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Earth Systems Science Core
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Water is a great solvent, which means that it will dissolve things. This is because water is a polar molecule, with  positive and negative ends. Because of this, water will dissolve other polar molecules such as Salt (NaCl).
Play the movie at the right. Why did the stream of water bend when the plastic knife was placed close? What charge do you think the knife has? Does the charge matter? How does a water molecule simulate a bar magnet?

Water flows and, therefore, can go just about anywhere. Wherever it goes, water will carry with it the substance or substances it has dissolved. It can also transport less desirable materials such as pesticides and toxic chemicals. Sewer wastewater can contain disease-causing agents. Often sewage and agricultural wastewater contain fertilizers which upset natural ecosystems due to a dramatic increases in growth of algae and other water plants.

Water can cause the erosion of land, destroying valuable soil resources and clogging streams and lakes with silt. Changes made in natural river systems by the construction of dams or removing natural wetlands upsets ecosystems. The photograph at the right shows how dirty water can look when it is carrying soil resources. Imagine what this would look like if the water carried pollution instead of dirt!



  1. Write a letter to the editor of a local newspaper explaining why you believe the water in your area should be kept contaminant free. Make sure you describe what could be done to fulfill this request.
  2. Water Report
    • Choose and study a characteristic of water and prepare a written report on that topic.
      Topics to Choose from: Surface Tension, Capillary Action, Solubility, Phase Changes, Density
    • Note: No matter which topic you choose, you will need to learn about polarity. All of these topics are related to polarity in some way and must include polarity in the explanations in your paper.
    • About the paper:
      • The paper will be 3/4 to one page in length.
      • It will be typed or hand-written in ink.
      • You will include an outline and rough draft.
      • Your paper should reflect your outline and include:
        1. An introduction on the importance of water and what you will write about in your paper.
        2. A detailed scientific explanation of the characteristic of water you have selected.
        3. Explanation of examples of applications (uses) of your water property in everyday life and nature.
        4. A conclusion that sums up what you have stated and learned from your paper.
        5. You must list your sources in a bibliography. Remember it is very important that you not plagiarize or copy the information. Such work is not worth a grade.
          1. Encyclopedia
            Encyclopedia, Edition, Volume, City of publishing: publishing year.
          2. Internet
            Page title (date accessed), description of site, URL address
        6. Written Project Assessment:
          60% content (depth and coverage)
          20% clarity of explanation, organization of information
          10% outline and rough draft
          10% bibliography
Review science lab safety rules here.

Get the plug-ins: Get Adobe Acrobat Reader and Get Quicktime Player. (The QuickTime plug-in is needed to play sounds and movies correctly.)

Want to share photos of you or your friends doing this activity? Send it in an e-mail with the following information:

  1. The title of the activity
  2. The URL (Internet address)
  3. Your name.

Remember that no pictures can be used that show student faces or student names on it. 

Teachers should view the Teacher Site Map to relate Sci-ber text and the USOE Earth Systems Science core.


Updated October 24, 2008 by: Glen Westbroek

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