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Recent science education reform efforts have encouraged the development of “hands-on” laboratory and field activities to improve undergraduate and graduate science courses. In addition, many science education reform recommendations call for active learning styles that develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills rather than passive learning. This article describes a teaching approach in the Dayton, Ohio area to help students actively investigate quality of water in Mad River, Dayton, Ohio, using the concepts of chemical equilibrium. Chemical equilibrium has historically been a difficult topic for undergraduates to learn in a meaningful way. As part of the introductory chemistry and geology course for pre-education teachers, we have the students 1) participate in an investigative field trip to Huffman Dam, on the Mad River, that provides analysis of the water along the river near the dam, and also from the nearby geological outcrop 2) collect samples and measure water quality parameters 3) search the USGS website and compare their measurements to the on-line data. The field trip allows students to make direct observations, collect scientific data, and experience the connection between the geological context and water quality in the area using chemical equilibrium.

The approach used in the course is unique in that observations students make in the field measuring the water above and below Huffman Damassist their forming tables of data for the inquiry activity on chemical equilibrium. Numerous studies have demonstrated the educational effectiveness of field experiences, but few studies have reported on the influence of laboratory and field experiences (1-4). This chemical equilibrium module connects field trip observations with laboratory modeling in an introductory course for pre-education teachers to understand science as a process, and subsequently to teach science concepts in a meaningful way.