Large Scale Watershed - Battelle Darby Creek

Jason Cervenec
,
Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center
Author Profile

This fourth of five activities expands the watershed examined from a schoolyard to a large drainage that cannot be viewed from one location. The activity includes an examination of changing land uses within the drainage and discusses interactions between society and the environment. A number of supporting activities are provided for those students who need practice with topographic maps or learning to use various web resources.

Context

Audience:

This activity was developed for an introductory geosciences class at the high school level. It has also been successfully used at the middle school, advanced high school, and university levels.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered:

Students must understand the concept of a watershed and be able to measure lengths and calculate areas and volumes. Students should be familiar with factors that impact the quantity of stormwater that infiltrates versus runs off.

How the activity is situated in the course:

This activity is part of a sequence of activities (fourth of five activities).

National or State Education Standards addressed by this activity?:

Goals

Content/concepts goals for this activity:

  • Volumes of water added to a system or removed from a system are calculated by measuring and multiplying the length, width, and depth of water (volume = length x width x depth). A rain gauge provides a measure of depth (of precipitation that falls into the rain gauge), but the length and width of an area must also be measured. In a lake or reservoir, the volume of water can be calculated by the width and length of the water body multiplied by its average depth.
  • Measurements made with rain gauges and flow gauges best represent events happening nearby rather than events happening over large geographic areas.
  • In a soil and water system, where soil particles are assumed to be fixed, measuring the volume of water added to a system and the volume of water that leaves a system provides a way to estimate the volume of water that remains within a system.
  • While water particles are most commonly added to a soil-water system via rain, they can be removed via evaporation, uptake by plants, surface runoff, and subsurface runoff. Water particles can also be stored in the system.
  • Humans can alter evaporation, uptake by plants, surface runoff, and subsurface runoff through land use patterns (paving surfaces, re-grading slopes, or changing vegetation cover, for instance).
  • Water naturally drains downhill (from a higher elevation to a lower elevation) due to gravity.
  • A watershed is a region from which water drains to a common location.
  • Scientists can create complex mathematical models that allow them to adjust many factors and predict the effect on storage, surface runoff, and subsurface runoff.
  • Computers allow scientists to design more complex models and use the models over larger geographic areas or longer time scales than would otherwise be possible.
  • As scientists collect additional data and improve their understanding of the Earth System, mathematical models are improved and more accurate predictions are made.
  • Geoscientists are working on topics that have applications in everyday life.
  • Geoscientists need to apply their content knowledge in innovative ways while working with a diverse range of partners to solve complex problems.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity:

A deliberate effort has been made to use best practices in science education when designing this activity. The activity is based around the 5E Learning Cycle and each investigation is an exercise in guided inquiry. Topics are introduced conceptually in qualitative ways before engaging in extensive quantitative measurements and calculations. While lectures can be used to quickly communicate the information contained in the activity, an explicit goal is to provide ways for major objectives to be "uncovered" and discussed in context of content-rich learning experiences. Hopefully, this will engage students, link content with real-world situations, and support deep understanding and long-term retention of knowledge. This activity is best delivered with a connection to one or two local watersheds. Many online resources referenced in this activity allow teachers to tailor instruction to their local environment and identify local professional who can offer instructional support and serve as guest speakers or site visit coordinators.

Other skills goals for this activity:

Description of the activity/assignment

This activity expands the watershed examined from a schoolyard to a large drainage that cannot be viewed from one location. The activity includes an examination of changing land uses within the drainage and discusses interactions between society and the environment. A number of supporting activities are provided for those students who need practice with topographic maps or learning to use various web resources.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Download teaching materials and tips

Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

Controlled Vocabulary Terms

Resource Type: Activities:Classroom Activity, Lab Activity
Grade Level: College Lower (13-14), Introductory Level, Middle (6-8):Middle - 8, High School (9-12)
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