Teach the Earth > Geomorphology > Teaching Activities > Cattaraugus Creek Characteristics

Cattaraugus Creek Characteristics

Kevin Williams
Buffalo State College
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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 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 29, 2008


This activity follows a field trip where we visit locations along Cattaraugus Creek, NY. In this assignment, students use topo maps to calculate gradient and they calculate and evaluate hydrographs.

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undergraduate course in geomorphology. this activity relates to the fluvial geomorph aspect.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

reading maps, calculating averages, plotting and interpreting hydrographs

How the activity is situated in the course

This is stand-alone lab activity that students work on the week after a field trip to the area discussed in the lab.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Students will use measurements off of topographic maps to calculate river gradient. They will also calculate average discharges to plot hydrographs and will interpret those graphs in order to compare the rainfall in different years.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Students need to critically evaluate the hydrographs that they produce to determine whether certain years were "wet" or "dry" in terms of rainfall/snowmelt.

Other skills goals for this activity

Students use a fair amount of math in this exercise, so any deficiencies can be identified and addressed.

Description of the activity/assignment

Students start this exercise using topographic maps of an area recently visited on a field trip to calculate and consider stream gradient of a major river south of Buffalo, NY. The activity then changes gears to have students work with discharge measurements from this stream. They use these measurements to plot and evaluate a few hydrographs which are used to compare how discharge in this stream can be used to consider how much precipitation was received in a certain year. In this lab, students practice mathematically calculating geomorphic properties of a stream, plotting data, and comparing topographic maps to what they observed on the recent field trip.
Designed for a geomorphology course
Uses online and/or real-time data
Addresses student fear of quantitative aspect and/or inadequate quantitative skills

Determining whether students have met the goals

Based on the answers to the lab, it is usually clear which areas students need help on. The one time I have run this lab, problems were usually with math or interpreting the hydrographs.

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