Investigating contaminant transport and environmental justice issues in a local watershed through service learning projects with Sierra Club
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 activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection
This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are
- Scientific Accuracy
- Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
- Pedagogic Effectiveness
- Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
- Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page
For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.
This page first made public: Feb 18, 2010
Skills and concepts that students must have mastered
How the activity is situated in the course
Content/concepts goals for this activity
- Grain size analysis and hydraulic conductivity,
- Infiltration rates vs. runoff,
- Mapping field data using GIS,
- Recognizing environmental justice issues (is there a problem in Memphis?),
- Understanding that anthropogenic activity, particularly land use change, has an impact on water quality.
Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
- Analyzing field data for hydrogeologic properties,
- Evaluating potential contaminant transport by synthesizing several datasets,
- Formulation of hypotheses based on GIS mapping of community responses.
Other skills goals for this activity
- Use of a Wiki to share information between collaborators, written and oral presentations to the community
Description of the activity/assignment
Prior to beginning these activities, the students will have created a base map of Memphis in GIS during a previous lab and used it to consider questions of pollutant runoff from various urban spaces such as golf courses, roads, shopping centers, and City parks. (The instructions for this activity are included in the other materials section below under Creating a Base Map in GIS (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 30kB Feb7 10).) The base map will be used throughout the activities as field data and information from interviews/surveys are collected and added to the map for subsequent consideration of possible environmental justice issues.
The lab activities outlined require the students to conduct grain size analyses using samples that community members provide to them, calculate hydraulic conductivity, measure infiltration rates in the community, estimate impervious surfaces within the community, and subsequently model the transport of water within that community. Results of their work will be conveyed back to the community both through personal contact and via the Wiki page the students produce. Students will base their sampling recommendations by generalizing the concepts learned from these activities (and others during the semester) to apply the course material to the service project. The final map of sighting and recommendations for Sierra Club requires the students to apply concepts from previous activities and will be completed during the lab activity: Mapping survey results.
Determining whether students have met the goals
- evaluate students' mastery of concepts
- assess understanding of concepts and observational skills
- can also have a self-evaluation component to identify potential problems in groups
- guide students in making connections between classroom learning and the service learning activities
- evaluated by instructor for scientific rigor and quality of presentation
- evaluated by the community partners at the end of the project to assess to what degree the project met the needs and/or expectations of the community.
- to supplement the traditional course evaluations to assess whether the service learning component of the course increased students' awareness of environmental issues related to water quality challenging this community.
Download teaching materials and tips
- Activity Description/Assignment:
The project described in the attached file Project Description: Hydrogeology with Sierra Club (Microsoft Word 53kB Feb7 10) is composed of multiple activities that take place over part of a semester-long course. The activity in which students design the survey is described in this file and an overview of the other activities is provided. Details about each of those activities are provided in the following files: Mapping survey results (Microsoft Word 29kB Feb7 10), Grain size and hydraulic conductivity (Microsoft Word 64kB Feb7 10), Measuring infiltration rates in the field (Microsoft Word 27kB Feb7 10), Modeling infiltration vs. runoff (Microsoft Word 35kB Feb7 10).
- Instructors Notes:
Instructor notes for project (Microsoft Word 41kB Feb7 10)
I have also included my materials for the Douglass High School visit where my students interview them, they interview my students, and both sets of students are taught how to measure infiltration rate in the field and the Douglass students are asked to do so and collect the soil sample from near their home. These samples then become the basis for the Grain size and hydraulic conductivity activity listed above.This file also includes a reflection exercise for my students at the end. Precursor activity for Grain size analysis (Microsoft Word 58kB Feb9 10)
- Solution Set:
Key for Modeling infiltration vs. runoff activity (Microsoft Word 1.2MB Feb7 10)