4-H’ers at Hamilton High School Continue to Watch Our Waters

Sergio and I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon of November 4th with a group of enthusiastic and fun high school students from the Hamilton High School Environmental Club. The Club, led by Kacy Cobb who is a science teacher at the school, has incorporated 4-H AWW monitoring into their club programs for around five years now.  

During the workshop, we conducted activities to help the students gain an appreciation for why it’s important to monitor water, to be aware of what can pollute our waters, and to gain a better understanding of the variables we test as part of water chemistry monitoring. Several of the students had been out to monitor with Mrs. Cobb, but they lacked the credentials as officially-certified 4-H Water Watchers.  

Using visual observations and their sense of smell, students helped to determine the contents of each cup, and the value of “why we test water” through this activity.
Students learned how pollution makes its way from the land to waterways through the Enviroscape® watershed model demonstration.

Through their comments and questions, the students demonstrated a strong foundation and interest in natural resources and science. During the training, one student was relating what he was learning about water chemistry to how he could better manage his family’s pond to grow really big fish! 

To complete their certification requirements, the group made the five-minute bus trip to their monitoring site on Williams Creek where they demonstrated their abilities to accurately conduct water chemistry monitoring. A total of 15 students were certified for the first time through the workshop bringing the total number of current Hamilton High School 4-H Water Watchers to around 30. Through the years, just under 100 Hamilton High School students have become certified water chemistry monitors through the 4-H AWW Program.  

Sergio observes a student as he collects a water sample for the hardness test.
Mrs. Cobb instructs students as they test pH during the training session.

Mrs. Cobb has been a great resource for other teachers who are trying to overcome the obstacles to water monitoring with students during the school day that include completing all of the tests in the field during a single class period. She has created a system that involves dividing the students into small teams (groups of 2-3 students), and assigning each team with the task of completing one of the six tests involved in water chemistry monitoring. She puts the chemical reagents, glassware, and other equipment for each test in a separate small box to make it easier for teams to get their equipment and get started. She rotates the student teams throughout the year so that students can get comfortable with all of the water chemistry tests. With this system in place, the Club is able to travel off campus to their monitoring site, collect the data, and return to school in a 55-minute class period!   

Rebecca Danley, the Marion County 4-H Foundation Regional Extension Agent, assisted us at the creek during the training. Rebecca has worked closely with Kacy to support the formation and training of this group. She provides local support to the group by helping with access to monitoring materials and other teaching tools including the Enviroscape® used during our training.  Rebecca has also been a model for how 4-H REA’s can effectively support Water Watch programs in their local schools by partnering with educators.  Thanks to Kacy and Rebecca for continuing to provide youth in Marion County with opportunities to learn about water and be part of AWW!

Kacy Cobb (far left) and Rebecca Danley (far right) receiving the 2017 4-H AWW Group of the Year Award on a previous visit by AWW Staff to Hamilton High School.