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The Pipe System

Objectives: Learn about the various types of pipe used in water distribution and the types of materials from which they are made.

Materials: plastic cups, cola, distilled water, tarnished pennies, Miles of Pipe Student Worksheet 2 

Time Required: 40 minutes

Getting Started:

1. Fill one plastic cup with 1 cup of cola and another with 1 cup of distilled water. Drop a tarnished penny into each cup.

2. Each day for a week, remove and compare the pennies. Ask students to record their observations. Ask: What happened to the pennies over the course of one week?

3. Explain that acids in the soda corrode the penny. Corrosion is the gradual destruction of metals by chemical reactions in the environment. (Advanced classes: In addition to cola and distilled water, test other sodas such as diet cola, ginger ale, etc. Ask students to observe and compare how the different liquids affect the pennies. What conclusions can they draw about the different sodas?)

Using the Student Worksheet:

4. Distribute Miles of Pipe Student Worksheet 2 and read it aloud.

5. Engage students in a classroom discussion about New Jersey's pipe system. Discuss whether students are surprised that many of the pipes that deliver their water are almost a century old and what major events were happening in the country and/or the world during the period when each type of pipe was built.

6. Ask: What other types of infrastructure in New Jersey are growing older and need repair or replacing? (Roads, bridges, etc.)

7. Divide students into teams and assign each team a different material to research (tin, steel, cement, cast iron, ductile iron, PVC, HDPE). Ask students to investigate how the material is made or processed/refined; what its physical and chemical properties are; and what other common uses exist for the material, both in the past and the present.

8. Ask student groups to present their findings in class.

Build Pipes of the Future:
Challenge students to find new ways to carry water from place to place!

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