Advanced placement students from Joe Schmidt's biology and Cynthia Pool's chemistry classes investigated the quality of the usually untested waters of the East Verde River in six different locations.
They were looking for macroinvertebrates (bugs) that lived under stones in the water, and they tested the water for phosphates, nitrates, chlorine, pH, temperature and turbidity.
"I thought looking for bugs was the best job," James Vandruff said. "You actually got to poke around in things."
Schmidt encouraged students to pick similar water conditions at each site they visited.
A screen was used to catch macroinvetebrates, such as water striders, mosquito larvae, worms and jelly algae students brushed off the underside of rocks.
Students tested the waters at East Verde Estates, Flowing Springs, Water Wheel, Third Crossing, near the East Verde Baptist Church and the Washington Park Trailhead.
Measuring the depth with a yardstick, width with a carpenter's measuring tape and temperature of the water sometimes required students to get wet.
At Flowing Springs, where the water was warmest at 62 degrees, some teens jumped in just for fun. They found the water's temperature was 12 degrees colder at Water Wheel.
"In general, from a chemical standpoint, the water quality was good, although there was a poor assemblage of macroinvertebrates," Pool said. What they saw instead was a disappointment amount of trash previous visitors to the little river left behind.
The Washington Park Trailhead was the most pristine, but they had to test twice for phosphates at Water Wheel.
A camper may have washed dishes to give students a first reading of 2.75. The second reading, .8, was more in line with other sites. Phosphates were lowest near the church.
Because of its biology, chemistry and the fact that it flows all the time, the East Verde is considered a lotic stream.
At each site, one student was assigned to keep records of bird nests -- swallows had made mud nests on the cliffs near East Verde Estates.
The field trip was made possible by a $500 education grant from Arizona Public Service and Phoenix Suns charities, which was used to buy supplies and sundries. They also used a $3,000 Arizona Project WET (Water Education for Teachers) loan to purchase water test kits for the survey.
The hands-on activity took the entire school day and students said they thought the findings and fun would stay with them.