Big plant, little plant

Students get close-up view of clean water process

Fifth-graders Yarieli Johnson, Airyanna Garcia, and Naomi Camarena-Jimenez watch a demonstration about wastewater treatment

Flush and wash and be on your way? It might seem as simple as that, but fifth-graders from  Southeast Kelloggsville Elementary recently learned a thing or two about the messy business of making clean water, and they now know there’s much more than meets the eye.

Lynnea Roon, science teacher at Southeast Kelloggsville Elementary, uncaps ‘wastewater’ to demonstrate how water is cleaned

It started with a trip to the City of Wyoming’s Clean Water Plant where students toured the facility and asked questions, such as, “Is there PFAS in the water?” They followed the same path 15 million gallons of water take each day to get clean – plugging their noses at times and watching in amazement as microbes cleaned bubbling swaths of water.

Back in the classroom, they saw the big picture of what happens – flush to finish – thanks to a hands-on model of a town with a clean water plant. The model, used by science intervention teacher Lynnea Roon, drives home lessons the students learned at the clean water plant.

Students crowded around and watched intently as Roon demonstrated the path of wastewater through the miniature town.

Students from Southeast Kelloggsville Elementary watch as microorganisms clean the water at the City of Wyoming Clean Water Plant

Where water goes and flows

The model has all the components students need to understand water treatment: houses, drains, underground pipes, rivers, and more. Using water and “wastewater” –really just chocolate-tinged water — Roon showed students how what they saw at the clean water plant fits in with how they use water at home.

“It shows the whole process really nicely,” said Roon. “I love doing hands-on learning where they can actually see things. I love how it has the little roads and houses and how you can really see the dirty water moving through in places they normally can’t see.”

As a science intervention teacher, Roon isn’t assigned to a single class. Rather, she makes the rounds and meet with many classes once a week, augmenting lessons in the science curriculum. When she gets a chance to use a special piece of equipment or prop to teach a lesson, it’s well-received.

To many students, said Roon, waste “goes down the drain and disappears.” The model shows water’s pathway through the system and back into the water cycle again. “It’s a pretty amazing lesson.”

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What’s in the water? Students wade in to learn

A model Lynnea Roon is using teaches fifth-graders about wastewater, flush to finish
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Bridie Bereza
Bridie Bereza hails from Lansing and has worked in the Grand Rapids area as a reporter, freelance writer, and communicator since graduating from Aquinas College in 2003. She feels privileged to cover West Michigan's public schools and hopes to shed a little light on the amazing things happening there through her reporting. Read Bridie's full bio or email Bridie.

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