Water Pollution Detectives- In Search of BPA, a Brain Damaging Agent!

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Objective

Students will analyze water pollution models to predict the movement of the brain antagonist BPA. .

Big Idea

By analyzing how other carbon based, synthetic compounds travel through water treatment systems, we can predict how BPA, a brain antagonist enters and impacts the human brain.

Introduction

Lesson Background & Justification:

           Water pollution is the contamination of water bodies (e.g. lakes, rivers, oceans, aquifers and groundwater). This form of environmental degradation occurs when pollutants are directly or indirectly discharged into water bodies without adequate treatment to remove harmful compounds.

            BPA, or Bisphenol A is an industrial chemical that has been used to make certain plastics and resins for decades. While this constituent is great at producing clear and tough plastic products, some research has shown that BPA can seep into the environment from these materials when disposed of improperly and can accumulate in our water bodies without proper treatment. Exposure to BPA is a concern because of its possible health effects on the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children. In this lesson, students learn how to analyze how a variety of pollutants, including an industrial pollutant like BPA enter and accumulate in water bodies which are ultimately filtered and consumed by humans. This studied system is then used a prediction model for students to potentially trace how BPA enters and travels through our drinking water sources and is then placed in position to potentially cause neurological issues in humans.   

Prerequisite Knowledge: It is recommended that students be familiar with the structure and function of a neuron, the concept of neurotransmission, the action potential mechanism, metabolic process of cellular respiration, structure and function of DNA, enzyme structure and function and organelle function. 

Connection to the End of Year Student Research Project: This lesson has been inserted upstream of student research project execution to satisfy the following objectives:

1) Demonstrate and predict how plastic analytes such as BPA make it into public drinking water systems and consequently human systems.

2) Expose students to the chemical nature and physiological effects of BPA in organisms so that they are able to develop research questions and hypothesis for their research projects if they elect this chemical over their other options of Nicotine, or Heavy Metals. (See Student Brainstorming Ideas Attached)

Lesson Preparations:

 In the effort to prepare for this lesson, I make certain that I have the following items in place: 

a) A class set of Science Take Out's Pollution Investigation (1 copy of the student lab per student pair) 

b) Student lab books.

Common Core and NGSS Standards:

SP1- Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering).

SP2- Developing and Using Models.

SP4- Analyzing and interpreting data.

XC-SSM-HS-4- Models can be used to predict the behavior of a system but these predictions have limited precision and reliability due to the assumptions and approximations inherent in models. 

Standards Rationale:

      Modeling is the process by which scientists represent ideas about the natural world to each other, and then collaboratively make changes to these representations over time in response to new evidence and understandings. It is intimately connected to other scientific processes (asking questions, communicating information, etc.) and improves students ability to recall scientific jargon through association. In the classroom, it is important that teachers engage students in modeling practices, to set the foundation of success in a lesson or instructional unit. In this lesson modeling is used in concert with other science practices in the classroom to promote students’ reasoning and understanding of core science idea presented (pollution investigations.)  

Engage

5 minutes

Section Primer:

           BPA, or Bisphenol A is an industrial chemical that has been used to make certain plastics and resins for decades. While this constituent is great at producing clear and tough plastic products, some research has shown that BPA can seep into the environment from these materials when disposed of improperly and can accumulate in our water bodies without proper treatment. Exposure to BPA is a concern because of its possible health effects on the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children.

Section Sequence:

a) Slide 1: Instruct students to examine the image carefully and ask "Does it portray BPA or Bisphenol A as a friend or foe?" Probe students to clarify their responses. 

b) Slide 2: Share with students that this very chemical has also been found in water bottles and tap water. Ask: Should this evoke fear in you? Probe students to clarify their responses. Discuss degree of fear if it is mentioned by students to see if they are capable of discerning hype from cautionary information.  

Standards Covered:

SP1- Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering).

Explore

50 minutes

Section Sequence:

    In this section of the lesson, students simulate four water sampling techniques in the effort to assess the presence of a variety of materials in water such as metal, synthetic chemicals and biological constituents. Thereafter, students are challenged to consider not only how and why materials classified as pollutants are traced in waters but to consider how and why the circulation of BPA, a brain antagonist might mirror these pathways. The goal is for students to apply methodologies employed in water quality testing for materials of concern today to potential concerns of tomorrow (BPA). This section proceeds as follows:

Slide 3: 

a) Share with students that they will execute a set of tasks that will that will further their understanding of how chemical, biological and metal based pollutants are cycled through the environment that could potentially impact the nervous system and other systems in humans. Indicate that in order to understand how BPA potentially makes its way into our tap water, they must learn more about how common pollutants are deposited in our water bodies. Read and ask students to consider a response to the question presented in the slide's header. Instruct for them to complete task A as it is listed on the slide. After 5 minutes, take a few responses (discuss their hypothesis development) from the class before moving into the lab tasks outlined on the slide. (10 minutes)

b) Step B: Instruct students partner pairs to obtain the Science Take Out's Pollution Investigation  bagged kit. Direct students to popcorn read the introduction of the lab and rhetorically pose the questions listed on the screen to the group. (5 minutes)

c) Step C: Instruct students to complete this step as prescribed. Students are to record their responses in their lab books before sharing their responses and justifications out to the class. (5 minutes)  

d) Step D: Explain to students how important it is for vetted systems and protocols (such as current water quality testing and pollution tracking)  in the science community is to expedite the resolution of new threats such as increased exposure to BPA.  Further explain that they will take the opportunity to engage in an established system for testing water quality and evaluate its credibility to stand as a system for BPA testing to prevent future neurological issues. Instruct students to proceed with the activities of Step D, Part 1-4 of the lab kit. Encourage students to use colored highlighters to discern pollutants and their effects in the reading passages for better visualization and comprehension. Students should be given 20 minutes to complete this part of the activity. 

e) Step E: Ask: "Is this system worthy of replicating in the search for brain antagonists such as BPA? How would we modify it for the purposes of tracing and quantifying BPA?" Finally, instruct students to revisit, revise and share out their hypothesis with class based on their experiences. (10 minutes)

Standards Covere:

SP1- Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering).

SP2- Developing and Using Models.

SP4- Analyzing and interpreting data.

XC-SSM-HS-4- Models can be used to predict the behavior of a system but these predictions have limited precision and reliability due to the assumptions and approximations inherent in models. 

Explain

20 minutes

Section Sequence:

a)Slide 4: Ask: "What is BPA anyhow and do we have reason to fear it in our drinking water?". Let's see why there are concerns about this chemical. Play the following video and instruct students to take notes on the information presented:

         

b) Pose the questions in step a to the class again and discuss them in light of the new information presented.

c) Share with students that their exposure to BPA is more common than they know. Ask them to guess other ways that they may be exposed to BPA beyond drinking water. Proceed to play the following video and revisit the question (This time, encourage students consider how the BPA in receipts may find their way into our water supply and alter the concentration of this chemical in our drinking water eventually) post video:

       

Students should take notes while the video is in progress. 

d) Ask students if they think that BPA could potentially impact the brain. Allow for students to respond, play the following video and revisit the question thereafter. 

       

Students should take notes while the video is in progress. 

Standards:

 SP1- Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering).

 SP4- Analyzing and interpreting data.

 XC-SSM-HS-4- Models can be used to predict the behavior of a system but these predictions have limited precision and reliability due to the assumptions and approximations inherent in models. 

Extend

10 minutes

Section Sequence:

a) Slide 5: Present the image to students and share that it presents various entry points of BPA and ask if they had noticed BPA in their receipts before. Take responses. Ask how can we test for it?

b) Provide students with older receipts and have them assess the BPA content based on the procedure mentioned in the second video presented in the explain section of the lesson.

c) Instruct students to find receipts on their person and to test their receipts in the same fashion. Ask: Are you exposed to a lot of BPA beyond the very small quantities in the drinking water? Discuss responses based on their receipt tests.

Standards:

SP1- Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering).

SP2- Developing and Using Models.

SP4- Analyzing and interpreting data.

XC-SSM-HS-4- Models can be used to predict the behavior of a system but these predictions have limited precision and reliability due to the assumptions and approximations inherent in models. 

Evaluate

5 minutes

Section Sequence:

a) Slide 6: Present students the image on the screen and pose the following question: Considering all of the various types of pollutants that are introduced to our water bodies, when and how do you think that chloride and chlorine are introduced and ultimately create the problems represented by the data? Students should record their responses in their lab books which should be collected and graded upon dismissal of the class. 

Standards:

SP1- Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering).

XC-SSM-HS-4- Models can be used to predict the behavior of a system but these predictions have limited precision and reliability due to the assumptions and approximations inherent in models.