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Just-in-Time Teaching (JiTT) WarmUp Activity: Dam Removal - A Good Idea or Not?

Laura Guertin, Penn State University Delaware County
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1) What are some of the biological effects of dam removal (good and bad)?

2) What are some of the more pressing/compelling reasons to remove a dam? Explain.

3) The Stanley and Doyle (2003) article states that, "dam removal cannot be avoided." Hypothetically, let's say you are placed on a committee to oversee the removal of the Aswan High Dam, since Doyle et al. (2003) states that, "the functional lifespan of most dams is approximately 60-120 years." What scientific studies would you conduct before/during/after dam removal? Why?

Student Responses:

See the Just-in-Time Teaching page on assessment for information and ideas on how to evaluate student responses.

Many students are surprised to learn about the limited lifespan of a dam and the increase/decrease in temperature and oxygen levels with dam removal. Students are eager to ask why people living in the local areas of dams do not get much of a say in what will happen with their lives with dam removal. Students also question the financial costs involved with construction and maintenance versus the benefits from having a dam at all. How a dam removal occurs comes up as a topic of discussion. Overall, the introductory-level students commented that the readings suggested here are "a bit long and verbose," but students were able to understand the content.

References and Notes:

Articles that students may be assigned to read for this set of questions include (but are not limited to):

Stanley, E.H., Doyle, M.W. (2003). Trading off: the ecological effects of dam removal. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 1(1), 15-22.

Doyle, M.W., Harbor, J.M., Stanley, E.H. (2003). Toward policies and decision-making for dam removal. Environmental Management, 31(4), 453-465.

The use of Just-in-Time Teaching is discussed in detail on the JiTT Starting Point page.

Additional information on JiTT is available in the book:

  • Just-in-Time Teaching: Blending Active Learning with Web Technology. Novak et al., 1999 The authors explain what Just-in-Time Teaching is, its underlying goals and philosophies, and how to implement it. They also provide an extensive section of tested resource materials that can be used in introductory physics courses with the JiTT approach. (citation and description)