Build Your Own Stream Table

Benjamin Friesen
National Center for Earth-surface Dynamics
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Students will build a stream table and understand the importance of streams and rivers to the hydrologic cycle. A suite of labs can be done using the stream table, but each can also be a stand-alone exercise.
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This set of assignments is designed for middle school.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered:

None required.

How the activity is situated in the course:

This set of activities can be form a river unit or supplement an existing unit on rivers or the hydrologic cycle.

National or State Education Standards addressed by this activity?:

Structure of the Earth System


Content/concepts goals for this activity:

Students will understand various aspects of river processes and forms, including erosion, sediment transport and sediment deposition, delta formation, effect of dams of rivers, flow velocity, stream discharge, braided and meandering forms, the effect of various kinds of river beds on flow velocity, and waterfall formation and retreat.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity:

Observation and prediction and Data collection and analysis

Other skills goals for this activity:

Description of the activity/assignment

This series of nine middle school science lessons begins with building a simple table which can be used with or without a mechanized pump. The lessons are sequential, but many can be used as stand-alone lessons if students are given the necessary background. The full set of labs is:

Lab 1: Building a Stream Table
Lab 2: Braided Streams and Sediment Transport
Lab 3: Dams and Deltas
Lab 4: Building a Meandering Stream
Lab 5: Meandering Stream Deposition & Erosion
Lab 6: Paper Punch Velocity
Lab 7: Rocky vs. Sandy Bed Velocities
Lab 8: Stream Discharge
Lab 9: Cap Rock Streams

Determining whether students have met the goals

Each lesson has the teacher pages first and the student pages second. The teacher pages contain objectives, grade level, time, materials, content standards, preparation, answer keys, bibliography, and extensions. The student pages contain a problem statement, vocabulary, introduction, hypothesis, procedure, collecting and analyzing data, and a conclusion sections. The student sheets can be used as handouts or as overhead transparencies.

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Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

All nine labs can be downloaded at the archived NCED website.

Controlled Vocabulary Terms

Subject: Geoscience:Hydrology, Education
Resource Type: Activities:Lab Activity
Grade Level: Middle (6-8)
Ready for Use: Ready to Use
Topics: Hydrosphere/Cryosphere, Education
Theme: Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Hydrology/Hydrogeology, Teach the Earth:Teaching Topics:Water