Case Study: Erosion at Providence Canyon

Colleen Stapleton
Mercer University
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Initial Publication Date: May 24, 2017


The assignment is to analyze the erosion at Providence Canyon, GA and interpret its cause(s). Students study information in the links provided and write a brief report describing the data that show that erosion exists, interpret (based on the data) the cause of the erosion, and suggest mitigations to alleviate the problem.

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Learning Goals

Students should learn to apply theories of of mass wasting and erosion to a real-world problem. Students study geoscience in the context of African-American culture in this assignment by reading about early 20th century agricultural practices, which were influenced by share cropping and other socio-economic conditions that African-Americans experienced in the southern USA. Students analyze and synthesize scientific data, evaluate effects of human activity on the environment, and develop possible mitigations. Other skills developed in this assignment include writing in a clear and logical manner and citing relevant and reliable sources.

Context for Use

This assignment is used in an introductory college course that satisfies a general education lab science requirement. The assignment is to be completed outside the class meeting time within a week, in an accelerated 8-week class schedule. Students should have studied mass wasting or erosion before they begin this assignment. This activity has been adapted to an in-class assignment by providing the background materials to read as homework and, in class, students work on this as a group assigment to make a slide presentation by the end of class.

Description and Teaching Materials

After exploring vocabulary, basic theory of mass wasting and erosion, and affects on human activity, students read through online background information of a real-world problem.

Mass Wasting Study Guide (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 140kB May10 17)

Student instructions for writing assignment on erosion at Providence Canyon, G (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 26kB May10 17)

Teaching Notes and Tips

Students get distracted by the beauty of the canyon. The instructor can guide the discussion to the destruction caused to human livelhood caused by the development of the canyon.


Grading is based on inclusion of description of site and data, Interpretations of the cause(s) of erosion that the data indicate, description of mitigation that have been taken and realistically could be taken, and prediction of the future of the site. Data and interpretations must be related to each other; mitigations should be logical in relation to environmental science principles; and citiations are required.

References and Resources