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home : education : schools August 1, 2014

5/20/2014 1:26:00 PM
Science project opens eyes of Sisters students
Students took stream samples at Whychus Creek and shared information with a school in Kenya. photo by Jim Cornelius
+ click to enlarge
Students took stream samples at Whychus Creek and shared information with a school in Kenya. photo by Jim Cornelius

By Jim Cornelius
News Editor

Sisters IEE (Interdisciplinary Environmental Education) students in Glen Herron's class learned a great deal in a science project conducted in conjunction with a school in Kitumbi, Kenya - and it wasn't all straight science.

The students made a comparative water-quality study, sharing data on Whychus Creek with students from Kitumbi, who provided data on their local water source. The Sisters students experimented with filtration techniques, using yeast to simulate giardia bacteria. They discovered that it is difficult to filter out all the elements that can contaminate water.

They explored some ideas for filtration systems, including the revolutionary individual filtration device LifeStraw.

Through sampling macroinvertebrates and testing pH and oxygen levels, the students discovered that Whychus Creek is pretty healthy. The students also visited Sisters' municipal wastewater treatment plant to see how contaminants are broken down and wastewater treated.

The students here and in Kenya kept a three-day log of water-use. The results of that project were shocking to many students. The Kenyans, who have to carry water from their local water source, used an average 35 liters per day. Sisters students used an average of 266 liters.

As one student noted, "They would be so happy to use one-fourth of the water we use in one day."

The Sisters students offered a presentation on their work last Friday, attended by other students and members of the Sisters Science Club. The Science Club purchased a satellite dish for Kitumbi to allow them to Skype and share data via the Internet.

Seattle educator Mary Margaret Welch helped launch the project. She's connected several Seattle schools in similar projects. Barbara Schulz of the Sisters Science Club also assisted. After the presentation on Friday, Bob Collins, co-founder of the club, sent a note of appreciation to Herron, Schulz and Welch:

"The impact of the presentation was not the science itself, but the palpable emotion in the speakers and the hushed, packed audience of students. You have opened many eyes and many hearts to a world the Sisters students barely even read about."

That impact was, indeed, palpable. In working with peers in Kenya, the Sisters students recognize the level of ease and comfort that they have been raised in, noting that they've "never had to work for water."

Such realizations are part of the purpose of IEE - to pull together the technical aspects of science and the broader social context.

Sisters Country Weddings

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