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Flooding River



Student Pages


Index of Projects


Subject: Science (connections to writing, researching and technology)

Grade Level: 5th & 6th


Two classes of 5th and 6th grade students will combine their efforts to help solve a problem of flooding along small tributaries that flow through the communities and right through one of the school's property. Both schools are very close to waterways that have had problems with flooding. One school actually gets flooding in the school buildings and is now the focus of a community study to prevent future flooding. As requested by the director of the water project, students are asked to apply their skills as scientists to study the problem and present their ideas to the organizations working to solve these problems. Students will learn not only about watersheds, rivers, and urbanization around rivers, but also about community action and community governments.

Learner Description/Environment:

Two schools are participating in this project:.

Lawton Elementary, a public school in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Mr. Schad's self-contained class of 25 fifth graders will participate. This project will be incorporated into other disciplines as well as the content area of science. A small tributary of theHuron River is just blocks from the school and occasionally floods the community it flows through. The class will travel by city bus to the Huron River, which flows through downtown Ann Arbor, to complete this project. Although only 45 minutes away from the other school Kingwood, this river is in another watershed, so comparisons can be made between two watersheds.

The second school is Kingswood Girl's Middle School, part of the Cranbook Educational Community, an independent school in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Kingswood Girl's Middle School is a 6-8 middle school on the Cranbrook campus which is 380 acres of wooded grounds. Four classes of sixth grade girls will use this project as the theme for the year in their science class which meets daily on a modified block schedule. The Rouge River flows through the campus very near the classroom and occasionally floods the school grounds and the buildings.

Time Frame:

Both schools will use this project as the focus for their year of science. Beyond the project's specific learner outcomes, other critical parts of the curriculum will be tied to this project. These include writing, technology, math, and the enhancing of research skills. Presentation skills will also be taught during the course of the year.


Learner Outcomes:

    1. Students will demonstrate research techniques using both the computer and library sources
    2. Students will collect, analyze and post data to a web page for use and criticism by others in the project.
    3. Students will collaborate with students in another watershed and identify similarities and differences in the river flows and river qualities.
    4. Students will interpret the concept of watershed and apply this concept to the river they are studying.
    5. Students will demonstrate an understanding of the community government by contacting the appropriate agencies to solicit information and turn in their final report.
    6. Students will analyze information about urbanization around watersheds to draw some conclusion about the causes and impacts of flooding.
    7. Students will present a report of the river flooding to members of their community which demonstrates an understanding of watershed, flooding and possible solutions to the current problems.
    8. Students will demonstrate an understanding of the scientific method.


The population of southeast Michigan is growing at an alarming rate. This urbanization has created many real problems including problems of flooding along most of the four watersheds in the area. Over the next two years, there will be an extensive study of flooding along a branch of the Rouge River which flows through the Cranbrook campus. In connection with this project, a letter will be sent to the two schools from the head of the river study at Cranbrook asking the students to help with this study by researching and testing their branches of the river, then submitting their findings to the official river study. The students will be a part of the actual research into the problem and the possible solutions of flooding along the river. Lawton school is participating because it is near the Huron River which is another watershed next to the Rouge River Watershed. The Huron and Rouge Rivers both have similar weather, precipitation, and urbanization. The two sites can be compared and contrasted to find similarities and differences that may help solve the problems of flooding along the rivers.



After being contacted by the water projects, students will discuss the problem and how they want to approach the research. It will be noted that they are just a part of the whole project and will be adding information and ideas not solving all the problems. The initial discussion will result in a large list of brainstormed ideas for research and experiments.

Students will then decide on projects based on their interest and what projects they think are possible to complete. These teams will organize themselves, writing a pledge of their goals, objectives, responsibilities, duties, and code of conduct for their team. This pledge will help keep the groups working when problems arise. The individual teams will define their project, then focus their question and decide on the best approach to reaching their goals and objectives. A timeline will be made and work will begin.

The amount of time needed to complete a project will vary depending upon the task. Many tasks may take the entire year. As projects are completed, students can reorganize themselves into other groups to research other questions or problems. Each member of the group will keep a journal of their daily activities, what they intend to accomplish and what they actually accomplish. The notebook will also be where data and research notes are taken. The group will meet weekly or more often to check the journals and the progress towards the completion of their project. Homework will consist of work that needs to be completed to keep the group on their timeline and will be assessed by the teams themselves. The teacher will participate in the team meetings and evaluate their progress, making suggestions if necessary.

Research will consist of library and Internet work to gather background information which will help indeveloping their question and conclusion. As data is collected more research will be done to develop comprehensive and accurate conclusions. Work will be shared in weekly conferences between the two school and teams doing similar projects via email and teleconferencing. As with real scientists the shared work will be criticize and reviewed to make sure that it is accurate, clear and solving the problems being investigated.

Research will also consist of contacting officials in the communities with expertise in the area of watershed and water resources. Officials in the local governments, city, township, and county, will also be contacted by the students about this project and asking for their help and support. There are many local water projects that involve the two watersheds being investigated and their help and support will also be solicited by the classes.

To ensure that the field work is a vital part of the solution to the flooding problem, experiments will be reviewed and discussed by the class before moving to the field experience. When not conducting field work, students in the teams will be doing background research, contacting experts, analyzing data, supporting experimental conclusions with research, and sharing their findings with other students both on their campus and the other campus.

Occasional whole class meetings will occur to assess their work. This will be a time to present preliminary findings and discuss the progress towards the final report the whole class will present to the officials of their communities. As a result, new problems and research topics may b introduced. Teams that are finishing their part of the project can begin some of these other projects or join another team.



The final product of the research will be a presentation to the community of the year's research, experimentation and solutions to the problem which will be presented orally using PowerPoint, chart, graphs, slides, and video. In addition a written report organized in a standard format detailing the overall conclusions of the classes will be presented to the community officials to go into the total report of flooding along the rivers. Included in the written report will be individual projects written up in a standard format with documentation supporting the individual conclusions. Each team will contribute to the presentation and to the written report.


Best Use of Technology:

A variety of probes for the Computer Based Laboratory systems which use handheld devices to collect data will be used in the field. Data will also be collected by hand and all of this will be stored in excel spread sheets or standard data bases. Manipulation of this data will be done using the computers to make trends and result clear and easily understandable. .

Computers will be used to contact team members at both schools via email. Email exchanges will be used to exchange data, ideas, or research. A video conferencing system using a web cam at each school will be used to give real time "face to face" discussions between the schools. Experts in the field will be contacted through the regular mail and through email. Internet research will be conducted to get up to date information about the current problems along the river. A bulletin board will be set up with several sections for students to post problems and solutions and to contact the teachers or experts.

A web page will be maintained that will contain digital pictures and information that will be maintained and updated by the two classes. This web page will be a place where parents, teachers, and experts who are working with the students can go to see how their work is progressing. Links of reference sites can be posted for all students to check. The final report will be posted on this web page.

Some students may organize their questions and findings via HyperStudio a nonlinear presentation program that is similar to the Internet. Other students may use more traditional methods of keeping a public record of their research and their findings.

Digital cameras will be used to capture what is being done as the projects progress. Video will also be used with some video editing of the final video for the public presentation.



A rubric of the final product will be decided on by the students keeping in mind that the product willbe used for a real purpose and presented to the community. A rubric for conduct in the team will be worked out initially and students will measure their level of competency. The team rubric will include, working effectively with other team members, producing a fair share of the work and contributing to the whole project as a team member. A rubric for the journal will be developed by the students so that the journal is an accurate reflection of the work being done. Students and the teacher will assess the teams and members with the rubrics at specific points in the project.

Assessment is the process of determining how the students are progressing towards the outcomes that are the basis of the project. The journal of daily work will be assessed by the teams themselves to make sure that all the students are working hard and accomplishing what is needed to reach the goals and objectives. The teacher will sit in on some of these discussions and assess the journals. Evaluation of the journals by the teacher will help the teacher to provide suggestions for the group to think about or incorporated to better reach their goal.

At regular intervals student teams will present their work to the whole class. The class will assess the value of the work towards the overall goals and objectives. Comparison will be made between groups to make sure that all groups are contributing equally to the final product. Evaluation of the projects by the class will result in suggestions by the class to bring all the projects into line with the final product. The periodic presentations will also be a time for students to incorporate some of the technology components by using PowerPoint or HyperStudio to enhance their presentation. Assessment of the level of skills in the technology area can be made at these points in the project

Assessment of the data and conclusions derived from the experiments and research will be done often in email and video conferencing with the other school site. Students will also share their results often with other teams to seek their evaluation of problems they might be having. All of this assessment will be aimed at producing a final product the class can be proud to share because it is a valuable contribution to a serious and real problem in their community.


Project Evaluation:

If students are engaged in the project, asking real questions, working hard for understanding I will know that students are learning. The final report will be a very good evaluation instrument. If this community project is well received it can be repeated with another community problem for the next year. The amount of adjustment of the projects each team is doing will give me an indication of the level of responsibility and the level of research the students can maintain.



Alignment with Standards:

This project is using the Michigan Standards as published this year and distributed through Lansing Michigan through the Department of Education.

The following sections of the Michigan Science Standards apply directly to the year long project outlined in this project. These standards were copied from a book containing the standards and not from an online source.

Standards for science teaching

Teachers of science plan an inquiry-based science program for their students. In doing this, teachers
o Develop a framework of yearlong and short-term goals for students.
o Select science content and adapt and design curricula to meet the interests, knowledge, understanding, abilities, and experiences of students.
o Select teaching and assessment strategies that support the development of student understanding and nurture a community of science learners.
o Work together as colleagues within and across disciplines and grade levels.


Teachers of science guide and facilitate learning. In doing this, teachers
o Focus and support inquiries while interacting with students.
o Orchestrate discourse among students about scientific ideas.
o Challenge students to accept and share responsibility for their own learning.
o Recognize and respond to student diversity and encourage all students to participate fully in science learning.
o Encourage and model the skills of scientific inquiry, as well as the curiosity, openness to new ideas and data, and skepticism that characterize science.

Teachers of science engage in ongoing assessment of their teaching and of student learning. In doing this, teachers
o Use multiple methods and systematically gather data about student understanding and ability.
o Analyze assessment data to guide teaching.
o Guide students in self-assessment.
o Use student data, observations of teaching, and interactions with colleagues to reflect on and improve teaching practice.
o Use student data, observations of teaching, and interactions with colleagues to report student achievement and opportunities to learn to students, teachers, parents, policy makers, and the general public.


Standards for science education programs

The program of study in science for all students should be developmentally appropriate, interesting, and relevant to students' lives; emphasize student understanding through inquiry; and be connected with other school subjects.
+The program of study should include all of the content standards.
+Science content must be embedded in a variety of curriculum patterns that are developmentally appropriate, interesting, and relevant to students' lives.
+The program of study must emphasize student understanding through inquiry.
+The program of study in science should connect to other school subjects.


Standards for assessment in science education

The technical quality of the data collected is well matched to the decisions and actions taken on the basis of their interpretation.
o The feature that is claimed to be measured is actually measured.
o Assessment tasks are authentic.
o An individual student's performance is similar on two or more tasks that claim to measure the same aspect of student achievement.
o Students have adequate opportunity to demonstrate their achievements.
o Assessment tasks and methods of presenting them provide data that are sufficiently stable to lead to the same decisions if used at different times.

Content Standards: K-12

Unifying Concepts and Processes

Standard: As a result of activities in grades K-12, all students should develop understanding and abilities aligned with the following concepts and processes:
- Systems, order, and organization
- Evidence, models, and explanation
- Constancy, change, and measurement

Content Standards: 5-8

Science as Inquiry

Content Standard A: As a result of activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop
- Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry
- Understandings about scientific inquiry

Physical Science

Content Standard B: As a result of activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop an understanding of
- Motions and forces

Life Science

Content Standard C: As a result of activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop an understanding of
- Populations and ecosystems

Science and Technology

Content Standard E: As a result of activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop an understanding of
- Abilities of technological design
- Understandings about science and technology

Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

Content Standard F: As a result of activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop an understanding of
- Populations, resources and environments
- Natural hazards
- Risks and benefits
- Science and technology in society

History and Nature of Science

Content Standard G: As a result of activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop an understanding of
- Science as a human endeavor
- Nature of science


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Pages for Students
Scientific Method
Web Research Form
Focusing Investigation
20 Questions
Table of content
Defining Questions
Splitting the Computer Screen
Rubric for Grading
Final Product
What to do Next

Pages for Teachers

Scenario Robinson
Scenario Schad
Pre-course project
Staff Development


Photo Credits: huronannarbor http://www.airsho.com/airsho_cfmfiles/public/photo_tour.cfm?id=1200&agentid=1027

huronfalls http://www.lsa.umich.edu/mbg/explore/out/out.flemingcrik.html

Clip Art Credit: : Pageresource.com (A free Web Resource from DreamWeaver) http://www.pageresource.com/graphics/index.html

Created for the Fermilab LInC program sponsored by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory Education Office and Friends of Fermilab, and funded by United States Department of Energy, Illinois State Board of Education, North Central Regional Technology in Education Consortium which is operated by North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL), and the National Science Foundation.

Author(s): Miles Robinson (mrobinson@cranbrook.edu), Brian Schad (schad@aaps.k12.mi.us )
Cranbrook Schools, Kingswood Girl's Middle School, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan and Lawton Elementary Ann Arbor, Michigan
Created: February 15, 2001 - Updated: April 18, 2001
URL: http://www-ed.fnal.gov/lincon/w01/projects/yourfoldername/student.html