Shannan Muskopf

Technology Coordination (Q377, fall 2001)

Grant Application

Individual Teacher ā First-Year Grant

Project Title:› žRivers ProjectÓ

Executive Summary

The žRivers ProjectÓ will explore how science can be applied to real world situations and used to solve problems.› The project uses biological techniques and equipment to investigate the water quality of local reservoirs.› Data will then be reported to the EPA, and a local website will be maintained that documents the process.


The Prairie State Achievement Exam is used to measure achievement in the core subject areas.› Each year, science scores at the Granite City district have decreased, with the percentage of students who do no meet Illinois standards growing year after year.› The School Improvement Plan at the district calls for immediate action in the area of science to improve scores.› In the 2000/2001 school year, the percentage of students who qualified as žexceedsÓ or žmeetsÓ standards was 41%. Clearly, more than half of the student population do not meet basic state standards in science.› The žRivers ProjectÓ is designed to improve scientific literacy and understanding of scientific techniques, the end goal being to improve overall scores on the Prairie State Achievement Exam.

Consider that one of the Illinois state goal for sciences:

Solving Problems:› Recognize and investigate problems; formulate and propose solutions supported by reason and evidence.

Communicating: Express and interpret information and ideas.

Using Technology: Use appropriate instruments, electronic equipment, computers and networks to access information, process ideas and communicate results.

(Illinois State Bureau of Education, 2001)

Goal 11 of the Illinois Learning standards for science specifically states that students will žUnderstand the processes of scientific inquiry and technological design  to investigate questions, conduct experiments and solve problems.Ó› This particular goal has been marked as one of the low points of student ability.› Students at Granite City High School, as evidenced by the PSAE (Prairie State Achievement Exam) meet standards of understanding concepts and principles, but seem to fail when it comes to applying those principles and using them to effectively solve problems.›

The Rivers Project addresses three of the science state goals for instruction and will provide an innovative way for students to apply what they have learned about ecosystems and chemistry.› It incorporates solving problems, communicating, and using technology with specific emphasis on Goal 11.› This three-week project is designed to give students a real world problem and the tools to solve that problem.› The Rivers Project was developed by Southern Illinois University, the goal of the project being to promote scientific literacy among high school students.› ( Rivers Project Home Page:› )

Summary of Project

Students involved in the Rivers Project will participate in a long-term study where they will collect data from local water sites.› These sites include lakes, streams, and the Mississippi River.› The data collection process will utilize water testing techniques and specimen collections.› This on-site phase will ensure that students have exposure to techniques used in the real world to ascertain the health of water ecosystems, and will use the most current technology used to gather data.

Once the data collection phase is complete, students will be charged with organizing and analyzing the data.› The sites will be compared to measure health of the ecosystems, and a computer will be used to transmit the data they have collected to the Environmental Protection Agency.› A database is already set up to compile data from schools that are participating in the Rivers Project.› Students will understand that their actual data will be used in national studies that evaluate the quality of water systems all over the country.

Finally, students will develop a local database and water quality report that will be posted to the community as a web site.› This part of the process ensures that students take an žownershipÓ of the problem, research the local problems and develop a plan of action to improve water ecosystems in the area.› Future students will then be able to add their data and analysis to the website and chronicle the water quality of ecosystems in the Granite City area for many years.› Ownership of the problem is essential for the students to relate the process to the applications of science.› Being able to apply what they have learned, and the data they have gathered and propose a solution to that problem is critical to meeting the Science State Goals.›


The number of students who do not meet science standards for the year 2000 was 58%, the number being high enough to warrant immediate intervention to improve student science scores.› Part of Granite CityŪs School Improvement Plan includes a section on improving the scientific literacy of the science students, in services were created two years ago that address this need.› Many of the curriculum changes developed in this workshop included an increase in the number of laboratory lessons, and inquiry based projects.› The PSAE scores continued to decline, even after curriculum changes went into affect.› During post analysis of the school improvement plan, teachers determined that one of the reasons that the first improvement plan failed is that many of these lessons were žstand-aloneÓ lessons.› Students used equipment, took data, and made graphs, but these elements remained unrelated to the real world.› Students were still not applying what they had learned.

›The Rivers Project is intended to not only give the students experience with field techniques, it also has a real world application.› Students will be able to see exactly how the processes they are engaged in relate to the real world and can be used to solve problems right in their own backyards.› The Project addresses the need to improve science abilities of students within the Granite City School District, and will have a measurable affect on student achievement, by improving PSAE scores in the area of scientific inquiry.› The project will incorporate the use of scientific processes to solve problems and includes an extensive data analysis section that will require students to use mathematical analysis.› On a side note, the math section of the PSAE has similar rankings for the Granite City students, with many of them below standards.› Though the project itself is science oriented, it should also have an effect on their mathematical abilities, and may have side effect of also improving PSAE math scores.

The Rivers Project also incorporates collaboration, as all water sample and site data are transferred over the internet to the Environmental Management Technical Center, a division of the Environmental Protection Agency.› A site for transferring the data has already been set up at the Southern Illinois University web site ( and students only need to input their data and submit it over the internet.› Data collected from schools all over the Midwest are compiled at this agency and are used by the EPA to summarize water quality and ecosystem quality in the state. Students will know that their work is being used by a government agency to improve their state and community.

Another targeted need of the School Improvement Plan is to increase the use of technology in core curriculum areas.› The Rivers Project provides a meaningful use of technology in a larger context of scientific inquiry.›› In order to accomplish project goals, students will be required to understand the use of computers and technological sampling devices.› A designated computer will be used for collecting data and sending that data to the EPA.› The computer will also be used to develop a school project web site that chronicles the entire project.› Each year, new students will be involved in the project and build upon the knowledge base of previous students.

In summary, students will collect data using state of the art equipment, and then be required to analyze their data and support their conclusions.›› The project will require the students to collect data and take observations, eventually compiling that data into charts and graphs, and drawing conclusions based on the analysis of the data.› They will need to travel to water sources in the area:› namely Horseshoe Lake, Mississippi River, and a local creek.›› Water and other specimens will be gathered at these sites and analyzed.› Students will also develop a web site that chronicles their project, this web site will be built on year after year as new students complete the same project and add their data to the pool.

School Demographics

The demographics of Granite City lend itself to this type of project.› Granite city is located next to the Mississippi river and is an industrial town.› Many of the lakes and streams around the city have been polluted from the factories and steel mills. The overall water health of Granite City is listed as below average from the EPA.› The Rivers Project gives students a chance to become actively involved in their community and become aware of how pollution affects ecosystems.› They can then propose solutions to solve the problems and improve the water quality in the area.› The project is designed to be ongoing, and will span many classes, data compiled over years can be compared to earlier data and evaluation can be made regarding the effectiveness of EPA efforts to clean up the water.›

Another interesting demographic is the nearness of Granite City to the Mississippi river.› Extensive flooding in the area has lead to the government declaring many nearby areas official wetlands.› These sites are perfect for exploring the wetland ecosystems.› Some of the wetland ecosystems, because of government protection are habitats to endangered species, including the bald eagle and several frog species.› Students may be able to gather information about these species as they complete the Rivers Project.



The goal of the Rivers Project is to increase scientific literacy among high school science students, as evidenced by overall improved scores on the Prairie State Achievement Exam Science section. Students will also demonstrate the ability to use current technology to compile and report data to outside agencies.

Objective:› At the end of the project, students will demonstrate the ability to compile and analyze data taken from river sites.

Evaluation:› An individual lab report will be turned in at the end of the project, report requirements include graphs and data tables created using Microsoft Excel.

Objective:› Overall scores on the Prairie Achievement Exam will improve.

Evaluation:› Numbers of students who žmeetÓ or žexceedÓ state requirements, as evidenced by the PSAE, will increase.

Objective:› Students will demonstrate their ability to use computer technology to collaborate and transfer data to the Environmental Protection Agency

Evaluation:› Collaboration efforts will be evaluated based on the completeness of the project, a student made web site will show effective communication skills and the use of technology.› Web sites will be created at the end of the project and after data has been collected from the three water sites.› Data will be transferred to the EPA as part of the Rivers Project Guidelines.› A web site rubric will be used to evaluate the site.


Staff training will occur during the summer, Southern Illinois University offers a program to train teachers in using the equipment and RiverŪs Project Curriculum. This week-long training session will show teachers how to use the equipment to gather data, and discuss the Rivers Project curriculum.› One teacher will be sent to this training session and can relay that information to other teachers wanting to participate in the project.

The Rivers Project data will be collected during the Spring.› A May date would be best to avoid bad weather and have the most impact on test scores that will occur in the following October.› It is not necessary at this time to specify an exact date, as teachers may need to be flexible with the school calendar.› A three-week time period between April and May should be sufficient to complete the project.›

Rivers Project Curriculum

Research Phase

Students will first research data collected by the EPA on the water sources in the area.› Historical observations regarding practices of the mills and industries in the area will be gathered and correlated with data and observations taken from the water sources.› During the research phase, students will be asked to summarize how industry has impacted the local ecosystems.› They will also investigate current laws of the Environmental Protection Agency and judge how these laws have affected industry polices.› Data collection can be accomplished over the World Wide Web, at local libraries, and by interviewing older residents who worked at the mills.› This information will be compiled and eventually placed on the rivers project website that the students will develop at the end of the curriculum.

Field Collection Phase

This phase of the project will take 3 days.› Students will travel to assigned streams and rivers and lakes in the area and collect data for their sites.›› Students will use water testing equipment and population sampling techniques to gather the following:

Number and population size of macroinvertebrates

Number and population size of vertebrates, including fish and bird species

Nitrate and Nitrite Levels of the water

Acidity levels of the water

Temperature of water

Qualitative data on the appearance and smell of water

This phase of the project will require an extensive use of equipment and school facilities for transportation.› Three days will be designated for the collection phase, though the three days do not need to be sequential.› Again, it may be necessary to be flexible with the timing due to hardships placed on other classes and school resources by having teachers out of their classes for 3 days and bussing issues.›› Students will work in small groups to analyze specific areas and compile their data at a later date.›

This phase will require the acquisition of equipment necessary for the data collection.› Acidity and Nitrate strips for use in testing the water.› Kicknets and triangular nets will be used for gathering specimens, and a sorting tray for calculating population sizes.› The macro invertebrate id cards will be used to identify specimens collected.›

A digital camera will be used during this phase to take pictures of the sites and of the teams as they collect data. These pictures can then be placed on the rivers project web site for documentation purposes.

The field trip application for this phase will require at least three teachers accompany a class to the sites.› Due to possible danger of students working near water sources, the school deems that there must be a large staff to pupil ratio and life vests will need to be worn by the teams and teachers.› Universal life vests will be purchased and stored at the school for future use.

Reporting Phase

Students will compile data within their classes and within other classes that are working on the same project.› This data will be used to write a scientific report that organizes and analyzes the data from the sites.› Students will be required to make evaluations and rank the sites by water quality levels.› Reports will be presented individually to ensure that all students are meeting the requirements of the Rivers Project Curriculum.› Data and measurements will be presented in a typed form, and graphs will be created using Microsoft Exel.

During this phase of the project, the data collected will be sent to the Environmental Protection Agency where it will be added to the data base on all schools participating in the Rivers Project.

Web Development Phase

Working in small teams, students will present the overall findings of the rivers project in the form of a web site that will be published.› The web sites created by the teams will be assessed to determine how the teams have met the expectations of the rivers project.› The web site will include historical information and documentation of the project, including pictures of the sites (taken digitally) and pictures of specimens collected.› Though all team sites will be posted for a period, one will be chosen to represent the entire Rivers Project and will remain posted on the school web site for future classes to access and build on.›

The maintenance of a rivers project site will require that a domain server be obtained and hosted by an outside agency.› Students will then have access to the site and be able to make changes, while future students will have the opportunity to build on the site.›

A laptop computer will be used to gather data and organize information.› This computer will also be used to submit information to the Environmental protection agency and build the teamsŪ web sites.

Summary of Timeline

Early May ā Begin Research Phase

3 Days ā Field Collection Phase

3 Days ā Reporting Phase

5 Days ā Web Development Phase

*Days do not need to be sequential, regular classroom activities can continue during this time

Proposed Budget Explanation







Rivers Project Curriculum and 2 semester hours of credit at SIUE







Rivers Biology Curriculum




Rivers Chemistry Curriculum





Equipment and Supplies






Triangular Net




Nitrate/Nitrite Test Strips




Water Quality Test Strips




Iron Test Kit




Benthic Macro-invertebrate ID cards




Sorting Tray




Universal Life Vests







Laptop computer




Domain server ā

$60 (year)



Digital Camera





Transportation - Chartered bus

100 (per day)




Staffing (substitute teachers)

$70 (per day)