Teachers- Suggestions for how to use this online lesson
from Jeff Foote, lesson developer
Dear Fellow Teachers,
This lesson has been useful to me in a variety of forms over the last 4 years. In my 7th grade science class I have done extended units on ecosystems, with water being a unifying element. There are so many resources for water education available that I won't try to list them here. Here's one resource I'm involved in.

The investigation of "Blue Baby Syndrome" has two key areas of science that it supports at several grade levels in the new California State Standards:

-specialized functions and interdependence of human body systems
(this appears in different forms in 5th, 7th, and in 9-12 physiology)

-the place of water and water quality in ecosystems
(appears in 5th earth science, and in this unit best serves as a topic for 7th grade Investigation & Experimentation)

On the content standards page, you will find the specific standards copied from the state documents. How you integrate this online resource will decide which of the learning elements are strongest.

Personally, I try to help students bind their learning together by understanding cycles in nature; the water cycle, photosynthesis, (cycles carbon and oxygen in a variety of ways), lifecycles, and the nitrogen cycle.This seems to help them understand systems better, such as the set of systems in our bodies, and the factors that create an ecosystem.

So, this online lesson works well for me as an intermediary step between studies of the water cycle, including testing our local tap and surface waters, introduction to the nitrogen cycle, and the work we do for much of the rest of the year in studying the human body systems.

Teacher Resources: Below is a quick summary of information relevant to the unit. For expanded resources that will help you develop your own understanding, and extend the learning, use both the Resources for students, and these additional links for teachers.

Brief background information:
Our school is located in the middle of agricultural fields on the coast of California. Over the years we've tested our water and often find high levels of nitrates. When the world wide web first became accessible, my students and I used our one telephone line and modem to find information on what nitrates in water meant to health in humans. We found out that among other things, it can result in "Blue Baby Syndrome".

This was too good of a "hook to "pass up, so after investigation, we found out the following basic facts:
-Many, many places around the USA have regular levels of nitrates in the water supply above the limit of 10 ppm.
-In infants (humans and animals) under 1 year old, immaturity in the digestive system allows the conversion of nitrates in water into another form, which interferes with the ability of hemoglobin in the blood to carry oxygen.... which can result in a bluish, oxygen deprived appearance, and other symptoms of oxygen deprivation.
-the primary sources of nitrates in the water supply are from fertilizers and agricultural animal waste.
-Nitrates in water are basically undetectable without testing, and charcoal filters and boiling as means of general water quality safety either don't help, or concentrate the nitrates.
-Given public education, and efforts to negotiate the trade offs in management costs, the amount of nitrates needed for productive agriculture can be used with minimum contamination of water supplies.

This lesson then, is set up to be used as an introduction to the information, and may extend to the point where students gather, analyze, and effectively present information which both demonstrates learning of the standards listed above, and offers real world solutions to complex issues.
Good luck, and feel free to e-mail me with questions, ideas, and successes. Jeff Foote

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