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LAB in Mixtures, Identifying an Unknown, Solute & Solvent, Chemical Properties, Chemical Technical Professionals. Last updated December 12, 2022.


In this lab, students use simple pool test strips to collect water samples from local water sources, such as area faucets, pools, lakes, rivers, puddles, etc. They will compile all of the collected data to allow students to collectively make observations and ask testable questions. After determining a question of interest, groups of students will organize the related data, research relevant background information, form reasonable conclusions, and present their arguments.

Grade Level

High School and Middle School

NGSS Alignment

This lab will help prepare your students to meet the performance expectations in the following standards:

  • MS-ESS3-3: Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.
  • HS-LS2-7: Design, evaluate, and refine a solution for reducing the impacts of human activities on the environment and biodiversity.
  • Scientific and Engineering Practices:
    • Asking Questions and Defining Problems
    • Analyzing and Interpreting Data
    • Planning and Carrying Out Investigations
    • Engaging in Argument from Evidence
    • Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information


By the end of this lab, students should be able to:

  • Experimentally determine the relative level of select ions in a water sample.
  • Logically organize and analyze data on a spreadsheet.
  • Interpret data to form a hypothesis.
  • Suggest further investigation possibilities to related to a testable question.
  • Use evidence to support or refute a claim.

Chemistry Topics

This lab supports students’ understanding of:

  • Identifying an Unknown
  • Solutions
  • Ion Concentration
  • pH Scale


Teacher Preparation: 20 min (organizing materials, collecting information for students)
Lesson: 120-180 minutes (depending on how much outside of class work is expected)



  • Students should only collect water samples from safe water supplies (make sure students are aware of wildlife, hazard, etc.)
  • Gloves are not necessary during collection but can be used to increase authenticity.

Teacher Notes

  • The different portions of this lab can be completed over several days, at the teacher’s discretion, as time allows. Ideally, the pre-lab and reading portion can be completed on day 1, or outside of class, followed by the data collection also occurring outside of class. Students can compile results and analyze data and trends together in class while also formulating a testable question on day 2. Finally on day 3 for students to share/present results and discuss findings.
  • To begin, explain how to use test strips to your students. Use the school tap water as an example and follow the instructions on the test strip package. Be sure to have students observe how the strips react over time and determine a standard for how and when to read results for your students to follow.
  • The teacher should set up a system for students to record and compile results. Ideally, it’s suggested that the results are inputted into a form that can be easily transformed into a spreadsheet, such as a Google Form. Alternatively, results from a class can be compiled on a whiteboard or poster paper.
  • The level of contamination will vary between locations, and research will need to be done on a school-by-school basis to determine reasonable background information.
  • Reference articles should be provided for students related to each type of contaminant (halogens, metals, nitrates, or others) being tested to allow students to formulate reasonable claims.
  • Students will take 2-3 sampling kits home (strips and test tubes) and collect samples, documenting their source and location. See the images below for reference:
  • Once students have collected data, the teacher should compile data into a spreadsheet to be shared with the class.
  • Students should make observations and select questions to be investigated. Group students based on what questions they are interested in answering as it will facilitate more rich conversations to not have groups repeat the same questions. For example, students might see a trend in data related to chloride and decide to investigate the chloride content in wells versus municipal water.
  • Depending on student comfort, walk students through how to organize data to represent a generic question being asked. Each group of students will design their own sheet, using data from the class data, but only need to include data relevant to their questions. For example, if students are investigating chloride content in wells versus municipal water, they would sort the spreadsheet to group well water data and municipal water data and ignore all of the data related to other tests such as metals, polyatomic ions, a particular water source, etc.
  • After students have organized their data within their groups, have them discuss results and find a representative way to summarize the data. For example, this may be facilitated by using maps of your school district/region (to analyze any correlation between locations of collected samples), a variety of sticky notes, markers, etc.
  • Finally, students should present their results/posters to the class. Groups can generate discussions after each presentation by proposing other related questions.
  • Culminate with a discussion of possible errors in the class data collection, general conclusions, and/or possible next steps.

For the Student

Part 1:


Give each column in the table below an appropriate heading based on what is listed in the column. Then write the correct chemical symbol next to each word in the table:

Residual Chlorine Iron Nitrate
Bromine Copper Nitrite
Total Chlorine Lead
Fluoride Chromium


Summarize one of the articles on water contamination:

  1. What article did you choose?
  1. What is the main idea of this article?
  1. What questions could you ask about the results presented in the article?


If we tested all of the water sources in our school district, what would you expect to see?

Explain how you came upon those thoughts.


  1. You will use the test tubes provided and test strips to collect and test 2-3 water samples.
  2. Choose a water source to collect a sample. Examples include (but are not limited to): your household sink, a nearby lake, a river or stream, a puddle of water, etc.
  3. Take a picture of the collection process and insert it below.
  4. Using the test strips, determine the values for each contaminant.
  5. Record your data in the Google Form or designated data table for your class.
  6. REPEAT these steps 1-2 more times for a water sample from a different location.

Insert photo(s) of the collection process below:


Record your results (you can copy/paste from the class spreadsheet)

Part 2:

*Note: This section will be completed in class.


  1. Analyze the compiled water collection data from the entire class. Record several observations:
  1. Now rewrite each observation from above into a testable question. Each question should be written so that in can be answered by analyzing the collected class data.


Choose the question from your list that you find most interesting (circle/highlight it).

At first glance, what do you expect the outcome to be?


Analyze the data in a logical way.

  • Identify the data that you need to answer the question you have selected.
  • Then, copy and paste from the class spreadsheet of compiled data and create a new sheet.
  • Label the columns appropriately and insert it below:

Part 3:


Using a large map, systematically summarize your analysis of the evidence to prove or refute your claim.