Groundwater Lab

Kim Hannula
Fort Lewis College
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This lab uses "ant farm" groundwater models to demonstrate groundwater flow and the behavior of wells. The lab is organized so that students have to predict the behavior of the model before observing it.

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Introductory physical geology, introductory earth systems science, interdisciplinary upper level general education courses dealing with water issues.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Ideally, students should have read the textbook discussion of groundwater.

How the activity is situated in the course

One out of eleven independent lab projects. Although it works best when it coincides with discussion of groundwater in lecture, it also can work when lab and lecture get out of sync.
See descriptions for each of the activities in this sequence on the course profile page.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Groundwater flow, behavior of wells when pumped, groundwater contamination.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Critical evaluation of preconceived notions, comparing results of tests with hypotheses.

Other skills goals for this activity

Working in groups.

Description of the activity/assignment

Students use analog models to explore the behavior of groundwater. Students calculate porosity of analog materials (cups of marbles and beads), and then observe groundwater flow using food coloring as a dye tracer. They explore the effects of pumping wells and contaminating groundwater through a leaky landfill. One portion of the model allows students to observe the behavior of an artesian aquifer.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Answers are graded based on whether they 1) are consistent with students' observations, and 2) whether they make sense. Students are marked down for proposing tests that involve making the same observations that they were supposed to explain.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Teaching materials and tips

Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

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