Sixth-grade science project aims to clean up Lake Arbor

Students to present findings to city council

Casey Van Divier
cvandivier@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 1/8/20

A project that has taken over the entire sixth grade class at Moore Middle School — and will soon find its way into Arvada City Hall — started with one 11-year-old, Zach Ford, while he was on a …

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Sixth-grade science project aims to clean up Lake Arbor

Students to present findings to city council

Posted

A project that has taken over the entire sixth grade class at Moore Middle School — and will soon find its way into Arvada City Hall — started with one 11-year-old, Zach Ford, while he was on a walk with his dad John this summer.

The two were passing by Lake Arbor when Zach asked his dad why they couldn’t see any fish in the lake. John suggested that Zach pose the question to his sixth-grade science teacher, Alicia Asmus, when the school year started back up in August.

“I wanted to have an answer,” Zach said. “After I asked her, she said there were signs around the lake saying the lake was dangerous. We wanted to try to fix it.”

Zach and John suggested the fix might require a little more manpower, and before long, Zach’s whole class was working on the project.

“I think they were excited,” Zach said.

Back in August, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) found “high levels of toxic blue-green algae in Lake Arbor,” said a statement from Arvada Water posted on Nextdoor, a social networking service.

The city posted warning signs at the lake to warn passersby of the algae, which can cause adverse effects, such as flu-like symptoms, for those who come into contact with it. For animals, contact with blue-green algae can be fatal.

The statement added that the algae is “common in Colorado” and can appear in hot weather.

A second statement posted Sept. 10 said that follow-up testing found toxin levels below the CDPHE reporting range.

However, the statement said, “conditions can change quickly.”

“The algae can be there in the morning and gone in the afternoon,” said Patrick Miklos, Arvada water quality technician. “We do plan on continuing to test, primarily when it’s hot.”

Meanwhile, the sixth-grade science class at Moore Middle School, near 88th and Wadsworth Blvd. on the Westminster and Arvada border, is also doing its part to find a solution. The class devotes roughly one class period a week to researching the project, Asmus said.

“They started off with just questioning. I posed the question, ‘what do you think is wrong with the lake?’ They came up with a lot of different hypotheses,” she said.

Initial research led to a field trip to the lake Nov. 6, where students made observations and collected water samples to be tested back in the school science lab, she said.

After testing the water for phosphorous, nitrogen and pH levels — which, if out of the normal range, can propagate algae growth — the students created online graphs to draw conclusions.

“They discovered our phosphates are higher than they should be,” Asmus said.

Having conducted more research and spoken with multiple scientists from around the state, the students are now trying to figure out what the main cause of the high phosphorous level could be. The class has already come up with several ideas, such as the number of geese in the area and pollution, Asmus and Zach said.

The city government has also gotten in on the project, with the students asking Arvada Water to test some of the samples, Asmus said.

“My results were similar to what the kids were getting,” said Miklos, who tested the samples back in November, and whose sixth-grade son has been part of the project.

“It was a good opportunity to collaborate with the students and teachers and show them the impact we have on the environment,” he said. “And it would be nice to see that lake get cleaned up.”

The class plans to present their findings and potential solutions to the Arvada City Council at a Feb. 3 meeting. The goal is for the students to possibly build something to mitigate the problem — and, if all goes well, sixth-grade students next year could monitor the effectiveness of that solution, she said.

“This is important because people like to walk by the lake, and we don’t want people and animals to get sick,” Zach said. “It feels like I’m making a difference in the community.”

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