For many middle school students, connections between their lives and concepts like chemical reactivity, microbial contamination, and experimental sampling are not obvious. They may also feel that, even if there were connections, understanding the monitoring and quality of natural resources is something for grown-ups and beyond their responsibility. This curriculum highlights connections. Students characterize bacteria in a local untreated water source and investigate the mechanism, effectiveness, and byproducts of chlorine bleach as a water treatment. Working in groups, they use different growth and treatment conditions to characterize samples, thus collectively obtaining a more complete description of the system. The North Carolina 8th Grade Standard Course of Study Objectives were used during curricular development, and alignment to Next Generation Science Standards performance expectations is provided. Teacher-guided discussions, demonstrations, experimentation, and database investigation engage students as they develop informed and critical opinions about water quality and water treatment methods. The final activity connects scientific investigation to advocacy and civic engagement.

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