Landslide Hazard Site Assessments

Beth Hallauer, Sinclair Community College
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In this project students will first research the landslide-prone Seattle area using provided websites to gather background and perspective for the second part of the assignment. In the second part of the assignment students evaluate several actual properties in the Seattle area using a city government website that utilizes the GIS mapping system. Following their use of the online map and other suggested resources they will rank the properties in order of relative landslide hazard and provide a written evaluation of their rankings.

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Learning Goals

Content/concepts goals
The goals of this project are for students to be able to:
1) apply the basic concepts of mass wasting as a geologic hazard to a real-life scenario
2) to develop and improve map reading and interpretation skills
3) to utilize one of many practical and accessible online resources related to mass wasting hazards available to citizens to enable them to make informed choices for themselves and their families

Higher order thinking skills goals
This project requires students to synthesize and analyze information from various sources to make comparative evaluations and to clearly articulate the reasoning process behind their final evaluations in writing.

Other skills goals

Context for Use

Type and level of course
This project is appropriate for use in undergraduate Introductory Physical Geology, Geologic Hazards or even Geomorphology courses.

Skills and concepts students should have mastered
Before beginning this project students should have a basic understanding of mass wasting concepts. They should also understand the basic premise of GIS mapping and be able to follow specific instructions for use of an online map resource.

How the activity is situated in the course
This exercise is the culminating activity in the study of the topic of mass wasting in a Physical Geology curriculum and is used in both face-to-face and online versions of the course.

Description and Teaching Materials

Landslide Hazard Site Assessment Project (Rich Text File 74kB Apr29 17)

Teaching Notes and Tips

Students often benefit from an in-class demonstration of the City of Seattle mapping website combined with a brief, basic explanation of GIS mapping methods and uses. I do this in my face-to-face classes.

The thing that most often causes a problem for students is the idea that "ranking" means that each property should have a unique number within the 1-5 range and that "1" designates the "best" and "5" the "worst".

Students (and instructors) sometimes have difficulty with the idea that there is no right or wrong answer for the second part of this project. I have designed it so that there is one property that is clearly the "worst" when using the map resource, but the other four properties can be interchangeable in the rankings and can be correct as long as the written evaluation clearly indicates valid reasoning based on the resources the students may have chosen to use outside of the online map. Motivated and interested students often use Google Maps or online realty sites to investigate construction and aesthetic aspects of each property and may include those additional considerations in their evaluations.

The property addresses chosen for this assignment were based on my own research and can be modified at the desire of the instructor. The online map requires actual, real property addresses within the boundaries of Seattle.


Correct answers to the questions in Part 1 will help to determine student understanding of the background readings. The table ranking the properties is worth 5 points and acceptable rankings are determined by the instructor based on the logic and reasoning used to evaluate each property. I count each evaluation as 3 points for a possible total of 15 points.

References and Resources

Links to all necessary online resources are included within the assignment.