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Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience > Field Labs > Field Lab Examples > Floodplains
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Floodplains in the field

Mary Savina, Carleton College, msavina@carleton.edu
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This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Teaching Collection

Resources in this top level collection a) must have scored Exemplary or Very Good in all five review categories, and must also rate as “Exemplary” in at least three of the five categories. The five categories included in the peer review 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 resource received a gold-star rating from a Panel Peer Review

These materials were reviewed using face-to-face NSF-style review panel of geoscience and geoscience education experts to review groups of resources addressing a single theme. Panelists wrote reviews that addressed the criteria:

  1. scientific accuracy and currency
  2. usability and
  3. pedagogical effectiveness
Reviewers rated the resources:
  1. Accept
  2. Accept with minor revisions
  3. Accept with major revisions, or
  4. Reject.
They also singled out those resources they considered particularly exemplary, which are given a gold star rating.

Following the panel meetings, the conveners wrote summaries of the panel discussion for each resource; these were transmitted to the creator, along with anonymous versions of the reviews. Relatively few resources were accepted as is. In most cases, the majority of the resources were either designated as 1) Reject or 2) Accept with major revisions. Resources were most often rejected for their lack of completeness to be used in a classroom or they contained scientific inaccuracies.


This page first made public: Sep 21, 2006

This material was originally developed as part of the Carleton College Teaching Activity Collection
through its collaboration with the SERC Pedagogic Service.

Summary

In this lab, students measure a topographic and geologic cross-section across a floodplain by simple surveying and augering techniques.

Learning Goals

Goals


Skills

Context for Use

This lab can take from one to three hours, depending on the detail and methods of the surveying, drafting of the cross-section and maps, and number of soil cores dug.

Physical geology or geography course: Use during units on rivers, fluvial landscapes, or sedimentary processes
Earth History course: Use during unit on how geologic landscapes evolve
Earth systems science course: Use during discussion of storage and transport of water and sediment in river systems

Useful background information before lab: Distinguishing sand, silt, clay (although this can be taught during this lab).

Field site: a stream or river with a floodplain, ideally undisturbed by humans. It is helpful, though not essential, to have good visibility across the floodplain.

Equipment needed:

Teaching Materials

View Sample lab notes (Acrobat (PDF) 88kB Mar10 04).

Teaching Notes and Tips

Scout the area ahead of time to locate a place for the topographic profile and soil cores that has these characteristics: approximately perpendicular to the river and floodplain margin, reasonable visibility along the line, typical of the area.

Students will expect that the local slope across the floodplain will be from the floodplain margins toward the river. On unmodified floodplains, with streams that overtop their banks every other year or so, the topographic profile will contain a higher area adjacent to the stream channel (the levee). It's common for the lowest part of the floodplain to be near the margins, not near the river. You can start the lab indoors by asking students to draw their conception of what the topographic cross-section will look like, and then return to those sketches at the end of the lab period (or a subsequent class period) to compare their conceptions with reality.

Assessment

For a self-contained lab (no homework required): Use oral reports from groups to assess how well they interpreted their part(s) of the assignments.
At the start of the next class period, ask students to sketch the topographic cross-section and briefly describe the materials in each section and how they formed as an informal writing assignment and/or quiz.

Assessable homework after the lab: Drafted explanatory cross-sections and maps; soil stratigraphic columns, short paper about the relationship between river evolution and the stratigraphy and topography of the floodplain.

References and Resources

Follow this link (Acrobat (PDF) 88kB Mar10 04) for lab notes.

Also see the following print and web resources:

Under construction

Subject

Geoscience:Hydrology:Surface Water, Geoscience:Geology, Environmental Science:Ecosystems:Biogeochemical cycling

Resource Type

Activities:Field Activity

Special Interest

Field-Based Teaching and Learning

Grade Level

College Lower (13-14):Introductory Level

Ready for Use

Ready to Use:Meets Peer Review Standard:Anonymous Peer Review, Ready to Use

Earth System Topics

Solid Earth, Biosphere:Ecology, Hydrology, :Surface Water

Topics

Hydrosphere/Cryosphere:Surface Water, Energy/Material cycles, Earth surface, Time/Earth History

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