Students will simulate water pollution and observe the changes in water and plants for a two week period.

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"People, Pollution and Pinelands Water" worksheet
3 small, clear glass jars
common household fertilizer

Plant fertilizer, when used indiscriminately, may be a source for water pollution. Some of the fertilizer put on land crops, as well as home lawns and gardens, is dissolved in rain or irrigation water and runs off into streams or lakes.

Just as on land, fertilizer that finds its way into the water may cause rapid plant growth in those waters. Too many aquatic plants can choke off many other forms of life in a stream, pond, or lake. The continuous decay of these plants fills the bottoms of lakes and ponds creating shallower bodies of water in which light may penetrate almost to the bottom. The increase in light creates even greater plant growth.

This experiment will help students to understand the pollutant effects of inappropriate fertilizer application on plants that live in water.

To begin the experiment, fill three small bottles, labeled A, B, and C, with water. Add nothing to bottle A. To bottle B, place about half the recommended dose of a common household fertilizer into the water. Bottle C will receive a full recommended dose of the household fertilizer. Place a small, but equal amount of algae in each jar (algae may be gotten from a small pond or a dirty fish tank). Place all three jars into sunlight.

Each student should be given a copy of the "People, Pollution and Pinelands Water Observation Sheet" and instructed to hypothesize about what will happen over the next few weeks. Students should then be instructed to observe all three jars for a few minutes each day for the next two weeks, and record their observations for each day for each jar.

At the end of two weeks, students should note the results and draw conclusions about the possible effects of plant fertilizers on Pinelands water. Discuss the results with the students to reinforce the concepts that products designed to help plants in one setting can become a pollutant if introduced into a different setting. This might be a good time to discuss the chemical makeup of fertilizers, and the concept that while some chemicals are clearly toxic, others, like salt, only become dangerous in high amounts, and that while polluting substances have legitimate uses, a balance must be struck to reap the benefit of the use without the dangers that might emanate from an overuse of the substance.


Check student observation sheets for proper, consistent observations, and reasonable conclusions.


1. Discuss the following questions with the class:

How do people and their activities affect the quality of Pinelands water? (consider this from many perspectives including commerece-building on the land and farming, as well as recreation activities and their impact)

While the lack of development in the Pinelands has contributed to the protection of its natural resources, might this isolation also encourage polluters who feel that their actions might go undetected or be unimportant in so vast an area? (consider the ease with which toxic chemicals and material may be dumped in the most isolated areas of the Pine Barrens-don't overlook the environmental impact of the day visitor who might also leave behind garbage-are both cases the same?)

Why might we encourage good water quality in the Pinelands? (Pinelands aquifers provide vast supplies of drinking water-to maintain the existing characteristic animal life that depends on Pinelands water)

What household items might contribute to the pollution of the water supply (cleaning solutions, oil from cars disposed of improperly)

2.Have students conduct a research project about the quality of Pinelands water. Consider existing chemical waste disposal sites in the area, as well as the impact of the agricultural output of the region. What has been done in the past and what is being done now to protect the quality of Pinelands water. Good sources of information are local newspapers, as well as state and county agencies.


This lesson will introduce the students to the following vocabulary words:

algae, photosynthesis, pollutants.

This lesson covers the following New Jersey Core Curriculum Standards. Clicking on the standard number will take you to the complete text of the standard. You must use your browser's "BACK" button to return to this page from the linked Core Curriculum Standard pages.

Science standards:

5.1-All students will learn to identify systems of interacting components and understand how their interactions combine to produce the overall behavior of the system

5.2-All students will develop problem solving, decision making and inquiry skills reflected by formulating useable questions and hypotheses, planning experiments, conducting systematic observation, interpreting and analyzing data, drawing conclusions, and communicating results.

5.6-All students will gain an understanding of the structure, characteristics, and basic needs of organisms.

5.10-All students will gain an understanding of the structure, dynamics, and geophysical systems of the earth.

5.12-All students will develop an understanding of the environment as a system of interdependent components affected by human activity and natural phenomena.

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