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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

home : latest news : latest news September 15, 2014

3/6/2013 10:00:00 PM
Outdoor lab: Northpoint students gauge contaminants in runoff water
Matt Hinshaw/The Daily CourierMark Platt, 14, a freshman at Northpoint Expeditionary Learning Academy, collects a runoff water sample in the parking lot behind Bashford Courts Wednesday morning in Prescott.  The students were checking the quality of the runoff water, which fills area creeks and lakes.
Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier
Mark Platt, 14, a freshman at Northpoint Expeditionary Learning Academy, collects a runoff water sample in the parking lot behind Bashford Courts Wednesday morning in Prescott. The students were checking the quality of the runoff water, which fills area creeks and lakes.

Cindy Barks
The Daily Courier

PRESCOTT - It didn't take a microscope for Northpoint Expeditionary Learning Academy students to gauge the basic quality of the water that ran off of a city parking lot Wednesday morning.

A quick look at the rivulets of black water that pooled and flowed across the Montezuma Street lot told the story: The runoff was anything but pristine.

The 35 students involved in the lab experiment were interested in more detail than that, though. Specifically, they were out to learn whether the water, which was headed toward Prescott's Granite Creek, contained a number of harmful contaminants.

As a Prescott firefighter sprayed the city lot behind the Bashford Courts with water, the students collected samples from the runoff. By later this week, they should have test results on the water's levels of contaminants.

The tests were part of a multi-agency experiment that included Northpoint, the City of Prescott, and the Prescott Creeks organization.

And by all appearances, the students were engaged in the process.

"This is probably going to be the worst," freshman Zach Colstock said as he scooped up the dregs of the dirty water.

Nearby, Stephanie Johnson, also a Northpoint freshman, was taking notes on the process. "I'm basically getting a description of what's going on," she said, noting that the class would later compile the information into a report for the Prescott City Council.

Student Grant Hettleman, meanwhile, was working on the details of the parking lot's slope.

"We've been learning a lot about runoff and where this water's going," Hettleman said. "We want to calculate how quickly it will get to the creek."

Teacher Jeff Dyer explained that the Northpoint charter high school has studied the area's water quality for the past three years. This year, the study focused on determining the sources of the pollution in Willow and Watson lakes.

Since the early 2000s, Watson Lake and Granite Creek have been listed on state and federal lists of "impaired waters" for conditions relating to dissolved oxygen and pH levels.

Prescott Creeks Outreach and Communications Director Ann-Marie Benz pointed out that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality currently are working to determine whether Granite Creek and Miller Creek would be listed for having levels of harmful e. coli bacteria as well.

With the aid of city drainage engineer Greg Toth, the Northpoint class set out to come up with an experiment that would help determine "what exactly is going into the water," Dyer said.

Local officials have long maintained that the pollution in the two northeast-Prescott lakes comes largely from the water that runs off the streets and parking lots upstream.

Toth, who was on hand Wednesday to help supervise the experiment, said the goal of spraying water on the parking lot was to simulate rainfall.

When rain or snow falls on the lot, Toth said, the runoff water carries the dirt, oil and other substances on the parking lot. That water makes its way directly to Granite Creek, which then drains into Watson Lake.

"We're running an open laboratory here," Toth said, as the students formed groups to take samples.

The students' findings will be helpful to the city, Toth said, to help determine the effectiveness of street cleaning in reducing pollution in the runoff water.

In several weeks, he said, the group would return to do the same experiment after the parking lot has undergone a cleaning. A comparison of the results will help the city to determine "best management practices" for future street-cleaning schedules.

Along with the scientific knowledge, the students were also getting experience in researching, recording information, and writing up the results.

Hettleman said the experiment resonated with him because it was helping to improve the local and global ecosystems.

"I love it," he said. "It's been a blast, honestly."

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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, March 07, 2013
Article comment by: Beth C

Northpoint Expeditionary Learning Academy is a great school and this is an amazing learning unit.

It seems like the Flat Earth Society would rather our young people stifle their learning and their critical thinking skills. "Teaching young people to think and to advocate is definitely a dangerous skill and could threaten the status quo."

Students should not be confined to a desk, taking notes from a whiteboard and listening to hours of lectures as a way of learning. At Northpoint, the world is their classroom.

By the way, I am one of the supposed 'rich parents' and I would love to know where all this money is hiding.

Posted: Thursday, March 07, 2013
Article comment by: Northpoint freshman who wants to be heard

@Just saying: As a freshman at Northpoint, I know that you have absolutely no clue what you are talking about. We are a very involved group of young activists, but that does not mean we do not know what we are doing. Be grateful that someone is trying to find a way to better the quality of the water that you drink so you don't die of exposure to high nitrogen, dissolved oxygen, high pH levels, and E. coli. Before you can judge us, sit down with one of us, converse, and be absolutely awestruck by the high level of intellect we have. We have been working for months on this project and are learning very valuable and viable things. Not to mention that our classes are actually engaging and that I look forward to attending school. I know what it is... you're jealous that you did not have to opportunity to learn through the EL model when you were a child I'll tell you what, it's incredible!

Posted: Thursday, March 07, 2013
Article comment by: Diane Logue

I am an rich Westerner who consumes 5 times the world per capita in almost every category.
As I use my cell phone and drive my 3,000 pound piece of machinery around I wonder why my planet is so polluted. Why can't we dump all these nasty cancer causing PCbs
that our grandparents and parents created and we continue to create onto someone else's land.
Oh no there is a weed, where is my Roundup? I am too obese to bend over to pluck it by hand or pick up the trash I dropped.

Posted: Thursday, March 07, 2013
Article comment by: Jennifer Carstens

@ just saying & rude ppl in general
As a parent of a Northpoint freshman, I say shame on you! For you ignorance, your inability to look outside of the box and your blatent disregard towards the students who are conducting these tests. These freshmen put alot of work and effort, time into their studies and research. They will be traveling around Yavapai County conducting more tests and gathering more information to help our communities understand better what is really going into our creeks, streams, and lakes. Pull your head out of the clouds, just saying!

Posted: Thursday, March 07, 2013
Article comment by: DearJust Saying

I was one of the students involved and I absolutely disagree with "Just Saying." We are using our information to write numerous speeches to read to the city council in order to try and convince them to help fund for the cleaning of the water. Please for the love of god don't you dare judge the student financial stance. But your disagreement and negativity toward us is completely irrelevant to us and what we do. No matter who you are or what you say Northpoint students are out to help change the world. We are future activists.

Posted: Thursday, March 07, 2013
Article comment by: Mark Platt

I think that is something very rude of someone to say about us. You have no idea how much work we put into this as a student. If you were to understand what we did and what we are doing then you wouldn't be saying this. Before saying this, why don't you do some research of who we are, what we do, and why we do this?!!!!!

Posted: Thursday, March 07, 2013
Article comment by: Brennan Cassleman

In response to "Just Saying". We actually are planning to do things with the information. We will use the information we gathered to create a proposition to present to the Prescott city counsel. Try doing some research before into our expedition before saying we won't do anything with our research.

Posted: Thursday, March 07, 2013
Article comment by: Hooty Hoo

@ Just Saying: You didn't finish high school did you? (I can tell).

Posted: Thursday, March 07, 2013
Article comment by: Andrew Newton

Great example of getting down and dirty with some science. I'd be interested in the chemical analysis of the runoff. Could make chemistry way more interesting than it was for me.

Posted: Thursday, March 07, 2013
Article comment by: Paige Lineberry

Will this change anything about local water quality? Probably not. These are students, not activists. But I applaud this school for teaching kids in a way that engages them in learning and allows them to see how what they've learned applies to real world situations. Seems like they might actually retain the information, unlike when I was lectured to hour after hour, only to take a test and then forget everything I had memorized immediately after.

Posted: Thursday, March 07, 2013
Article comment by: @ Just Saying

Oh how little you look when you know absolutely nothing about these student, their parents financials or the actual education being taught at Northpoint. Nor do I believe that you are actually educated in the least because, knowledge is power and had you researched in the least little bit about costs of the school or Northpoint's 100% college acceptance upon graduation, you might have been educated enough to not judge this or any other project these students conduct. Let God be our judge. Sinner!

Posted: Thursday, March 07, 2013
Article comment by: ronald raygun

A tip of the hat to all involved. Well done!

Posted: Thursday, March 07, 2013
Article comment by: David DenHartog

What a great example of authentic learning along with service to the community AND meeting the AZ State Standards. Thank you Northpoint staff for leading the way in rigorous, relevant education!

Posted: Thursday, March 07, 2013
Article comment by: Just Saying

What exactly are they going to do with their "research"? Nothing.
This is ridiculous. Dirt is dirty. The USA is a chemical laden country. Why not send these kids out to one of the 4 Superfund sites in the state to incinerate the chemicals left behind by their rich parents and grandparents who put the carcinogens there.

Posted: Thursday, March 07, 2013
Article comment by: Sidney Shepherd

Oh how I love this school! Way to be out in the community, making a difference, and using your education to give back. Keep up the good work, Northpoint!

Posted: Thursday, March 07, 2013
Article comment by: I love it!! !!

"I love it". That says it all. This is great learning. Congrats Northpoint for doing a great job.

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