Teach the Earth > Urban Geology > Teaching Activities > Understanding wetlands

Understanding wetlands

Solomon Isiorho
Indiana University - Purdue University Fort Wayne
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Students collect soil samples from in and around wetlands, make visual observation, divide soil cores into sections (depending on the soil type), dry, sieve, and analyze samples.
Have students identify rocks/minerals in samples using microscope.

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I use this activity in undergraduate in Environmental & Urban Geology, Understanding wetland (specifically designed for urban environment), Hydrogeology, and Environmental Conservation courses. The activity is for majors and non-majors. Integrates geophysics into a core course in geology Designed for an introductory geology course

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Basic math skills.
Keen observation.
Being able to make measurements; dividing soil into sections.
Knowledge of basic rocks & minerals.
Use of microscope.
Being able to identify rocks & minerals
Communication (both written and oral)

How the activity is situated in the course

The activity is part of a sequence of exercises (wetland & hydrogeology courses) or could be a stand-alone, depending on the course.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Be able to make visual observation, describe what they observe, and be able to use oven, and sieve machines.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Students should be able to analyze their data, make inference as to the reason the soil size fractions differ from the top to the bottom. Students to predict the probable origin of the soil grains (rocks/minerals).

Other skills goals for this activity

Writing skills, analytical skills, use of graphing software, and oral presentation.

Description of the activity/assignment

Students collect soil cores (~12 inches) from one or more wetlands, describe the color and other physical features they can observe. Section each core according to grain size or color, weigh each section, dry in oven for 24 hours (can use microwave if the soil is fairly sandy). Use sieve machine to sieve each section and weigh each size fraction (sand...coarse, medium, fine, very fine, silt/clay).
The activity gives students practice in making good observation, measuring, interpreting and analyzing data, and to propose a probable source region for the soil materials.

Have students plo Has minimal/no quantitative component

Determining whether students have met the goals

A short report (under five pages) of this activity that would include graphs of soil data using excel. Students will also give oral presentation of their results and interpretation of their data. Answers as to the probable provenance of the rocks/minerals in the soil would help in the evaluation of student understanding.

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