Billion Oyster Project

Pollution Based on Field Observations


Steward-shed Investigation



Class Periods




Subject Areas



Students go to a specific location within their class steward-shed to observe and document sources of pollution.


  • Make a determination as to what area of their steward-shed on which to focus, based on prior knowledge and research.

  • Observe sources of pollution and infer their impact on the steward-shed.

Materials and Resources


  • Clipboards

Before you get started


  • Visit your class steward-shed before this lesson.  Look around for areas that may be especially interesting in terms of pollution sources that cannot be seen on the maps or resources in the previous lesson.  

  • Consider how big an area you want to try and cover while in the field.  How big an area can your students observe and document?

Instruction Plan


  1. Students get into small groups.

  2. Groups get the version of their Class Steward-shed Map that is annotated with possible sources of pollution (from previous lesson Steward-shed Investigation Part 3 - Pollution Based on Maps) and their steward-shed models (from Steward-shed Investigation Part 2 - Build a Model of Your Steward-shed)

  3. Be sure that the “Based on Personal Memory” and “Based on Maps” posters are available for the class to see.

  4. Explain: “We will be going out into the field to look for and document sources of pollution in our steward-shed.  Looking at your maps and models decide where you think would be a good place within our steward-shed to observe pollution.”

  5. Groups review their maps and models and determine which specific place within the class steward-shed they would like to visit first.  Students may want to investigate an area that has something of interest they could see on the map resources or an area that led them to some questions.

  6. Students or groups share out where they would like to go and why.

  7. After share out, make a determination (either executive or democratic) as to the specific place to go within the class steward-shed.

This would be a good time to break until the next class.


  1. Go into the field.

  2. Students get into small groups.

  3. Each group gets a clipboard with their version of the Class Steward-shed Map that is annotated with possible sources of pollution and a clean copy of the Class Steward-shed Map.

  4. Before students go off to work and explore, remind them took for both point source and nonpoint source pollution

  5. Students make observations and add them to their annotated maps or clean maps.

This would be a good time to break until the next class.


  1. Back in the classroom

  2. In small groups, students review the work they completed in the field.

  3. Students brainstorm what they have learned and still wonder about that area, in an open-ended way.

  4. Students or groups share out some of the pollution sources they have found in the field.

    • Post their findings for the class to see under the label, “Based on Field Observation” (put this side-by-side with the other posters)

    • As questions come up, continue to post them, to see if students will be able to answer some of them throughout the remainder of their research in this Steward-shed Investigation.

  5. Students begin to think about how to represent what they observed on their steward-shed models.  They may need another clean copy of the Class Steward-shed Map for this purpose.

    • Students decide where to put the observed pollution on their model and what materials they should used to represent the pollution.  

  6. Students share out their ideas for their watershed model.  

    • Take note of the materials the students mention so that you can have them ready for the next class when they actually add to their steward-shed model.


  1. Students make inferences and brainstorm what some of the impacts might be of the sources of pollution they observed in the field.

    • Post their inferences and questions on the poster, “Based on Field Observations”

  2. Ask your students, which of these sources of pollution we observed in the field do you think should be addressed first?  Why?  What should we focus on? The “worst” source of pollution? The easiest to address? Something else?


NGSS - Cross-Cutting Concepts

  • Cause and Effect

    • Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural or designed systems.
    • Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural systems.
  • Influence of Engineering, Technology, and Science on Society and the Natural World

    • All human activity draws on natural resources and has both short and long-term consequences, positive as well as negative, for the health of people and the natural environment.
    • The uses of technologies and any limitation on their use are driven by individual or societal needs, desires, and values; by the findings of scientific research; and by differences in such factors as climate, natural resources, and economic conditions. Thus technology use varies from region to region and over time.
  • Scale, Proportion, and Quantity

    • Time, space, and energy phenomena can be observed at various scales using models to study systems that are too large or too small.
  • Science Addresses Questions About the Natural and Material World

    • Scientific knowledge can describe the consequences of actions but does not necessarily prescribe the decisions that society takes
  • Structure and Function

    • Complex and microscopic structures and systems can be visualized, modeled, and used to describe how their function depends on the relationships among its parts, therefore complex natural structures/systems can be analyzed to determine how they function.
    • Structures can be designed to serve particular functions by taking into account properties of different materials, and how materials can be shaped and used.
    • Structures can be designed to serve particular functions.
  • Systems and System Models

    • Models can be used to represent systems and their interactions.
    • Models can be used to represent systems and their interactions—such as inputs, processes and outputs—and energy and matter flows within systems.
    • Systems may interact with other systems; they may have sub-systems and be a part of larger complex systems.

NGSS - Disciplinary Core Ideas

  • ESS2.C: The Roles of Water in Earth's Surface Processes

    • Water continually cycles among land, ocean, and atmosphere via transpiration, evaporation, condensation and crystallization, and precipitation, as well as downhill flows on land.
    • Water’s movements—both on the land and underground—cause weathering and erosion, which change the land’s surface features and create underground formations.
  • ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems

    • Human activities have significantly altered the biosphere, sometimes damaging or destroying natural habitats and causing the extinction of other species. But changes to Earth’s environments can have different impacts (negative and positive) for different living things.
  • ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems

    • The more precisely a design task’s criteria and constraints can be defined, the more likely it is that the designed solution will be successful. Specification of constraints includes consideration of scientific principles and other relevant knowledge that are likely to limit possible solutions.
  • ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions

    • A solution needs to be tested, and then modified on the basis of the test results, in order to improve it.
  • ETS1.C: Optimizing the Design Solution

    • Although one design may not perform the best across all tests, identifying the characteristics of the design that performed the best in each test can provide useful information for the redesign process - that is, some of the characteristics may be incorporated into the new design. (secondary)
    • Although one design may not perform the best across all tests, identifying the characteristics of the design that performed the best in each test can provide useful information for the redesign process—that is, some of those characteristics may be incorporated into the new design.
  • LS2.A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems

    • Organisms, and populations of organisms, are dependent on their environmental interactions both with other living things and with nonliving factors.

NGSS - Science and Engineering Practices

  • Asking Questions and Defining Problems

    • Ask questions that can be investigated within the scope of the classroom, outdoor environment, and museums and other public facilities with available resources and, when appropriate, frame a hypothesis based on observations and scientific principles.
    • Define a design problem that can be solved through the development of an object, tool, process or system and includes multiple criteria and constraints, including scientific knowledge that may limit possible solutions.
  • Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

    • Undertake a design project, engaging in the design cycle, to construct and/or implement a solution that meets specific design criteria and constraints.
  • Developing and Using Models

    • Develop a model to describe unobservable mechanisms
    • Develop a model to generate data to test ideas about designed systems, including those representing inputs and outputs.
    • Develop a model to predict and/or describe phenomena
  • Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

    • Gather, read, and synthesize information from multiple appropriate sources and assess the credibility, accuracy, and possible bias of each publication and methods used, and describe how they are supported or not supported by evidence.

NYC Science Scope & Sequence - Units

  • Grade 6, Unit 2

    • Weather and Atmosphere
  • Grade 6, Unit 4

    • Interdependence
  • Grade 7, Unit 1

    • Geology
  • Grade 8, Unit 4

    • Humans and the Environment: Needs and Tradeoffs