Page prepared for SERC by Sadredin C. Moosavi and John McDaris.

Exploring the Hydrosphere

Course Type:
Science Education, Earth Science

Course Size:
Lecture/Lab 24/24

Course Summary

Exploring the Hydrosphere is the earth science content course in the integrated science teacher development sequence. It is focused on water in the ocean, groundwater systems, river systems, glaciers and as a resource for humans. The six-hour combined lecture/lab course requires students to work in teams to solve problems and think critically and creatively to actively explore the hydrosphere while developing pedagogical techniques to transmit this content to K-8 students. Methods will include hands-on/minds-on experiences, inquiry-oriented investigations, constructivism, concept maps, group discussions, demonstrations, and student presentations. Students learn by doing hands-on, inquiry-based cooperative learning that will not be limited to scheduled labs and may also be done during lecture time. A stream research project focuses around the ravines on the GVSU campus and it is enhanced by local field trips. Students prepare two detailed classroom lessons related to the course content and present the lessons to their peers, but they do not actually engage in clinical activities with K-8 students at this point in their program.

For Dr. Mattox's reflections on the course and its design, see Role in the Program. You can also view an updated version of this course.

Course Context:

Students in this course can be at any point in the pre-service science course sequence, as it assumes no content background knowledge beyond high school. Freshmen and sophomores typically dominate the course, though juniors and seniors are also present. The course is taken before the pedagogy component of the student's program.

Course Goals:

As part of the teacher preparation sequence, students will:
  1. Increase and apply content knowledge about the hydrosphere to solve problems and describe Earth systems.
  2. Successfully demonstrate their knowledge on the state certification exam
  3. Conduct a research project that demonstrates an ability to think scientifically
  4. Use different methods to teach science and assess learning.
  5. Build a portfolio of techniques and lesson plans teaching the hydrosphere to K-8 students.
  6. Demonstrate fluency in Michigan science standards and familiarity with the MI Educational Assessment Program.
  7. Understand the characteristics and distribution of water and the processes involved in the hydrological cycle
  8. Understand groundwater, its movements, and its uses
  9. Understand the characteristics and processes of freshwater systems
  10. Understand the characteristics and processes of marine systems
  11. Understand the relationships between the hydrosphere and human activities
  • Students should be able to increase his/her content knowledge about Earth
  • Science and pass the State of Michigan certification exam.
  • Students should be able to increase his/her confidence in presenting science in the classroom or field.
  • Students should be able to increase his/her knowledge of methods used to teach inquiry-based science and assess learning.
  • Students should be able to compile existing teaching resources and to develop new inquiry-based classroom activities.
  • Students should be fluent in Michigan science standards and familiar with the MI Educational Assessment Program.
  • Students will work in groups to write an original inquiry-based field lesson for upper elementary students that utilizes quantitative data collection and analysis and present the lesson to local teachers.
  • Students will work individually to write a 2,000 word manuscript to submit to NSTA's Science and Children journal, specifically the Teaching Through Tradebooks feature.

Course Content:

This course focuses on the terrestrial aspects of the hydrologic cycle, from the cryospheric glacial ice and resultant land forms to coastal features and internal chemistry and circulation of oceans. Students perform in-depth investigations of stream systems, including ravines present on the GVSU campus. Groundwater hydrology, the evolution of karst land forms and water resource use and pollution are investigated to connect students to their resource base. Pedagogical applications of hydrologic science in the classroom are explored at both the elementary and middle school level.

Teaching Materials:

Materials available for this course on this website include:


Assessment in this course is divided nearly evenly between exams, in class labs and field trips, and the ravines study. Exams focus on objective multiple choice, short answer, short essays related to the hydrosphere content. In addition, students are evaluated on two lessons (elementary and middle school level) using a detailed rubric that evaluates both the science content and delivery of that content.

References and Notes:

This course is part of a 12-credit series of four courses designed as a group in accordance with Michigan standards, which encourage the teaching of integrated science with a balance of biological, earth, space and physical sciences. These courses were designed specifically for pre-service teachers instead of using pre-existing general education courses to cover science content.