RiverWatch is the most widely-used and in-depth environmental science program available to Alberta secondary schools. The field study is very much aligned with the steps of the scientific method.
Aboard river rafts outfitted as mobile water quality laboratories, students work in a team environment to research and answer the question “How healthy is our river?”
Early in the day and before any data is collected, students are asked to rate the health of their river. This rating becomes the hypothesis to be tested using the scientific method.
Each raft of 14-17 students has onboard all the science kits, data sheets and whiteboards for collecting information on dissolved oxygen, phosphates, nitrates, pH, temperature, turbidity and invertebrates.
Two shoreline stops are then made to collect data – the first “Control” stop is usually above a wastewater treatment plant and the second “Experimental” stop is downstream of the wastewater outfall. The wastewater effluent plume provides the manipulated variable in the scientific method.
Students compare the collected data as posted to an on-raft whiteboard. Is there a difference in the data collected at the two test sites, and if so, what might cause that difference?
Before the field study finishes, students are again asked to rate the health of their river. This final rating becomes the conclusion arrived at through using the scientific method.