Introduction | The Participants | The Investigation

Introduction to the project


Scientific inquiry is used to facilitate students understandings of scientific concepts in that students ask questions, conduct scientific investigations, evaluate evidence and construct explanations regarding natural phenomena. (National Research Council, 1996) The Onondaga Watershed Database Inquiry Project is based on the inquiry approach to learning. There is no better way to involve students in the process of scientific inquiry than an outdoor hands-on, multi-disciplinary science investigation.

The Investigation:

Beginning in September 2003, Project Watershed student groups representing five Onondaga Lake watershed high schools are challenged to investigate the environmental status of the tributaries they monitor, and ultimately the environmental status of the watershed.

Guided by their teachers, Living SchoolBook (LSB) and Project Watershed staff, each student group is directed to:

  1. Study maps provided by LSB to become familiar with the location and flow of their tributary (Furnace Brook, Geddes Brook, Harbor Brook, Nine Mile Creek or Onondaga Creek).
  2. Respond to questions during a pre-interview video by the LSB Field Coordinator at their tributary monitoring site concerning what they know about the stream. On completion of the monitoring activity, the students are post-interviewed to ask what they have now learned about the tributary's water quality, habitat and human impact on the stream. During the students' visit to the stream, LSB Field Coordinator photographs the students' observations of habitat and land use practices. During another visit without the students, he collects images of habitat and land use practices from each of the tributaries upstream and downstream, to be shared later with each of the student groups.
  3. Investigate at school their tributary at the Project Watershed database to develop a water quality profile of all the physical, chemical and biological monitoring data collected. What do the data show about the stream's water quality? Is there a pattern? How does your tributary compare to other tributaries?
  4. Seek a relationship between the water quality profile, the observations and images of habitat and land use practices. Now estimate the status of the tributary as excellent, good, fair or poor.
  5. Westhill High School students review the tributary data collected by four Project Watershed adult volunteer teams (Beartrap, Ley, Nine Mile and Onondaga Creeks). Their science teacher joins the adult teams when they monitor these streams. She photographs the tributary's habitat and land use practices and shares these images and monitoring experiences with her science class.
  6. On October 28th, four adult team representatives and the Westhill students interact to share their knowledge about the aforementioned stream's location, database, habitat and land use practices. LSB Field Coordinator video-tapes students and adults present.
  7. Meet at Living SchoolBook, Syracuse University, on December 9, 2021 with all project participants to:
    • display their conclusion on a poster about the status of their tributary (excellent, good, fair or poor), and state why they made this decision (presence or absence of point/nonpoint source, habitat loss or restoration, human influence increase/decrease, etc).
    • collectively discuss with the other students, and the adult volunteers, their conclusions and then decide the status of the Onondaga Lake watershed (excellent, good, fair or poor)
    • state their concerns regarding their tributaries and the Onondaga Lake watershed
  8. Participate in the development of a CD documenting the deliberations, observations and conclusions of all project participants.
  9. Provide their teacher with evaluative statements about their experience and what they have learned in this inquiry investigation concerning the Onondaga Lake watershed.