On October 12th, 60 Letcher County Central High School (LCCHS) chemistry students studied watershed quality at Lilley Cornett Woods. Led by Regina Donour, LCCHS chemistry teacher, and Eastern Kentucky University faculty, students assessed four watersheds in close proximity to the Lilley Cornett Woods Research Center. In order to determine the healthiest of the four watersheds, students collected and assessed biotic index, pH, DO, conductivity, temperature, turbidity, major land use, and riparian vegetation. Students considered each of these water quality parameters when determining the healthiest watershed.
This watershed quality lesson is part of the greater chemistry education goal of helping students develop a better understanding of how humans impact watersheds. Studying the human impact to watersheds is a way for students to conceptualize chemistry lessons that are often learned in the classroom. Making these fundamental chemistry lessons applicable to real world situations, fosters a better understanding of both the chemistry content and the real-world watershed issues faced by students and the community. The hope is that through chemistry and watershed quality education, students will develop a chemical understanding of what is happening to our watersheds; for example, students will be able to connect acid mine drainage to the chemical process of pyrite oxidation.
Regina Donour based Wednesday’s lesson at Lilley Cornett Woods on Kentucky River Watershed Watch materials and procedures for water testing and stream assessments. With the lesson being extremely comprehensive and successful, there is potential for this learning program to be adopted by other schools around the state of Kentucky. This is an ideal step forward in terms of water quality education and awareness and promoting the well-being of Kentucky’s watersheds.