Investigating flood hazard mitigation via a role-playing case-study in Brays Bayou, Houston, Texas

Share-a-thon Part of Share-a-thon


Wayana Dolan, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Tamlin Pavelsky, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Megan Plenge, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


We will describe a role-playing and case-study-based flood hazard lesson plan that is being developed for implementation in an undergraduate introductory hydrology class. We will discuss the format of this activity, share resources, and hope to receive feedback prior to publishing the lesson plan.


Set in the Brays Bayou watershed in Houston after extreme flooding due to Tropical Storm Allison in 2001, students will roleplay stakeholders in the neighborhood who are evaluating mitigation strategies to prevent future flooding. After completing an introductory activity and lecture, students are provided an introduction to their role including drivers, resource availability, and flood mitigation options. They will then meet with other people in the same role to devise a mitigation plan that best serves their specific community. Next, students will be broken into jigsaws with two people from each role in 'town hall'-style meeting groups. These groups will then have to find a solution that best meets the needs of as many stakeholders as possible. During the final class period, each town hall group will present their mitigation solution to the class, and then we will discuss what actually happened after the 2001 flooding event.

Learning objectives include:
Students will be able to calculate flood recurrence intervals, probabilities, and magnitudes
Students will be able to compare and contrast the socioeconomic, temporal, and environmental pros and cons of flood mitigation solutions
Students will be able to evaluate flood risk and make recommendations for rebuilding after a flood event


This activity will be used in an introductory hydrology course for a combination of major and non-major undergraduates at UNC Chapel Hill and will first be taught in Fall 2022. The full activity will span four class periods (two weeks).

Why It Works

The role-playing format will allow for students to develop a deepened cognitive understanding of the learning objectives relative to a lecture-based course including analyzing data, developing and justifying a position, and producing a mitigation plan. We also will use published instruments via pre- and post-surveys to study how this role-playing exercise influences students' STEM identity, classroom community, and perceived topic relevance compared to a lecture-version of the material taught this past year. This will help provide the GER community with a better theoretical understanding of the impacts of role-playing on STEM identity and engagement.