Google Earth, Streams, and Glaciers
This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process.
This review took place as a part of a faculty professional development workshop where groups of faculty reviewed each others' activities and offered feedback and ideas for improvements. To learn more about the process On the Cutting Edge uses for activity review, see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.
This page first made public: May 7, 2008
Skills and concepts that students must have mastered
- Students must know the difference between meandering and braided streams, and where each is likely to be found.
- Students must understand the concept of a floodplain and how to identify it on a map.
- Students must understand how fluvial erosion differs from glacial erosion.
How the activity is situated in the course
Content/concepts goals for this activity
- be able to independently locate and identify different river types
- be able to independently determine how different valleys were formed
- be able to determine the gradient and floodplain of different rivers
Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
The biggest challenge for a lot of my students is knowing where to start to find one of these rivers (I ask them to cut and paste an example of each type of river). It's one thing to identify a braided/meandering river from a slide in lecture, but it's another thing entirely for them to have to find it on their own.
The students have to think back to *where* different rivers are likely to be found (i.e., ends of glaciers for braided streams) and hunt around with Google Earth based on their knowledge.
Other skills goals for this activity
To be honest, a major goal of this assignment is to get them just to use Google Earth. The most common feedback I get from this assignment is that they really enjoyed the assignment and couldn't stop exploring with GE after it was done. I think GE is a great tool to get them to explore geographic curiosity they may not have known they possessed.
Description of the activity/assignment
In this assignment, students use Google Earth to investigate a variety of fluvial and glacial features. Firstly, they simply have to find an example of both a meandering and braided river and cut-and-paste the image into their assignment. They also need to trace the path of the river to see where it ends. Next, they are given three latitude/longitude coordinates and are asked to determine the river type, channel width, floodplain width, gradient, etc. In the last part, they are given the latitude/longitude coordinates of two valleys. They use the terrain & tilt features of Google Earth to determine whether the valley is V- or U-shaped. They then decide what sort of processes is responsible for the valley's shape.
Determining whether students have met the goals
One problem I have is that students often use Wikipedia to look up "braided river" and "meandering river" so I get several students each semester who use GE to find the river examples from Wikipedia. I still give them full credit because they have used GE to find the particular river.
Download teaching materials and tips
- Activity Description/Assignment (Microsoft Word 43kB May7 08)
- Solution Set (Microsoft Word 1.8MB May7 08)