of a multi-week lab exercise. It can be completed in four or five sessions depending on the time period for lab.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

The content will include learning acceptable sampling techniques and making detailed analyses of surface water quality.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Students will learn about the scientific method by generating their own data from the sampling and analyzing the results.

Other skills goals for this activity

Students will work in groups to accomplish this activity and collaborate with other groups to share data. They are required to research using the internet, analyze their data and data from other groups, and give a poster or Powerpoint presentation of their group's results.

Description and Teaching Materials

Week One: Students receive an orientation to sampling techniques and sample the three on-campus ponds. Students are divided into six groups with each group responsible for sampling one of the ponds (two samples per pond). Samples are properly prepared and sent to a lab. (The county government lab in my county provides analyses for free of basic parameters such as total suspended solids.)
Week Two: Once results are returned students analyze the results of their assigned pond in groups of four during a second lab period and work on data analysis. As part of the second lab meeting students collaborate with other groups to compare results.
Week Three: Students work collaboratively on a report of their findings. They are expected to have researched the parameters measured and give a description of the site including pictures.
Week Four: Working groups present their findings to the rest of the class. These presentations can be either as a Powerpoint presentation or poster session.

Teaching Notes and Tips

This project works well at my community college because we have three on-campus ponds and therefore no transportation is needed for the sampling.
The local and state government labs may run some of the basic analyses for free.
Depending on the level of your class and the length of your lab time you may have to change the number of weeks.
It is helpful if during sessions two and three students have computer access.
Pictures of the site can be taken by students with their cell phones.
If this is done over several semesters data from previous terms may be incorporated in the analysis.


Students are asked to write a reflection of the activity to include what they learned. A short pre-test and post-test to measure knowledge of sampling techniques and surface water content can also be used.

References and Resources

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