Bacteria Pollution Prevention

Grade: Sixth
Duration: Three 1 hour session and 2 hour field trip to San Lorenzo River/local tributary.
Location: Classroom, schoolyard and field trip to San Lorenzo River

Materials, transportation and teaching provided free by the Coastal Watershed Council
Supported by generous funding from the County of Santa Cruz Green Schools Program, City of Santa Cruz, City of Capitola, the Joseph and Vera Long Foundation.

Supports Next Generation Science Standards:
MS-LS1-1. Conduct an investigation to provide evidence that living things are made of cells; either one cell or many different numbers and types of cells
MS-LS1-5. Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for how environmental and genetic factors influence the growth of organisms.
MS-ESS3-3. Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.

Lesson Series Overview
Bacteria can be found everywhere. Depending upon its source, it can be either beneficial or harmful to humans. Some bacteria is helpful by preventing allergies, helping digest food, producing enzymes, hormones and vitamins essential for the human body. Yet, other bacteria cause human-borne disease, called pathogenic bacteria. Students will example safe sources of bacteria to examine the cell structure and functions and use evidence to explain how bacteria lives and grows. Students will learn about the different sources of pathogenic bacteria and how to minimize and prevent pathogenic bacteria from impacting humans.

Students will:
Session #1 (Classroom): Examine safe examples of bacteria collected from house and environmental sources for the structure and function of these unicellular organisms. Students will use evidence to explain how available sources of food, water and the proper environment support bacteria’s ability to live and grow. See below for description of safety precautions.

Session #2 (Classroom): Examine different sources of bacteria and categorize into positive and negative functions for humans. Investigate two bacteria (one that enters and one that exits the body) and examine how pathogenic bacteria affects human health if it enters local bodies of water. Review local water quality data to assess the prevalence of e-coli and total coliform in local water bodies.

Session #3 (FIELD TRIP): Observe local water body for evidence of sources of pathogenic bacteria (pet waste, sewer or septic tank leaks, bird droppings, etc). Collect water samples from local water body to determine indicators for total coliform and e-coli in water. See below for Safety Data Sheets for water quality test.

Session #4 (Classroom):  Analyze results from field investigation and apply knowledge gained to design a method for monitoring and minimizing bacteria pollution to a local water body.

Bacteria Safety Considerations and Safety Data Sheets
During the first lesson, students will be provided with sealed samples of bacteria collected from various sources at a home and environment. Youth will have safety goggles and gloves to safely handle the bacteria samples. Bacteria samples will be safely disposed of following the lesson off-campus.

During the third lesson, students will collect a water sample from a local water body to test for indicators of bacteria (total coliform and e-coli) using a LaMotte 4-3616-UV test kit. All precautions are taken for youth to have a safe and enjoyable experience collecting water samples. No dangerous or hazardous chemicals are used. Please see below for Safety Data Sheets for the two components of the test:
1) Safety Data Sheet La Motte 2-2197: Whirl Pack Water Sampling Bag with Tablet Inside
2) Safety Data Sheet La Motte 4890: Coliform Tablet with MUG

Schedule “Bacteria Pollution Prevention”
If you are interested in scheduling the “Bacteria Pollution Prevention” lesson series, please use the below registration form. Please contact Mollie Behn, Education Coordinator, with any questions at

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