June 04, 2015
Photo Essay: Student water sampling in Lititz Run
Each spring and fall, a stream gushing from a spring in the middle of Lititz, Pa., becomes the center of attention for a group of Warwick High School chemistry students. Lititz Run starts flowing in Lititz Springs Park, mere yards from the students’ campus, where they begin a biannual field trip to measure their local water quality.
The students get a hands-on learning experience that builds their environmental literacy and also provides meaningful data to the Lititz Run Watershed Alliance (LRWA) and Warwick Township. That data helps them assess completed restoration projects and decide what they want to do in the future to improve Lititz Run, which the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection lists as an impaired stream. It takes just a few miles for Lititz Run to join the Conestoga River, but along the way it picks up pollution from urban runoff, storm sewers, wastewater discharge and agriculture.
Student Josh Cascarella, right, measures dissolved oxygen at Lititz Springs Park.
It is up to Warwick teachers Diana Griffiths and Doug Balmer to navigate the logistics of funding, paperwork, and tight curricula needed to pull off the field trips.
“We don’t have a whole lot of time or flexibility to give lots of units on applications of chemistry,” Griffiths said. “So this gives some kids a chance to see some of that chemistry put to use out in the field, even though it’s just a day.”
Warwick teacher Doug Balmer demonstrates a sampling technique for chemistry students on Lititz Run in Lititz, Pa. "I've fallen into the stream several times," Balmer said.
Chance Berger, right, looks at a water sample with fellow student Jenny Beznoska on Lititz Run.
Warwick teacher Diana Griffiths shows students Christina Shelley, right, and Kate Martin, how to measure pH.
Teacher Doug Balmer shows, from left, students Ben Hershey, David Heckel, and Josh Cascarella from Warwick High School how to conduct a colorimetric nitrate test.
Student Jenny Beznoska from Warwick High School titrates a sample to measure dissolved oxygen at Lititz Run in Lititz, Pa., on May 1, 2015.
The trips are a partnership between Warwick High School and the LRWA. Matt Kofroth, a watershed coordinator with the Lancaster County Conservation District, has been assisting with the trips almost since they began in 1997. He describes the relationship as symbiotic.
“I’m just very thankful that they continue to be active partners in this, because you see very few communities and watershed groups working together like that,” Kofroth said.
He said it is hard to tease out the effects of restoration, an upgrade to Lititz Wastewater Treatment Plant, tree plantings and public education, but their cumulative positive impact is not surprising.
“It might seem early, but there is a slight decrease in the nutrients [in Lititz Run] over time,” Kofroth said.
Teacher Doug Balmer attempts to remove a piece of trash from Lititz Run.
A night heron perches on a rock in Lititz Run.
From left, students Kate Martin, Kyla McClune, Christina Shelley, Josh Miller, Mitchel Hess, Luke Mariano, and Kelly Hossler measure dissolved oxygen with teacher Diana Griffiths.
From left, Kelly Hossler, Kate Martin, Christina Shelley, Josh Cascarella, and Destiny Butler carry sampling equipment to a site on Lititz Run in Lititz, Pa., on May 1, 2015. "The bus got stuck one year," said Doug Balmer, who leads the trip with fellow teacher Diana Griffiths. The teachers also cited a flat tire, dead battery, faulty brakes and other mishaps that have occurred on past field trips.
Matt Kofroth, a watershed coordinator with Lancaster County Conservation District, samples macroinvertebrates from Lititz Run on a farm in Leola, Pa., with students Jenny Beznoska, left, and Chance Berger.
Watershed coordinator Matt Kofroth holds a northern dusky salamander collected along with macroinvertebrates from Lititz Run on a farm in Leola, Pa.
Watershed coordinator Matt Kofroth stirs up stream sediment while student Jenny Beznoska samples macroinvertebrates from Lititz Run on a farm in Leola, Pa.
Watershed coordinator Matt Kofroth holds a sample of macroinvertebrates collected from Lititz Run on a farm in Leola, Pa.
Student Chance Berger holds a clam specimen collected from Lititz Run on a farm in Manheim Township, Pa.
Student Luke Mariano measures dissolved oxygen on Lititz Run in Manheim Township, Pa.
Student Connor Pierce carries boxes of Vernier probes back to the schoolbus after sampling finished at a farm in Manheim Township, Pa., the last site of the day along Lititz Run.
Another piece of evidence for the stream’s recovery is the return of brown trout, which need cold, oxygenated waters to reproduce. Kofroth likens them to a canary in a coal mine.
And for the students, especially those who may have never seen a freshwater macroinvertebrate before, the opportunity to learn outside is a memorable one.
“I’ve had one parent contact me one time and say this is the best field trip their child has ever been on, ever, in their whole school experience. Now I’m not saying that is true for every kid, but for that kid it was just eye opening,” Griffiths said.
“I think just the fact that it’s literally in their town, in their backyard, makes a difference.”
To view more photos, visit the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Flickr page.
Images, captions and text by Will Parson