Rivers and Streams

Rachel Teasdale
California State University, Chico
Author Profile

  1. 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.

  2. 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 7, 2008


This lab activity has students collect stream data in the field and calculate flow velocity, discharge and gradient. Additional activities include plotting clast size on a Hjulstrom Diagram, and unit conversions.

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This activity is used for introductory geology, designed for freshman satisfying a physical science general education requirement.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students will have already been introduced to measuring their pace, using a compass, and practiced unit conversions (all of which could be added to this activity if not already completed).

How the activity is situated in the course

This is activity is run during the 13th (of 15) weeks of the semester. Students will have collected flow velocity data in two prior lab activities earlier in the semester. Data collected in previous weeks is integrated in this activity, but is not necessary.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Stream flow properties; relationship between stream flow and erosion/transport/deposition; data collection skills

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Higher order thinking skills for this lab activity are focused on data analysis, in terms of comparing data with that previously collected.

Other skills goals for this activity

Data collection, quantitative skills (unit conversions)

Description of the activity/assignment

After collecting stream flow data in the field earlier in the semester, students collect new data to compare flow variations of an on-campus stream. Students collect data in the field then calculate flow velocity, and discharge. Students also use maps to calculate stream gradient. Additional activities include plotting clast size data collected in the field on a Hjulstrom Diagram to make connections between stream flow properties and erosion-deposition-and transport in streams. This activity gives students the opportunity to collect and analyze data as they practice quantitative skills by graphing data and calculating unit conversions.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Students complete questions in lab, which are checked by TA's prior to students leaving class, then are given a quiz at the beginning of the lab during the following week. Misconceptions caught in labwork and quizzes are clarified immediately. An end of semester exam gauges student knowledge.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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