Choice of Streams
In order to meet the overall goal of this project (a student evaluation of the health of the Onondaga Lake watershed), students needed to be presented with data and experiences that gave them a broad look at the streams in the area. Comparisons of upstream and downstream sites would need to be made. Ideally, more streams and more sites along those streams would tend to better represent the true condition of the watershed. Indeed, Project Watershed had conducted 401 water-monitoring events from 24 sample sites in the watershed since 1991. A subset of the existing data needed to be selected for use in this project.
As an educational goal, students needed to be able to evaluate the relative importance of the streams they monitored. Classrooms may only be able visit one or two sites in a given school year. This project asked students to step back and put their experience at the stream in context of the entire watershed. This would force students to place greater weight on some data than others based on the size of the stream and its place in the watershed. Choosing streams that required students to make those choices was important. As a result, large streams like Nine Mile Creek and Onondaga Creek were selected as well as small streams such as Geddes and Furnace Brooks.
Digital imagery of the headwaters of Nine Mile and Onondaga Creeks were given to teachers with the hope that they would be able to generate discussion about the similarities and differences between them and the streams in the city such as Harbor and Furnace Brooks and Ley Creek. These streams receive runoff from agricultural land, urban settings, and industry. Students' preconceptions about these land uses effects on water quality would often be challenged by the data collected from these streams.