Red Beans and Rice: Slope failure experimental modeling
University of St. Thomas
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This page first made public: Jun 6, 2008
<! -- start vocab summary --><! -- end vocab summary --> Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications
Students replicate a slope failure experiment published in Science (Densmore et al., 1997) using a simple, acrylic slope failure box in an effort to forge a link between autocyclic processes, long-term landscape evolution, and slope morphology. This exercise also conveys important concepts about landscape stability.
I use the full-blown assignment in my sophomore level geomorphology course as a stand-alone lab. Typically, students have done some slope profiling the field before this lab.
I have a scaled-down version that I use in a large, introductory geology course.
Skills and concepts that students must have mastered
Essentially none. I use this exercise to MOTIVATE a lot of skill mastery and concepts in future class sessions (autocyclicity, equilibrium, dynamic equilibrium, slope failure dynamics, etc.)
How the activity is situated in the course
This exercise can be a stand-alone exercise, but it is very useful for illustrating very broad concepts in geomorphology and landscape evolution, so I tend to bring it in early. It also forges a link between experimentation, physical process, and actual landscape elements.
Content/concepts goals for this activity
Modeling slope failure; collecting, analyzing, and interpreting experimental data; dimensional reasoning; replication of scientific results and the scientific method; explain the role of substrate in the nature of slope failure processes
Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
Observation and interpretation of data; hypothesis formulation; critical evaluation of the literature; the use of physical models to understand geomorphic processes
Other skills goals for this activity
Description of the activity/assignment
In this activity, students replicate the slope failure experiment
presented by Densmore et al. (1997) in the journal Science. They are given the original article and the slope failure apparatus (along with all associated materials) and then they need to figure out how to replicate the experiment. Once they have completed an experimental run of sufficient length, they compile and analyze their data and compare it to the article's results.
After completing this portion of the lab, the students read the discussion and reply (Aalto et al., 1998; Densmore et al., 1998) and critically evaluate they results of the experiment and its applicability to the real world and landscape evolution.</P>
Determining whether students have met the goals
The lab is graded on a fairly detailed rubric. Students are also tested on the material as part of midterm and final exams.
More information about assessment tools and techniques.
Teaching materials and tips