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Chicago Water Quality Report

School: Polaris Charter Academy

City/State: Chicago, IL

Grade(s): 7, 8

Subject(s): Science and Technology

Project Overview

During the 2022-2023 school year, seventh and eighth grade students at Polaris Charter Academy focused on learning physics and chemistry through multiple lenses. By the end of the year, students were tasked to apply their scientific knowledge to examine a pressing issue of environmental and social justice: water quality. Chicago has almost 400,000 Chicago homes with lead water pipes-–far more than any other U.S. city. An analysis by The Guardian of Chicago’s water quality data from 2016-2021 evidenced one in twenty tests found lead; one third of tests were above the limits allowed for bottled water. Furthermore, this analysis identified, “Nine of the top ten zip codes with the largest percentages of high test results were neighborhoods with majorities of Black and Hispanic residents2.”


During the third trimester, Polaris students were challenged to demonstrate a deep understanding and mastery of the following questions and targets:


Guiding Questions

How do we measure the quality of our water?

Is access to clean water a human right?

How can I advocate for change using science?


Learning Targets

LT 1: I can describe contaminants found in water.

LT 2: I can explain the attributes of water quality.

LT 3: I can evaluate the quality of water.


To this end, students dove into understanding water quality over two month, engaging in fieldwork at different Metropolitan Water Reclamation District facilities, gathering authentic research by testing different sites across the city, analyzing open-source data sets on Chicago’s water quality, and collaborating with an expert chemist, Ms. Cynthia Chapple.


The subsequent report was written by students and will be sent to Chicago’s new mayor, The Honorable Mr. Brandon Johnson, for review.


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