Groundwater Lab: online version

Kimberly Hannula, Fort Lewis College

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This is a version of the Groundwater Lab ( previously shared as part of the Teaching Introductory Geology collection. It uses an online ( version of an "ant farm" groundwater model to demonstrate groundwater flow and the behavior of wells. The lab is organized so that students have to predict the behavior of the model before observing it.

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Introductory physical geology, introductory earth systems science, interdisciplinary upper level general education courses dealing with water issues.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Ideally, students should have read the textbook discussion of groundwater.

How the activity is situated in the course

One out of eleven independent lab projects. Although it works best when it coincides with discussion of groundwater in lecture, it also can work when lab and lecture get out of sync.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Groundwater flow, behavior of wells when pumped, groundwater contamination.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Critical evaluation of preconceived notions, comparing results of tests with hypotheses.

Other skills goals for this activity

Description and Teaching Materials

Students use a virtual version of an analog model to explore the behavior of groundwater, using a virtual dye tracer. They explore the effects of pumping wells and observe the behavior of an artesian aquifer.
Student handout for Online Groundwater Lab (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 4.1MB Mar30 20)

Teaching Notes and Tips

This lab uses a new online groundwater model Students need access to the Internet in order to complete this lab. Some parts of the online model aren't functional yet (the leaky landfill, in particular).


Answers are graded based on whether they 1) are consistent with students' observations, 2) whether they make sense, and 3) whether the broader concepts are explained correctly.

References and Resources Online groundwater model, developed by a multi-institutional group and funded by NSF. User manual for the sandtank model. Video explaining the basics of the online model, and how they relate to the physical model.

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