Northeastern Section–41st Annual Meeting (20–22 March 2006)

Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM


LEACH, P.A.1, OLIVER, Brynn2, HAMILTON, Judy3, WENTWORTH, Sue3 and SOCKBESON, Julia3, (1)Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469, (2)Viola Rand School, Bradley, ME 04411, (3)Indian Island School, Old Town, ME 04468,

The NSF K-12 program at the University of Maine, Orono provides teaching experience to graduate and undergraduate students, while enriching the K-12 student's educational experience. The ultimate goals are to augment teachers' curriculum, and develop student understanding of the scientific method. We developed a lesson plan for teaching the scientific method in the geosciences, focusing on fluvial systems. Our goal was to develop a long-term research project that, over the course of the year, students could observe and directly participate in. We decided that building a functional river with adjustable variables, including sediment composition, gradient, and varying topography, would be the ideal way to teach students the scientific method through earth science. The first steps of the lesson comprised lecture and quick activities to familiarize the students with river morphology and associated processes. We built three ‘rivers' from split Lexan core tubes to demonstrate the affects of gradient and channel roughness on river velocity. One tube was left smooth, while sand was glued to the second, and gravel to the third. The gradient of each river was adjustable. Students poured a specific amount of water down the channel, and multiple students with stopwatches timed the water's travel between two fixed points. Our functional river model comprised a sealed plexiglass box with an open top. The design included: mountains with sprinklers to simulate upland precipitation; a depositional basin to observe delta formation including an aquarium pump to bring water back to the uplands; and the ability to control sediment composition. This type of model has many educational uses. We are able to observe river morphology and processes in relation to water velocity and gradient, develop hypotheses and test how river morphology will vary depending on sediment type. Point source pollution can be demonstrated, and students can observe how pollution moves by using different colored dyes. Our long-term project is ongoing, and we have already seen enormous success in our students' understanding of earth science and the scientific method. We are confident that a portion of our students will go on to be scientists, and our task is to help them develop an intense intellectual curiosity about the world around them through science.