The Tap Water Challenge

How might we create awareness around safe drinking water in the classroom with scientific inquiry and easily available sensor technology?

Photo of Aram Armstrong
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  • (First of all, this probably belongs in a later phase but here it is - a work in progress lesson plan)

situation: Access to clean drinking water is a universal problem that is growing across the globe - Especially if you live in places like Dhaka, Bangladesh or Flint, Michigan- but even in places like Hawaii (I'm serious).

complication: we don't really know what's in our water, even bottled water has various levels of purity  

Question: so how might we start to understand what's in our drinking water, whether it comes from a bottle, a tap, or a catchment system? 

Answer: TDS (total dissolved solids) sensors are readily available and probably sold with water filters in a store near you (assuming you live in the US) and will give you a reading (PPM) instantly.

Check out the Tap Water Challenge: Http://


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Photo of chris fancher

This reminds me of a science fair project students of mine did. They wanted to see if there were differences in the water at various places in the school (looking at bacteria not dissolved solids). They tested early in the morning, at lunch, and after school. The big result that stuck with them (and me) was that you do NOT want to be the first at a drinking fountain in the morning! The results really stimulated inquiry and helped generate lots of questions that the whole class benefitted from. Water quality is a "real world problem" that forces students to see how close the "real world"  is to them. 

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