Students learn about the differences between types of water (surface and ground), as well as the differences between streams, rivers and lakes. Then, they learn about dissolved organic matter (DOM), and the role it plays in identifying drinking water sources. Finally, students are introduced to conventional drinking water treatment processes.
Middle School Hydrology
Students learn that dams do not last forever. Similar to other human-made structures, such as roads and bridges, dams require regular maintenance and have a finite lifespan. Many dams built during the 1930-70s, an era of intensive dam construction, have an expected life of 50-100 years. Due to inadequate maintenance and/or for environmental reasons, some of these dams will fail or be removed in the next 50 years. The engineers with Splash Engineering have an ethical obligation to remind Thirsty County of the maintenance and lifespan concerns associated with its dam.
Students learn how the force of water helps determine the size and shape of dams. They use clay to build models of four types of dams, and observe the force of the water against each type. They conclude by deciding which type of dam they, as Splash Engineering engineers, will design for Thirsty County.
While the creation of a dam provides many benefits, it can have negative impacts on local ecosystems. Students learn about the major environmental impacts of dams and the engineering solutions used to address them.
Through eight lessons, students are introduced to many facets of dams, including their basic components, the common types (all designed to resist strong forces), their primary benefits (electricity generation, water supply, flood control, irrigation, recreation), and their importance (historically, currently and globally). Through an introduction to kinetic and potential energy, students come to understand how dams generate electricity. They learn about the structure, function and purpose of locks, which involves an introduction to Pascal's law, water pressure and gravity. Other lessons introduce students to common environmental impacts of dams and the engineering approaches to address them. They learn about the life cycle of salmon and the many engineered dam structures that aid in their river passage, as they think of their own methods and devices that could help fish migrate past dams. Students learn how dams and reservoirs become part of the Earth's hydrologic cycle, focusing on the role of evaporation. To conclude, students learn that dams do not last forever; they require ongoing maintenance, occasionally fail or succumb to "old age," or are no longer needed, and are sometimes removed. Through associated hands-on activities, students track their personal water usage; use clay and plastic containers to model and test four types of dam structures; use paper cups and water to learn about water pressure and Pascal's Law; explore kinetic energy by creating their own experimental waterwheel from two-liter plastic bottles; collect and count a stream's insects to gauge its health; play an animated PowerPoint game to quiz their understanding of the salmon life cycle and fish ladders; run a weeklong experiment to measure water evaporation and graph their data; and research eight dams to find out and compare their original purposes, current status, reservoir capacity and lifespan. Woven throughout the unit is a continuing hypothetical scenario in which students act as consulting engineers with a Splash Engineering firm, assisting Thirsty County in designing a dam for Birdseye River.
Students work with specified materials to create aqueduct components that can transport two liters of water across a short distance in their classroom. The design challenge is to create an aqueduct that can supply Aqueductis, a (hypothetical) Roman city, with clean water for private homes, public baths and fountains as well as crop irrigation.
Students gain a basic understanding of the properties of media soil, sand, compost, gravel and how these materials affect the movement of water (infiltration/percolation) into and below the surface of the ground. They learn about permeability, porosity, particle size, surface area, capillary action, storage capacity and field capacity, and how the characteristics of the materials that compose the media layer ultimately affect the recharging of groundwater tables. They test each type of material, determining storage capacity, field capacity and infiltration rates, seeing the effect of media size on infiltration rate and storage. Then teams apply the testing results to the design their own material mixes that best meet the design requirements. To conclude, they talk about how engineers apply what students learned in the activity about the infiltration rates of different soil materials to the design of stormwater management systems.
This activity is a field trip investigation where students gather stream flow, volume, depth & height (area) data on Ramsey County dams (Keller and Round lake), interpret their findings and make in-depth observations in order to assess the effectiveness of dams through the season and estimate the life-span of the dams in years.
- Material Type:
- Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College
- Provider Set:
- Pedagogy in Action
- Tania Ramos
- Date Added:
In this unit, students explore the various roles of environmental engineers, including: environmental cleanup, water quality, groundwater resources, surface water and groundwater flow, water contamination, waste disposal and air pollution. Specifically, students learn about the factors that affect water quality and the conditions that enable different animals and plants to survive in their environments. Next, students learn about groundwater and how environmental engineers study groundwater to predict the distribution of surface pollution. Students also learn how water flows through the ground, what an aquifer is and what soil properties are used to predict groundwater flow. Additionally, students discover that the water they drink everyday comes from many different sources, including surface water and groundwater. They investigate possible scenarios of drinking water contamination and how contaminants can negatively affect the organisms that come in contact with them. Students learn about the three most common methods of waste disposal and how environmental engineers continue to develop technologies to dispose of trash. Lastly, students learn what causes air pollution and how to investigate the different pollutants that exist, such as toxic gases and particulate matter. Also, they investigate the technologies developed by engineers to reduce air pollution.
Students learn about water erosion through an experimental process in which small-scale buildings are placed along a simulated riverbank to experience a range of flooding conditions. They learn how soil conditions are important to the stability or failure of civil engineering projects and how a river's turns and bends (curvature, sinuosity) make a difference in the likelihood of erosion. They make model buildings either with a 3D printer or with LEGO® pieces and then see how their designs and riverbank placements are impacted by slow (laminar) and fast (turbulent) water flow over the soil. Students make predictions, observations and conclusions about the stability of their model houses, and develop ideas for how to mitigate damage in civil engineering projects.
Students will observe/investigate the movement of water through the different stages of the water cycle and determine what drives this cycle. Students are asked to think about what precipitation is then watch a video about why the water cycle is important. They observe a simple version of the water cycle and take some notes. Students are asked what stages require solar radiation, which require water to give off heat, and which are driven by the force of gravity. The teacher does several different demonstrations while students fill in a sheet that has the students recording their observations of different processes in the water cycle and how energy is involved. Students build their understanding of the water cycle through the different models that are shown or experienced. The culminating activity has them create their own model of the water cycle from the viewpoint of a water molecule including the processes, the energy involved, and gravity.
Students explore the impact of changing river volumes and different floodplain terrain in experimental trials with table top-sized riverbed models. The models are made using modeling clay in aluminum baking pans placed on a slight incline. Water added "upstream" at different flow rates and to different riverbed configurations simulates different potential flood conditions. Students study flood dynamics as they modify the riverbed with blockages or levees to simulate real-world scenarios.
This activity is a field investigation where students make observations, formulate a question, construct and collect data on that question on stream flow on the Crow River in Central Minnesota
- Material Type:
- Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College
- Provider Set:
- Pedagogy in Action
- David Dziengel
- Date Added:
Between 70 and 75% of the Earth's surface is covered with water and there exists still more water in the atmosphere and underground in aquifers. In this lesson, students learn about water bodies on the planet Earth and their various uses and qualities. They will learn about several ways that engineers are working to maintain and conserve water sources. They will also think about their role in water conservation.
In this activity, students will use a tutorial on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's website to learn about how surface water is treated to make it safe to drink.
Students learn about water poverty and how water engineers can develop appropriate solutions to a problem that is plaguing nearly a sixth of the world's population. Students follow the engineering design process to design a gravity-fed water system. They choose between different system parameters such as pipe sizes, elevation differentials between entry and exit pipes, pipe lengths and tube locations to find a design that provides the maximum flow and minimum water turbidity (cloudiness) at the point of use. In this activity, students play the role of water engineers by designing and building model gravity-fed water systems, learning the key elements necessary for viable projects that help improve the lives people in developing communities.
Students are introduced to innovative stormwater management strategies that are being used to restore the hydrology and water quality of urbanized areas to pre-development conditions. Collectively called green infrastructure (GI) and low-impact development (LID) technologies, they include green roofs and vegetative walls, bioretention or rain gardens, bioswales, planter boxes, permeable pavement, urban tree canopy, rainwater harvesting, downspout disconnection, green streets and alleys, and green parking. These approaches differ from the traditional centralized stormwater collection system with the idea of handling stormwater at its sources, resulting in many environmental, economic and societal benefits. A PowerPoint® presentation provides photographic examples, and a companion file gives students the opportunity to sketch in their ideas for using the technologies to make improvements to 10 real-world design scenarios.
Students are presented with a guide to rain garden construction in an activity that culminates the unit and pulls together what they have learned and prepared in materials during the three previous associated activities. They learn about the four vertical zones that make up a typical rain garden with the purpose to cultivate natural infiltration of stormwater. Student groups create personal rain gardens planted with native species that can be installed on the school campus, within the surrounding community, or at students' homes to provide a green infrastructure and low-impact development technology solution for areas with poor drainage that often flood during storm events.
This lesson plan helps students understand the factors that affect water quality and the conditions that allow for different animals and plants to survive. Students will look at the effects of water quality on various water-related activities and describe water as an environmental, economic and social resource. The students will also learn how engineers use water quality information to make decisions about stream modifications.
Students learn about porosity and permeability and relate these concepts to groundwater flow. They use simple materials to conduct a porosity experiment and use the data to understand how environmental engineers decide on the placement and treatment of a drinking water well.