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Technology as a Tool of Science

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Keywords: Decomposition, Recycling, Water Quality Monitoring, Experiment Documentation
Subject(s): Earth Science, Biology, Science
Grades 9 through 12
Original Author: Kila Henry, Ravenwood
Stream Team

Stream Teams learn to monitor water quality and to tackle stream problems at the local level. The local Stream Team is composed of high school and post high school students who monitor three sites on two streams. The data is reported to the state. Students make a visual stream survey, and collect chemical, macro-invertebrate and stream discharge data.

Digital cameras will be used in photo point monitoring which is a quick, effective method for documenting change in vegetation and soil through repeat photography. Each stream sampling site will be photographed each time from the same point. The Tool Factory Database will be used to develop a database of the pictures for each sampling site. The visual stream survey requires students to determine the percentage of various types of vegetation on the flood plain, riparian area and stream bank. A transparent grid will be placed over the digital picture to aid in the determination of the percentage of each type of vegetation.

Video clips of each type of water quality test (air temperature, water temperature, dissolved oxygen, nitrate, turbidity, pH, conductivity) will be made by the students to train other students and Stream Team members in the proper methods of water quality testing to obtain valid data.

Digital cameras will be used to photograph and/or video each type of macro-invertebrate at each sampling site. The invertebrates could then be released as the digital documentation will provide enough information to allow for identification. The pictures and clips will be organized in the Tool Factory Database. The Tool Factory Spreadsheet will be used to record the number and type of macro-invertebrates at each sampling site.

Environmental Science

One of the units of this class is a study of water quality. The video clips created by the Stream Team students of the various water quality tests will be used to instruct the students in the proper methods of water quality testing to obtain valid data. The students will view the clips and then use them to critique each other during the actual hands-on practice. Upon successful completion, the students will select a site near school and conduct water quality monitoring tests.

The Tool Factory Word Processor will be used as part of a writing assignment. Each student will select one of the sites monitored by the Stream Team. They will analyze the state submitted Stream Team data, scanned pictures and the Tool Factory Database of pictures and data to write a description of the site. They will construct an illustrated story of how their site has changed over the last ten years and predict how it might change in the future due to one of several scenarios (conversion of row crop to pasture, new home, campground development, etc.).

This class will also study recycling as a unit. They will develop a variety of different compost columns using 2-liter bottles. The digital cameras will be used to record the construction of the columns and changes in the various materials at regular intervals over time. The pictures can be cataloged in the Tool Factory Database. A final report will be made using Tool Factory Word Processor. The Tool Factory Spreadsheet will be used to keep a record of the type and weight of all materials added to the compost column.

A new assignment to the class this year will be the development of an aluminum can recycling program. Contact has been made with a company that will pay for aluminum. Upon approval of the Board of Education, our school will begin an aluminum recycling program that will be managed by this class. The class will determine the various positions needed in the program. They will develop the criteria for the job and using the Tool Factory Word Processsor, will write a job description for each job. The class will use the Tool Factory Word Processor to develop flyers, brochures and other materials, encouraging community participation. The Tool Factory Spreadsheet will be used to keep a record of the dates of collection, the amount of aluminum collected and the amount of money received. Mid-quarter and quarterly reports will be required and shared with the community.

The money received from the recycling of the aluminum will be used to purchase various materials for the school (technology will be the main focus). This same group of students will be responsible for developing the criteria regarding the distribution of the money. They will use the Tool Factory Word Processor to develop materials, which will promote the program and forms for teachers to use to request funds.

We are fortunate to have a local university that has received numerous awards for their alternative energy program. A university study found that it would be economically sound to pelletize paper. The energy generated from the pellets provides the BTU values needed to heat and cool the campus. The class will take a field trip to the campus to view the alternative energy program. The digital camera will be used to make video clips of the various processes of the program from paper to BTU. These can be used in class to review and re-teach any part of the program or to help students who were absent to understand the lesson.


The laboratory activities in biology are set up such that each group of students studies one aspect of our topic. If we were studying enzymes, each group would study the effect of one of the following on enzymes: temperature, pH, type of substrate, amount of substrate, and amount of enzyme. One person from each group then presents the experiment to the rest of the class. Visuals are a must. Video clips of specific parts of the experiment will be recorded. Students will use the Tool Factory Spreadsheet to record the data of the experiment and the Tool Factory Word Processor to make an illustrated presentation of the experiment. The presentations will be available to students that were absent.

Physical Science

The students will develop an element profile during a study of the periodic table. They will use the Tool Factory Word Processor to create an illustrated report on an element. The report will include name origin, discovery, symbol, physical properties, chemical properties, number of isotopes, uses and how it is produced. The Digital Camera can be used to take pictures of where the element might be found in real life (Americum-smoke detector). The Tool Factory Database will be used to record the data for each element.

Science Olympiad

Each year our school participates in Science Olympiad. There are 23 events. Each year some of the events require identification of specimens: trees, insects, rocks, fossils etc. The Digital Camera will be used to take pictures of objects. The Tool Factory Database will be used to create a database of the various pictures to assist students as they study for the event.

History of Science

I have always had an interest in science, its history, and travel. In the last few years, I have had the pleasure of taking a History of Science Tour each year. The tour guides select a country and then arrange to visit many places of scientific interest as well as others of interest to anyone. The Deutsches Museum,-Munich, Chemistry Museum-Gottingen, Germany Pharmacy Museum, Alchemy Museum and the Boerhaave Museum,-Leiden are a few of the examples. I take many rolls of film and scan the pictures so that I can have them available for incorporation into my lessons. I will take a Digital Camera to take pictures both of scientific and cultural interest, which can be loaded directly into the computer. This will save an enormous amount of time. The science pictures will be used in my lessons. I have arranged to share any of the pictures with the business teacher. She has a project that has each student researching a different country. The students could use the Tool Factory Word Processor to develop this report.
Cross-Curriculum Ideas
Pictures taken on the History of Science tour will be shared with the business instructor for one of her project. They will also be offered to the new history teacher for use in any projects that they might have. Cultural pictures will be shared with the faculty and community at an evening meeting.
Students in the Environmental Science class will report to the Board of Education at the end of the year. They will present the results of their recycling and the expenditure of the money obtained from the project.
Materials: Database, Spreadsheet, Word Processor, Camera Bags, Sports
Other Items: 1 Olympus SP-510UZ Digital Camera, $309.00 each, total of $309.00
3 256 XD Memory Card, $34.99 each, total of $104.97
1 512 XD Memory Card, $44.99 each, total of $44.99
1 Camera Case, $39.00 each, total of $39.00