Service and Action (S&A) is an integral part of the MYP (Middle Years Programme)* and of life at INTL*. S&A starts in the classroom and extends beyond it. Students are encouraged to make authentic connections between what they learn at school and their surroundings, and to think about what they can both give to the community and what they can learn from it. Students engage in both Short-Term and Long-Term Service and Action activities throughout the year, and then reflect on what they have done.
Here 6th grader Talinn H. reflects on his experience helping to monitor the water quality of San Francisquito Creek.
Reflection by 6th Grader Talinn H.
All life on earth needs water to survive. If our water sources become dirty, humans, animals, and plants will be in danger. How did I learn about this? My mom found an organisation called Grassroots Ecology, that organizes programs that teach volunteers how to make their local environments cleaner. I chose to participate in a 3 hour program that measures water quality. My parents and I went to four different sites along the San Francisquito Creek for this project.
We met our guide and other volunteers at the creek on Saturday, September 22. Our guide explained how the water in the creek gets polluted. The five main reasons are from car oil, car wash soap, pesticides, fertilizers used for plants, pet waste, and trash. Then he showed us two ways to measure the water quality. The first measures the turbidity or clarity of the water and the second measures the acidity, temperature, and dissolved oxygen levels.
To measure turbidity, we lowered a metal cup attached to a long string into the creek. When it was filled, we pulled it up, and put the water into a little vial, shook it, and poured it back out. We repeated this three times to make sure the vial was clean and left the water inside the fourth time. Next, we put the vial into a machine called a turbidimeter, which measures the clarity of the water. The range is from zero to one thousand, zero being the cleanest. At the first site, we got 2.19! That was very surprising to me since I thought creek water would have been dirtier. We did this procedure twice at every site to make sure the results were correct.
For the second activity, we used another machine to measure the acidity, temperature, and dissolved oxygen. We lowered a cord connected to the machine into the water, and noted down the results in a form that the guide gave us. For animals to drink water from the creek, the pH has to be between six and nine. For the sites that we went to, the pH was always between eight and nine which is very good.
For the last sight, we got 13 on the turbidimeter the first time but 6 the second time. We figured that if there was such a big difference, we should probably measure a third time. Then we got a 6 again, so we knew that the first time was incorrect. We had put the cup in too deep, hence mud and sand got in the cup, making the water dirtier. At the third sight, the creek was dry, because of no rains. Our guide explained to us that even if there was no water, they had still been cleaning it up in hopes that when that area fills up, the water would be as clean as possible. Overall, nothing went wrong, and I think it was a very interesting experience.
During this activity, I think I showed the principles of awareness and responsibility. If our community doesn't even realize how and why the water is getting polluted, then there is no way to solve the problem. Once we realize what the cause is, we will be responsible pick up trash and pet waste, not used pesticides, not wash cars in driveways, not let car oil get to the creek, etc...If we don’t do this, it will impact the vegetation, and animals around the creeks, so it’s very important that we do.
I didn’t really sacrifice anything. It was on a Saturday morning but it wasn’t too early so I wouldn’t say I lost sleep. Also, it was really fun, interactive and I learned a lot. It was an opportunity for me to try something new.
In conclusion, I think this service learning project was a very good way to learn something new, and help nature. More people in our community should do activities like this too, so they can start being aware of the problem and help fix it. I definitely would go back and do a another activity with this organization in the future. Now I understand why it was so important to restore the San Francisquito creek near INTL on Bayshore road, even though there was really bad traffic to school last year.
*In 2020, the International School of the Peninsula (ISTP) formally changed its name to Silicon Valley International School (INTL) to better reflect its bilingual programs, location, and international values
*Only schools authorized by the IB Organization can offer any of its four academic programmes: the Primary Years Programme (PYP), the Middle Years Programme (MYP), the Diploma Programme or the Career-related Programme (CP). Candidate status gives no guarantee that authorization will be granted. For further information about the IB and its programmes, visit http://www.ibo.org