Column: How a reporting trip to coal country inspired my 7-year-old’s science fair project
Column: How a reporting trip to coal country inspired my 7-year-old’s science fair project.
A recent trip to the coal mines of West Virginia afforded me a unique opportunity to bring what I learned in the field back home — in this case for my son’s science fair project.
Scientists were measuring, not for specific contaminants, but for conductivity.
When I got home and saw those piles I remembered what we had just learned about water pollution and pitched my kid on a simple idea — if the grownup real scientists we were documenting could use a simple measure like conductivity, couldn’t we do it at home too?
Declan and his younger brother Calder set out with me and my wife to gather samples: first, the clean snow that was still around on our roof, then the dirty snow piled up on the sidewalk next to our house.
To round out our toxic water sampling, we also headed up to Newtown Creek — another Superfund site where we encountered a challenge to find actual access to the water.
His results showed that both kinds of snow, as well as the disgusting sludge water from Newtown Creek appeared to have the highest conductivity.
It’s hard to say how accurate these results are, but we did learn some valuable lessons about this research and the scientific process.
Second, water evaporates if you wait a while between collecting the sample and measuring it, which reduces the consistency of the volumes used for the measurement.
If he so chooses, our son has many years of science fair projects ahead of him working on this same problem.