Now more than ever, as a family we are trying to get outside and find ways to stretch our legs, but together, that can be hard to do responsibly during this time of social distancing. A walk around the neighborhood always seems like a good idea – but have you considered getting the kiddos out to pick up trash along the way? One thing our Alliance parents have tried is taking a family “Trash Hike” to clean up their little corner of the Chesapeake Watershed. Here are some things that you can talk about with your kids while taking a Trash Hike to encourage them to get excited about a clean environment:

  • What does the trash do to the wildlife in the area?
  • Why should you clean up other people’s trash?  
  • What would happen if no one cleaned up the trash that was lying around?  
  • Can you be a good example to others by picking up the garbage?  
  • Also talk about the safety aspect:NEVER pick up needles/syringes, be careful around rusty metal and glass so that you don’t cut yourself, and wear gloves to protect yourself from anything you might touch.

Need answers for the above questions? Check out the following resources: 

Feel free to visit your local waterway to do the same! Don’t forget to take the proper safety precautions and to practice social distancing! 

Continue the activity inside by trying this easy Hands-on Water Treatment Project for Kids. This is a fun way to teach your children about where our clean water comes from, how there is a limited supply that gets recycled over and over again, and how that recycled water is treated so we can use it again. 

Here is what you will need:

  • A glass jar with a lid
  • Alum powder
  • Gravel (rinsed)
  • Colander

To begin your investigation, head to your local pond or waterway to source a “dirty water sample” in your jar.  

Step 1: Coagulation and Sedimentation 

  • To begin cleaning your water sample, shake some Alum powder into the jar.
  • Shake the jar. This demonstrates what would happen in a mixing basin at a waterworks, which is a system of reservoirs, channels, mains, and pumping and purifying equipment by which a water supply is obtained and distributed. Nothing will seem to happen right away, so let your jar sit for a few hours so the sediment can settle, just like in a settling basin of a waterworks system.
  • Let the jar sit and come back later to see how well the alum has cleaned your water! In a real water treatment plant, the added Alum forms clumps with the dirt, which is called “flocculation”, and pulls the dirt down to the bottom of the basin.

Step 2: Filtration

  • Place gravel into your colander and rinse thoroughly.
  • Placing a tray underneath your colander, pour your water sample over your gravel collection in your colander (making sure the flocculation stays in the jar). 
  • Look at your water sample after pouring it over the gravel, you will likely see some small specks of dirt.  
  • Next, place a coffee filter or paper towel in your colander to catch these last small pieces of dirt. Repeat the process of pouring your water sample over your gravel and filter, catching it in another container.
  • Your water should be pretty clear at this point. But – it isn’t completely clean yet. What else could be in the water that you can’t see?

Step 3: Disinfection 

  • The final step at a waterworks is to disinfect the water. 
  • Talk with your child about how chlorine is often added to disinfect the water.
  • While you can spray a little unscented chlorine bleach into the sample to “clean it”, it is still NOT drinkable. You and your child are just pretending to clean the water like they do in a waterworks system. Finish up this fun project with your kids by asking if they have any questions. You’ll notice they probably have a lot more questions about clean water and the process.

Show us how you did so that we can share your project! Post your photos and tag the Alliance (@Allianceforthebay).

If you and your family are participating in any sustainability-related activities, whether inside or out of the house, don’t forget to equip yourselves with the necessary safety precautions: masks, gloves, garbage bags, and of course, your camera, to take photos along the way to document your activity and hopefully build an awareness in your community about what can be done while social distancing!

For more photos on how the Alliance is staying engaged in nature, visit our Facebook page and feel free to share ways you and your family are staying busy and having fun while social distancing!