Young scientists explore local water patterns - Catholic Courier

Young scientists explore local water patterns

The nine students in Mary Beall’s sixth-grade science class spent the last few weeks of the school year learning about the ways water flows in Seneca Falls.

Beall participated in the GIT Ahead Project, which was a collaborative effort of the Finger Lakes Institute at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Cayuga Community College, Cornell University, the Institute for the Application of Geospatial Technology and the New York State Geographical Information Systems Association.

With the help of a grant she received through this project, Beall was able to introduce her students to a number of scientific tools, including global-positioning systems. The students completed an inquiry-based project, and their task was to find out what had caused a large water plume to form in one part of Van Cleef Lake, which is part of the Seneca-Cayuga Canal and is located near the Seneca Falls business district.

The muddy plume was visible in an aerial photograph that had been taken prior to the project, but was not visible on the several days Beall and her students walked down to the lake to investigate. They located the storm drains near Lake Van Cleef, studied the way streams flowed in the area and analyzed the slope of nearby streets so they could predict how run-off water would flow.

The students also went online and downloaded aerial photographs and water-pattern tables of the region. They also learned there’s a deep bed of sediment at the bottom of the canal in the Van Cleef Lake area, Beall said. Armed with their newfound information, the students then put together a hypothesis regarding what might have caused the plume shown in the original aerial photograph.

"Then they put together beautiful presentations and presented them to each other," Beall said. "It must have rained just prior to the picture being taken. There must have been a huge amount of water coming through the storm drains. They used their scientific skills to come to that conclusion."

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