Peabody High students experiment on city’s water

This article was published 15 year(s) and 7 month(s) ago.

PEABODY – Thirty-five students from Peabody Veterans Memorial High School spent their Monday lakeside rather than deskside, and who could blame them? The sky was sunny and temperatures reached nearly 80 degrees.But it wasn’t all fun and sunbathing. These ecology students had some serious work to do and only one day to do it. As part of World Water Monitoring Day, they were testing the waters of several lakes and ponds across the city.The yellow school bus made its first stop shortly after 9:30 a.m. at Crystal Lake. Armed with buckets, empty soda bottles, strainers and various test kits, the students were ready to gather data.State Representative Joyce Spiliotis, who earned the city $800,000 over the past two years to clean up Crystal Lake, was there to welcome the students and offer a few words of water wisdom. She stressed the importance of clean water and monitoring lakes and ponds to ensure that it stays that way.”To have you involved in this project is just wonderful,” Spiliotis said, offering her thanks and appreciation for the students’ interest in Peabody’s water.Stewart Lazares, Secretary of Friends of Peabody Lakes spoke about the history of water testing in the United States and the significance of the students’ participation. It marked the first time anyone from Peabody took part in World Water Monitoring Day, as well as the 120th anniversary of the first ever water treatment plant, founded in 1884 by Ellen Swallow Richards.”Taking samples today continues that work,” Lazares appreciatively told the students.Ecology teachers Mark Gardner and Marie Brett accompanied the students on their field study.”This is a whole new way of learning,” said Brett. Just last week, she brought several students to a nearby stream to test the differences in polluted and non-polluted sections of the water.”I was shocked,” said Brett, whose students found high levels of coliform, or e coli. Brett said that the bacteria are typically found in the intestines of mammals. She believes that the numerous ducks in the area are the culprit.Students on Monday were testing for oxygen levels, nitrate and nitrite levels, pH levels, which are an indication of decay, water temperature changes, and acidity. Some didn’t mind getting down and dirty, lying on the ground to reach the waters edge. Others chose the less messy route and took on the roll of recorder with clipboard and pencil in hand, jotting down the test results.Kayla Brennan, a junior at PVMHS and Kory Brownlee, a senior this year, were partners on Monday. The two used an oxygen dissolve test, which tests oxygen levels in the water. The students took a sample of water, added a tablet to it, and shook it around until it fully dissolved and changed color. The color is then compared to a chart to understand the results.”It’s fun,” said Kayla, swishing around the tablet. “We’ve done stuff like this in class before, but in fish tanks.” The tablet turned a light pink, which according to the chart, is a good thing.”I think it makes girls more empowered,” said Brett on the importance of her female students participating. She said that last year, some students went knee dip into the water wearing protective rubber boots.”That’s what kids really want to do now,” she laughs. “But there was always someone who got baptized.” No boots this year meant no baptisms.All data collected and analyzed by the students will be added to the World Water Monitoring database, as well as the Web site for Friends of Peabody Lakes, who sponsored the event by supplying testing materials.

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