Florida River Project: Semester-long group projectKim Hannula, Department of Geosciences, Fort Lewis College.
Short description of the activity:This group research project serves as the focus for our introductory Earth Systems Science classes. Each of four to six lab sections of 15-25 students collect discharge, sediment load, and water chemistry data from a different site along a local river, and compare their data to that collected in previous years and at other sites along the river. The project incorporates topographic map reading and graphing as well as collecting and analyzing data, and presenting the results in oral and written form. Labs on rocks and minerals use samples from the project area to encourage students to make connections between the solid Earth and surface processes.
How does this activity lend itself to teaching the methods of geoscience?It involves the collection and analysis of data, and involves discussion of possible explanations for unexpected results.
Specific Adaptations: How do these help the activity address the methods of geoscience?I plan to change the exercise in which students write about what they expect to observe to remove any reference to a "hypothesis." Students seem to interpret the exercise narrowly, and not think about unexpected results, focusing instead on whether their narrowly focused prediction was correct or not.
Assessment: How are the methods of geoscience assessed?
The rubric for grading the final paper needs to be revised to include more about the methods of geoscience.
In addition, I have been using final exam questions that give students data from past years, and ask them to (1) propose multiple possible explanations for unexpected results, and (2) ask them to describe some kind of observation they could make or other kind of information they could look for in order to eliminate one or more of the possible explanations.