Paper No. 9
Presentation Time: 3:50 PM
CONTEXTUAL LEARNING OF SURFACE AND GROUNDWATER PROCESSES
Hydrologic field stations installed in the Cache La Poudre River basin provide authentic field and virtual learning opportunities for non-majors at Colorado State University (CSU), Front Range Community College (FRCC), and University of Northern Colorado (UNC). Water quantity and quality data from groundwater wells and surface water gages at the GetWET Observatory and Gateway Natural Area will be used in three non-major, large enrollment Introductory Geology courses to teach key surface and groundwater concepts. Given the numerous relevant scientific and societal issues related to our local watershed, now is the time to develop high-impact watershed-based learning tools for undergraduates, and assess the effectiveness of the instructional materials. Hydrology-specific Geoscience Concept Inventory (GCI) questions will be developed to assess student learning. We hypothesize content knowledge outcomes will show conclusive gains due to the close, contextual association CSU, FRCC, and UNC students have with their local watershed. Additional contextual learning will include the cultural history and landscape changes in the basin, to further augment the student’s understanding of the watershed. For example, the 35,000 ha High Park Fire during summer 2012 is an excellent launch point to discuss post-fire recovery within the watershed, climate-induced changes such as drought and forest insect/pathogen outbreaks, and the social implications of wildfire (e.g. effects on water quality, post-fire debris flows damaging houses and roads). This approach is intended to provide engaging context to teach important concepts of integrated groundwater-surface water resources, and to invoke a science-based stewardship ethic for riverine ecosystems. Assessment will transcend disciplinary knowledge to include affective factors to evaluate student’s attachment to the Cache la Poudre watershed.