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Stories from the Field

Lessons Learned: Water, Water Everywhere and Every Drop to Drink

It was a blistering, sweaty summer for many of us. Luckily, most of the U.S. has ready access to clean water. But as Patty McGinnis’s students are learning, not everyone is so fortunate. Patty is an educator at Arcola Intermediate School in Eagleville, Penn. She recently received an NEA Foundation Student Achievement grant to have her class design, create and test working water filters. Here’s what she had to say about her project and its impact.

Tell us a little about your project.

Our students are designing 3D-printed water filters. Once they’ve created the filters, they’ll test them at a local stream. They will also have an opportunity to tour a waste treatment plant to see for themselves the science behind purifying water.

This has been a wonderful learning experience for the kids--they've had to collaborate, research, design, print, and redesign and reprint their water filters. So often we don't have time to allow students the opportunity to 'fail' and then go back and make changes to their work. This project not only allows them to simulate the work of an engineer, but it has been highly motivational through the real-world connection that it provides.

How does this project help your students?

The students have learned quite a bit about the importance of purifying water. They are more aware of the challenges that people from developing countries face and are more appreciative of the water that comes out of the tap (which is something that they previously took for granted).

Part of their research involved understanding the necessary steps that water undergoes when treated at a waste treatment plant. They've also had an opportunity to learn how to create and print a useful object.

What do your students say about the project?

The students have been very enthusiastic about the project, saying that it was "fun" and that the project "gave them to freedom to explore printing 3D designs." One students said the project has been "a fun challenge" and another said, "It was awesome and has been a great opportunity to learn about how water is purified."

What inspires you most about your work?

My students inspire my work--I enjoy watching them becoming excited as they problem solve.

What is your passion - in or outside the classroom?

I very much enjoy learning and trying out new projects in the classroom that serve to both educate and motivate my students.

For more on clean water in the classroom, check out these resources:

Have an idea to improve student learning? Apply for an NEA Foundation grant of your very own! The next application deadline for Student Achievement and Learning & Leadership grants is Feburary 1, 2018. For help developing your proposal, be sure to check out our grant-writing tutorial.

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