GETSI Teaching Materials >Surface Process Hazards > Unit 5: Mitigating future disasters: developing a mass-wasting hazard map
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This module is part of a growing collection of classroom-tested materials developed by GETSI. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
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Unit 5: Mitigating future disasters: developing a mass-wasting hazard map

Sarah Hall (College of the Atlantic)
Becca Walker (Mt. San Antonio College)
Author Profile

These materials have been reviewed for their alignment with the Next Generation Science Standards as detailed below. Visit InTeGrate and the NGSS to learn more.

Overview

Students analyze and interpret geographical data for a site along with regional climate data in order to predict how that site would behave differently under different weather conditions, and assess the likelihood and level of risk for a mass wasting event. They make claims describing how the risk to life and property can be reduced. Finally, students write a metacognitive reflection about their own understanding of the causes of landslides.

Science and Engineering Practices

Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information: Communicate scientific and/or technical information or ideas (e.g. about phenomena and/or the process of development and the design and performance of a proposed process or system) in multiple formats (i.e., orally, graphically, textually, mathematically). HS-P8.5:

Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions: Design, evaluate, and/or refine a solution to a complex real-world problem, based on scientific knowledge, student-generated sources of evidence, prioritized criteria, and tradeoff considerations. HS-P6.5:

Analyzing and Interpreting Data: Analyze data using tools, technologies, and/or models (e.g., computational, mathematical) in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims or determine an optimal design solution. HS-P4.1:

Cross Cutting Concepts

Patterns: Empirical evidence is needed to identify patterns. HS-C1.5:

Patterns: Different patterns may be observed at each of the scales at which a system is studied and can provide evidence for causality in explanations of phenomena HS-C1.1:

Cause and effect: Cause and effect relationships can be suggested and predicted for complex natural and human designed systems by examining what is known about smaller scale mechanisms within the system. HS-C2.2:

Disciplinary Core Ideas

The Roles of Water in Earth's Surface Processes: The abundance of liquid water on Earth’s surface and its unique combination of physical and chemical properties are central to the planet’s dynamics. These properties include water’s exceptional capacity to absorb, store, and release large amounts of energy, transmit sunlight, expand upon freezing, dissolve and transport materials, and lower the viscosities and melting points of rocks. HS-ESS2.C1:

Performance Expectations

Earth and Human Activity: Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the availability of natural resources, occurrence of natural hazards, and changes in climate have influenced human activity. HS-ESS3-1:

This material was developed and reviewed through the GETSI curricular materials development process. This rigorous, structured process includes:

  • team-based development to ensure materials are appropriate across multiple educational settings.
  • multiple iterative reviews and feedback cycles through the course of material development with input to the authoring team from both project editors and an external assessment team.
  • real in-class or field camp/course testing of materials in multiple courses with external review of student assessment data.
  • multiple reviews to ensure the materials meet the GETSI materials rubric which codifies best practices in curricular development, student assessment and pedagogic techniques.
  • created or reviewed by content experts for accuracy of the science content.


This page first made public: Oct 2, 2017

Summary

This unit serves as the summative assessment of the Surface Process Hazards module. In September 2013, the Boulder area of Colorado experienced an extreme rain event that led to mass wasting in many areas. This has led to greater scrutiny of landslide hazards in the area. In this case study of the Boulder Creek catchment, students act as scientists, using geologic, climate, and anthropogenic data to evaluate an area's vulnerability to mass wasting and potential societal impact. They use aerial imagery, topographic maps, bedrock and surficial geologic maps, slope/aspect maps, hillshade imagery, stream maps and population-density maps to evaluate mass-wasting hazard and risk in the Boulder Creek, Colorado, watershed. Using what they have learned about landscape-feature recognition, factors that contribute to mass wasting, and the impacts of mass wasting, they construct a hazard map for the study area and consider the impacts of a mass-wasting event on the area's inhabitants.

Learning Goals

Unit 5 Learning Outcomes

This unit is intended to provide the summative assessment for the entire module. Students should demonstrate a mastery of the learning goals for the entire module. The Module Goals are:

  1. Students will use geodetic data to analyze landscape characteristics and use them as indicators of mass wasting hazards
  2. Students will articulate the societal effects of mass wasting events and consider the role of natural and human-caused changes in the mass wasting potential for a given landscape.
Supports Earth Science Big Ideas ESBI-1-Earth scientists use repeatable observations and testable ideas to understand and explain our planet, ESBI-3-Earth is a complex system of interacting rock, water, air, and life, ESBI-4-Earth is continuously changing, ESBI-8-Natural hazards pose risks to humans, and ESBI-9-Humans significantly alter the Earth. (links open in new windows)

Context for Use

Unit 5 is the summative assessment for the Surface Process Hazards module. Unlike Units 1–4, which can be implemented individually, Unit 5 is appropriate for faculty who have implemented a portion or all of the Surface Process Hazards module and are interested in assessing the overarching module goals. If the module will not be implemented in its entirety, we suggest the implementation of Unit 2: Reading the landscape and Unit 4: Anatomy of a tragic slide—Oso Landslide case study prior to conducting the summative assessment to ensure that students are familiar with the imagery used in Unit 5 and have investigated the environmental and built characteristics that contribute to mass-wasting susceptibility of a particular study area. Users may choose to implement Unit 5 as an individual in-class exercise or as an out-of-class assignment. Group collaboration is also a possibility, although if the user's primary aim is summative assessment of individual students, the work should be completed separately by each student.

Description and Teaching Materials

This unit is the module summative assessment. Students will be given maps similar to those used in Units 2–4, for the Boulder Creek watershed of Colorado. In Part 1, students will synthesize the data from all of the available maps to analyze the mass-wasting hazards in the region. This part can be completed during class time. In Part 2, students will prepare a written report outlining and providing evidence for their interpretation of what mass-wasting hazards are present in the region. Their reports should also summarize potential hazard preparation or mitigation procedures that they suggest for the region, based on a review of existing guidelines for other regions. In Part 3, students reflect on how their thinking has evolved over the course of the module and how that might influence future actions. Part 3 can be completed at home and turned in with the rest of the report.

Part 1

Students will be given regional map data (as both kmz and pdf): aerial, topography, geology (bedrock/surficial), slope, aspect, hillshade (both SRTM regional and local lidar), streams, and population density. Students may also be given some or all of the questions below to guide their synthesis of the map data. Students will annotate the lightened hillshade image to produce a hazards map for the Boulder Creek watershed (and downstream region) similar to that produced in Unit 3. When constructing the maps, remind students to consider potential direct and indirect effects of mass wasting.

  1. Does the USGS suggest this region has a high, medium, or low seismic-hazard potential?
  2. Does this region receive a lot of precipitation? Does it fall during the entire year or more seasonally? Is some of the precipitation stored as snow?
  3. Are stream valleys confined or do they meander across a flat landscape. Imagine what the streams might look like in flood stage.
  4. Are there locations where slopes have been locally steepened or otherwise modified either naturally (e.g. undercut by stream) or as a result of human modifications to the landscape (e.g. road-cut, mining, etc.).
  5. Might the underlying regional geology (bedrock and surficial) increase the mass-wasting potential in any part of this region?
  6. Is there evidence from geodetic data for mass redistribution in this landscape?
  7. Are there any residential areas or places that people congregate in regions with high potential for mass wasting?
  8. Are there any residential areas or places that people congregate in regions downstream of regions with high potential for mass wasting?
Boulder Creek Maps

Part 2

Students will prepare a written report (~2 pages plus one map) summarizing their map interpretation and potential for societal planning. The first page of text should be dedicated to the factors raising the potential for mass wasting in specific locations within this landscape. Students will cite evidence from the different types of landscape data to support their map interpretations. Students will consult online resources (examples listed below) to review how other regions have prepared for mass-wasting events. In the second page of text, students should describe how towns and citizens in this region might prepare for future mass-wasting events. Students will reference planning techniques used in other towns.

Part 3

Students are asked to write a half-page reflection on (1) how their perception and understanding of these hazards has evolved and (2) how that might affect their actions/thinking in the future. They are required to draw on supporting evidence from their experience for what they say. This process of reflection (or metacognition) is very important for long-term learning and application of knowledge. More information on metacognition is at InTeGrate Project's Metacognition page and Teaching Metacognition by the Cutting Edge Project.

Teaching Notes and Tips

  • Unit 5 can be implemented as an in-class exercise or a homework assignment/project to be completed outside of class.
  • Regardless of the format of implementation, it is important to convey to students the importance of linking every one of their rankings (high, moderate, low mass-wasting susceptibility) that they designate on their map with specific lines of evidence from the datasets provide. You could introduce the exercise by working with students to establish which criteria they will use to designate an area as high, moderate, or low. You may also wish to select a small area (where the mass wasting susceptibility ranking is relatively straightforward) and walk through an example with students where they designate the area as low, moderate, and high susceptibility and provide specific evidence from the maps to support their interpretation.
  • Although maps may be provided to students electronically, hard copies may be most conducive to students using multiple lines of evidence to support their analysis of mass-wasting susceptibility.

Assessment

Unit 5 serves as the summative assessment for the entire module. An example rubric is provided for grading the the student exercise.

Unit 5 Final Report example rubric (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 128kB Jun22 17)

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This module is part of a growing collection of classroom-tested materials developed by GETSI. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
Explore the Collection »