Tom Fancher
Osage City High School
5th & California St.
Osage City, Kansas 66523

It has been said that ignorance is bliss. Well, I was about as blissful as one could be. I have been aware of ecology and conservation since college during the late 1960s. I had discussed recycling and various kinds of pollution in my life science and biology classes. I had thought that the beginnings of the conservation movement was with the hippies and the “return to nature” fads of that time period.

The books, the speakers and the activities that were provided last summer were a revelation for me. I am in charge of my curriculum. We have a guide but no one checks on my teaching except me. I took four weeks out from the regular biology activities to work on the things that I learned last summer. The students are required to write a research paper each nine-week period, so we accomplished two tasks at the beginning of December. We watched the Rachel Carson video and then went to the library. Just about any time that pollution and reports are mentioned, most students jump for acid rain, but this time I wanted more. I received reports on paper pulp mills, gold and coal mining and the farm pollution problems. One of the best was on the wastes from the gold mining in Summitville, Colorado. The biology classes later spent three weeks in March doing soil and water testing. The testing equipment provides standards that can be used, but we wanted to try the equipment on soil from around the Ag. Ed. building and the bus barn. The students found mostly oil but some groups found lead where some radiators had been stored near the Ag. building.

The general science classes also wrote reports and most were about the Ogallala Aquifer. Some reports were about the size or the rate at which it is being used. Others wrote about how geologists think it was formed. We discussed how the aquifer is currently managed and whether it needs to be conserved. They built aquifers from two- liter pop bottles and sand, gravel and dirt that we keep in the classroom. They put plastic wrap between the layers and punched holes in the wrap to show permeability and an overflow hole so that the bottle would “flood” if they put the water back too fast.

The general science students did far better on the conservation assignments than the biology students did. The biology students did not care for the Carson video. It is hard to get sophomores enthused about anything. Next year, the history teacher and I are going to team-teach some of the historical aspects and tie the assignments together.

I did not accomplish what I had hoped. The students did not want to “save the world” when we wrote papers. Most thought the government was supposed to protect them. Most students do collect cans here as we have two collection centers and one place takes plastic. I had thought that as soon as some of the ideas about conservation and the historical aspects were introduced, the students would race off to find out more, start a recycling club or join rain forest groups. This did not happen and next year I will be prepared for some of this apathy and I will do a better job of introducing and explaining at the beginning. Since this year’s general science students are biology students next year, maybe the work that they accomplished will carry over to a higher level of understanding and caring.

General Science Activity: Underground Water

Tom Fancher

Overview: This activity will help students understand the energy web of the Ogallala Aquifer. The students will have to organize different sets of information and objects that will have the names of companies, jobs or services that relate to the use of the aquifer.

Connection: This activity could be used for seventh-, eighth- or ninth-graders. During our studies of the geology of Kansas, we cover porous and non-porous rock layers, the salt beds, fresh water fossils and marine water fossils. The aquifer is a remnant of an ancient fresh water lake.

Time Required: The activity will last three to five days or longer depending on the detail or the age of the students involved.

Materials: Background information could come from Earth Science texts, Kansas Geography texts, the U.S.G.S. in Lawrence, Kansas, clippings from newspapers and magazines and library research. The materials that would be required are Elmer’s, construction paper, scissors, magic markers, crayons, etc.

Objectives: After completion of this activity TSSBAT (The Student Should Be Able To):

  1. explain why the water is there;
  2. show why the water table is dropping;
  3. understand the relationship of the well-water use in that area to different types of occupations;
  4. show improvement in reading and library skills;
  5. show improvement in cooperative ed. skills.

Teacher Responsibilities:

  1. show relationship of the aquifer to geosyncline motion of the central U.S. in geological history time (last 300 million years);
  2. compare this energy web (pyramid) to the food webs previously studied;
  3. discussions of the businesses in Osage City and how they depend on the peoples that live and work here;
  4. organize a list of jobs and services from least number of people to the most involved;
  5. compare each of the coop. ed. groups’ lists;
  6. cut and paste activity to make the name cards for the pyramid;
  7. each group organizes the list of jobs and places them on the pyramid in ascending order;
  8. group conclusion about the order of the lists;
    <.li>individual reports.


  1. reemphasize that the pyramid studied previously was a normal shape; this pyramid is inverted;

  2. this would be a partial list and possible order of the subjects: aquifer; farmer; taxes (2 to 4 of these); farm equipment; tools; gas and oil; recreation; grain companies; meat packers; employees (4 to 6 of these); utilities; grocery stores; clothing stores; automobile dealers; real estate companies; city, state and federal taxes.

Assessment will be:

  1. group evaluation of posters;
  2. reading group reports;
  3. reading individuals reports;
  4. teacher generated test.

Possible pyramid shape:

People (Employees) buy: groceries, clothes
cars - boats - land - home - recreation
gas - oil - TVs - furniture
People Support: cities - states- country
Taxes pay for: utilities - police -
schools - highways

Employees of: feedlots - packing
Truckers, Engineers, Repair

Companies - Grain Ele. - IBP
Monfort - Railroads
Trucking - Barges

Farmer Pays: Taxes -
Loans Buy: Tractors
Irr. Equip. Car - Truck
Land - Homes
Gas & Oil


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