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Student Watershed Watch now in its 23rd year


Aujanae Mack, a junior at Central Catholic High School, laughs with classmates as they prepare to conduct pH testing on water from the Ottawa River.

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On a dock behind a Suder Avenue car wash, a dozen chemistry students from Central Catholic High School learned about collecting water quality samples from the Ottawa River on Thursday.

Traversing a slippery wooden dock, some of the students came prepared for the rainy day, wearing rain boots and hooded sweatshirts.

For others, drenched clothes and wet hair stood as testaments to the fact that the students were getting out of the textbooks and into the environment.

The program, Student Watershed Watch, in its 23rd year, is operated by the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments and partners graduate students from the University of Toledo and the Lake Erie Center with high school teachers, who then take their students into the field.

Schools participating in the program sign up through TMACOG. This year, eight high school science classrooms participated from Bowsher, Central Catholic, Clay, Northview, Ottawa Hills, Start, and Toledo Early College High School.

“This grant partners eight graduate students with high school teachers in an attempt to bring cutting-edge scientific research into their classrooms and also to get their students out of the traditional classroom setting and into their local environment,” said Rachel Lohner, education program manager at the University of Toledo's Lake Erie Center.

For Central Catholic High School chemistry teacher Ann Hajibrahim, taking students out of the classroom and outdoors has become a crucial part of the learning process.

“It gives students a sense of ownership. It's their river. It gets them to think about it,” she said.

In the approximately 13 years she's been taking students to testing sites, Ms. Hajibrahim said the water quality has varied.

“It went down for a while, then it started going back up,” she said.

While a myriad of facts can be learned from the sampling tests, the students were asked to note the water temperature, turbidity, dissolved oxygen levels, pH levels, wind speed, and the air temperature, among other factors, of the sites they visited.

AuJanae Mack, a junior chemistry student at Central Catholic, said although it was raining, she was still able to learn about the watershed.

“Not at all,” she said when asked if the weather was bothering her experience. “I'm really having a good time.” Ms. Mack said, adding though, that learning about parasites that could be in the water was “nasty.”

The students were asked to spend about 45 minutes at four sites in one morning. Then they headed back to their classrooms to compile the data and complete additional testing methods.

“Some tests we do immediately, some incubate for 24 hours,” Ms. Hajibrahim said, adding that all in all, the lab portion could take about one week to finish.

The students will present their findings at the Student Watershed Watch Summit on Nov. 14 at the University of Toledo.

“The students will report their results through posters, professional presentations, skits, and/or videos,” Ms. Lohner said. “The students are judged on their presentations.”

Mark Manning, another Central Catholic junior who was out at the site, said collecting the information was the best part of the program, in addition to evaluating “the purity of the water.”

While the presentations will reveal the findings at each individual site, they also will tell a current story about the quality and the state of the Ottawa River watershed.

Contact Kelly McLendon at: or 419-206-0356, or on Twitter at @MyTownSylvania

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