Traditional NADS Scum Run
The North American Diatom Symposium takes place every two years and features and unusual academic sporting event. One description, from 1993, recounts that: "relay teams of three diatomists were required to run along the beach wearing chest waders, identifying diatoms shown in photographs along the way." The variant that I participated in in 1997 had us using actual microscopes. The instructor could have students identify photographs of thin sections, or microfossils, or answer questions or even do simple lab tests. Use different samples for each player. The important feature is the relay race format, which means all three players contribute to the effort and that the students are made to get out of their chairs and move around a little.
This contest represents an opportunity for informal assessment of whatever skills the instructor cares to test: particularly identification. It also requires teamwork and active involvement.
Context for Use
Due to the noise and chaos, this activity should probably be run out of doors.
There's no particular reason to run the race in waders (unless, as in the case of diatomists, students are actually going into the water to collect specimens to identify). For rocks, you may want to use samples instead of photos. Likewise, for plants, you could use twigs, leaves, or herbarium specimens.
Teaching Notes and Tips
This exercise is intended to give you an idea of how your students are doing and for them to have some fun in the process. You may want to assign teams or pick them randomly. May be most useful for 8 AM or after-lunch classes when students are at their sleepiest.
Physically handicapped students could do their identifications at a central station, but don't get to start until their designated runner (a teamm-mate) reaches each station.
As the score is a combination of three students' non-collaborative responses, this exercise should not be used for formal assessment.
References and Resources
Activities, Classroom Activity:
Grade LevelCollege Lower (13-14):
Ready for Use
Ready to Use
ThemeTeach the Earth:Teaching Environments:
Earth System Topics
Biosphere, Solid Earth
Biosphere, Solid Earth, Earth surface