Learning about higher level hydrology

April is here and that means it’s time for our students in the STREAM mentoring program to go on field trips.

This year Jeanne Johnson and I decided to take her 21 students at North Elementary School to see the new Elkins Water Plant at the top of High Street. It’s just about as high up as we can go in our town and the view is inspiring.

Ms. Johnson is a retired teacher who understands the value of good planning. She suggested that we should go up to the water plant to see where the bus would park and plan how to manage her group of fourth- and fifth-graders. She also put together a list of vocabulary words to help students talk intelligently about their field trip experience and understand real-world applications for nonfiction reading skills they develop in school.

A month or so ago we asked City Operations Manager Bob Pingley to lead our tour of the water plant, and Kump Education Center agreed to pay for a school bus. Now when we wanted to make a preliminary visit in my own car, I was not sure we could get through the intimidating security gate at the extreme top of High Street. After another call to City Hall, we got clearance and only needed to press a button on the black box by the gate and tell why we were there.

Chief Operator Wes Lambert gave us a quick tour of the filtration system. He has met the qualification to earn his Water Treatment Plant license with the state through on the job training. He loves the work and really enjoys taking his coffee break outside the front door of the plant where he has the best possible view in Elkins. The water plant is higher than any other building in town, and water must be pumped up all the way from the river.

The natural force of gravity causes water to flow back down to town. Then water can rise in the pipes inside buildings because water seeks its own level in a closed pipe system. The filtration system in tanks at the top of the water plant are stirred by large mixers that mimic natural filtration occurring in streams and rivers.

First the water moves fast, then as it slows gradually as particles fall to the bottom in the last few tanks. Chlorine helps keep the water safe for drinking, but less of it is needed with a good filtration system.

Mr. Lambert protects water quality in his community carefully, and he is proud of his responsibilities. He says there are many other city employees dedicated to their public service.

We hope students will consider technical such jobs available in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

We look forward to our sky high field trip and hope Mayor Van Broughton will have lunch with us at Kump Education Center.