Florida River Project: Semester-long group project

Kim Hannula
Fort Lewis College
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This is a semester-long group research project that uses a local river to integrate several lab and field activities. The project covers topographic maps, rock and mineral identification, measuring data in the field, and plotting data. The project involves multiple lab sections and serves as a focus for a broad introductory class.

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Introductory Earth Systems Science and Environmental Geology courses with labs. (see the course profile)

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered


How the activity is situated in the course

This activity takes the entire semester, and includes three lab periods, related activities in three more labs, two homework assignments, a presentations, and a paper.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Discharge, affects of climate on river systems, affects of land use on river systems, water quality. Includes portions of labs on minerals and rocks.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Formulation of hypotheses, analysis of data.

Other skills goals for this activity

Reading topographic maps, graphing by hand and with Excel, writing, giving oral presentations, working collaboratively.

Description of the activity/assignment

This group research project serves as the focus for our introductory Earth Systems Science classes. Each of four to six lab sections of 15-25 students collect discharge, sediment load, and water chemistry data from a different site along a local river, and compare their data to that collected in previous years and at other sites along the river. The project incorporates topographic map reading and graphing as well as collecting and analyzing data, and presenting the results in oral and written form. Labs on rocks and minerals use samples from the project area to encourage students to make connections between the solid Earth and surface processes.

Each component of the Florida River Project is described below, with a link to the activity sheet and related files.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Each section of the project is graded separately. The grading for the associated labs and homework assignments is described on separate activity pages. The background is evaluated based on its level of detail, on whether the information is an accurate reflection of what is known, and on whether the writing is coherent. The hypothesis is graded based on whether it is reasonable. The data collection is graded based on participation - if students are there and actively participating in group work, they get credit. The presentations and paper are graded based on a rubric that includes both the quality of the presentation or writing, on whether they include required components (such as discussion of graphs), and on the quality of the analysis of the data.

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