The Upper Valley Mercury Project

What was your driving question?

Do different bodies of water have different mercury concentrations?

Grades Involved

9th through 12th

What PBE principles were highlighted in this project?

Project Description

Students went out to rivers, lakes, and streams in the upper valley and captured dragonfly samples that were sent to a lab affiliated with Dartmouth College in order to analyze the mercury concentration in local water sources. Students generated research questions and identified bodies of water they wanted to explore. They analyzed the data from Dartmouth in real time and made comparisons to other bodies of water locally and in other areas.



How did this project connect to your local or regional community?

Dartmouth College was able to work with high school students to gather samples for authentic scientific studies on the impact of mercury concentrations on local bodies of water. Mercury is a byproduct of coal/mining, so concentrations are not high here, but they are present.

How did this positively impact the community? How was it shared?

Data was shared out locally and nationally via Dartmouth’s research team and the findings that they published in several peer-reviewed scientific papers. Students also presented scientific posters at an Upper Valley event held annually at Dartmouth College featuring dozens of schools and researchers.

Reflection: What was the biggest challenge? What was the most rewarding aspect of this project?

The biggest challenge was engaging students in that early inquiry process, but once they got out in the field and started collecting samples, and especially when they saw the data from their sampling, they began to engage more readily.

Any advice for a teacher or student that is implementing a PBE project for the first time?

This is a great way to help kids find agency in what they do.