High school students work with elementary students to gather data from the creek.
High school students work with elementary students to gather data from the creek.

Mars Area SD high school students are honing skills in science and analysis while performing community service for Adams Township in Butler County. Through the Mars Area Water Protection Program, students are helping the township complete required annual water quality tests, among other services.

Each year about 100 Mars Area High School students are trained in biological, chemical and physical analysis of the local Breakneck Creek watershed as part of their classroom curriculum and an all-day stream field trip. In turn, the students act as instructors to classes of fifth-graders from Mars Area Centennial School. Under the guidance of the older students, the fifth-graders test the temperature, depth and speed of the stream as well as pH levels. The group analyzes the data, then sends it to the township administrative office for submission to the state.

A second component of the program involves the PA Municipal Separate Storm Sewer (MS4 PA) water testing program. Volunteer students from the high school locate their houses on a map the school has generated and a Global Positioning System (GPS) is used to identify all outflow pipes that enter the stream. The school has identified every pipe, its condition, material it’s constructed of and exact coordinates, placed on the map of the township.

In addition, the student volunteers find the stream nearest their house, perform a stream walk to identify the pipes, take samples of any discharge and of the stream itself, and bring them to the school to perform chemical tests on them. The data is submitted to the township, to fulfill annual state requirements. The students receive volunteer hours for community service and contribute to a longstanding database of stream monitoring.