Fermilab LInC Online

Flooding Rivers


Miles Robinson and Brian Schad


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This project is an extension of the river study that students in the Kingswood Girl's Middle School have been doing for the last five years. Previous study has been mostly biological and with the observation that each year the river next to the classroom floods. A hydrology study of the river is being done by the Cranbrook schools, Oakland county and the regional water resources board. A study of the river flooding seems a natural and authentic fit.

There are two schools participating: Kingswood Girl's Middle School sixth grade with 54 girls in four classes and the fifth grade from Lawton Elementary School in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Kingswood campus is part of the Cranbrook Educational Community in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan which has a branch of the Rouge River flowing that lows 100 feet from my classroom. This river floods in the spring and sometimes the summer. About 45 miles west of Kingswood is Lawton Elementary which is near a branch of the Huron River. This river has also experienced some flooding, but it has not been a major problem. Because these two rivers are similar in their flow rates and are in adjoining watersheds with basically identical weather they can be used for comparisons and controls. Both rivers also have extensive watershed studies and watershed projects that can be accessed or joined to extend the scope of the project.

The information gathered will be solicited from the head of the hydrology study at Kingswood who will receive a final report from the students. Findings of the class will also be shared in a final report both oral with PowerPoint and video enhancements and through a written document delivered to the agencies that are concerned with the project. A web page will be maintained for posting data and conclusions. Information and results will be solicited and shared with the watershed projects, Huron Watershed Council, Rouge River Project, Friends of the Rouge River, and Project Green.


Beginning/Getting Started

The two schools begin with a letter requesting help on a hydrology project about the flooding that has been occurring on the Rouge River. This brings up a discussion of the flooding the students have experienced when they attended the elementary campus where the river has often run through the building. Many of the Kingwood students live in the Bloomfield area along the river and have experienced the flooding at their own homes.

"Brookside school had so much water in the hall way last year there were cat fish swimming in and out of the broken window"

" I know we came over to Kingswood and the fields were flooded so we couldn't play lacrosse."

"Twice last year the water ran in the halls so we had to use the upstairs hall to get past the downstairs halls that had lots of water in them" "During that same time the river in my backyard came almost up to our patio in the back yard. It stayed wet for almost a month."

"My dad said this didn't happen here when he was a boy and went to Brookside. What could have happened?"

"Yea, we saw a foot bridge that was broken down by a floating log. The foot bridge had been there since the 1920's. Something is different"

After deciding to participate in this project the class brainstormed all of the reasons there might be a problem with the river now. The discussion included a range of possible problems from weather related to human causes.

"We should see what the rainfall was like during those years to see if it was really high."

"We should see if this is global warming happening."

"Maybe people are putting more water into the river."

"Maybe some of the lakes are draining into the river now."

"We need to catch all these ideas and write them on a big piece of paper and put it in the front of the room. We can add ideas to it as we go along and maybe we will come up with the right answer."

Students divide themselves into teams of three to spend a class period investigating more about the problems in the library and computer room. Concepts include finding detailed maps of the area, discovering the watershed concept, data on local weather and annual precipitate, and some basic information about flooding. Each trio of students added to the brainstorm list and presented what they discovered during the next class period.

The first days the class room is a busy place. Information being posted on the butcher paper of ideas, some ideas being discussed by individuals or groups, students coming in from the library or the computer room reporting new directions of investigation or confirmation of previous ideas. Students discussing concepts with students, teams of students organizing themselves and directing activities, students coming and going to collect information and bring it back. The walls become filled with student's brainstorms, diagrams of ideas for experiments, and organization schemes for teams and the class. This may look and sound like chaos, but it is student excitement and enthusiasm being focused into an efficient investigating team.

20 Questions

Once background information was briefly researched students went out by the river to sit alone with a notebook and a pencil and wrote down any and all the questions they could think of to ask to discover why there is flooding. Students sat and thought and wrote until they had written 20 questions about flooding on the Rouge River branch they were sitting next to. This took most of one period so the students let their lists sit until the next class period. Using the process described in 20 questions, students sorted their lists into acceptable and doable projects and then grouped these on the board with other similar questions. The process resulted in more good categories of questions than the students could do in a whole school year. From this list each student chose a category to work with and teams were formed. Each team organized themselves and then clearly defined their question using forms, included on the web page, for focusing their question.

Prior knowledge is assessed in the group and their question and key vocabulary defined clearly so that all the team understood and agreed with the research problem. The group then decide on the characteristics of the ideal group member: what should that member do, be like, and how should they act so that the project could be done effectively.

"I think that we should all be nice."

"What does nice mean? We need to be specific. I think we should all respect each other."

"Yea, and we should respect each others ideas and what they have to say."

"We should let each other finish what they are saying in a group without interrupting them or cutting them off."

"We should not talk about each other behind their back. That is mean and huts feelings. If you have something to say to a person you should just say it.".

A pledge containing all of these characteristics was written out and signed by all the group members pledging that they would do their best to make the best team possible. (Students use Hints for ideas about this step)



Middle/In Progress

After groups were defined and projects outlined, each group decided on a daily basis what work needed to be done based on their timeline and weather. Work in the computer room and library can be done when necessary or when it is too cold or wet to collect field data. Homework is assigned by the group to make sure the time line is being met. Weekly online meetings with the Lawton school students are scheduled by each group to share ideas, data and progress towards the final report..

A daily lab log is kept for recording the goal of the day and the work that is done in the field or in the library computer lab. This log is checked weekly by the team to make sure that all members are working towards solving the problem and meeting the time line. Adjustments will be made on the work schedule for the next week in a goal/task sheet. The teacher uses this log check to evaluate students progress and provide suggestions if needed.

A Hyperstudio stack was started and maintained by some teams. Teams using this program included cards with key information that was learned. Cards are connected with original web sources, student generated data tables and reports, and other Hyperstudios from other groups for background information. Periodically all the stacks are merged together around a common project home card and stored on the school zip drive.

The class is student run. When student teams need to use the computer room, or the library they sign up and leave. The library and computer room are places that are maintained as quiet places to gather information. The Plaid Lobby outside my room the the common meeting place for students to talk and discuss what is being done so a focus is kept on solving a real problem. My classroom is also a place of student talk, the clink of glassware, the hum of computers, and the organizing of a team to leave for the field and collect data.

When students have reached some conclusions they will present their findings to the class using a PowerPoint presentation and a board of inquiry. The class will take home home a summary of the experiments, research, data, and conclusions for homework to study the night before the presentation. The team will then present and then defend their work, research, and conclusions noting the points that make their study more valid.

Experiments, data, and conclusions are maintained on the web so that Lawton Elementary and other schools can keep up with what we are doing. Students e-mail or video conference with the researchers at Lawton Elementary to compare data, and research. Digital pictures of work sites are taken by students and exchanged via e-mail and posted in web pages and Hyperstudio stacks. The two schools help each other with experiments to provide validity or controls or critique.

Outside the smell of the the woods along the river is cool and damp in the Fall. Birds chirp and sing in the bushes and at the tops of the trees and the Rouge River cascading over the rocks and fallen logs in the river bed makes the constant background babble of a very natural place. To this is occasionally added the commands of the students setting up their experiments or giving orders to assistants across the two meters of flowing water. Students exclaim in a shriek as the cold water overflows her boots and cools her feet to what sounds like it must be freezing.

A video of this activity will be maintained for editing at the end of the study period to enhance the oral presentation to the water officials. Digital pictures will be posted to show what students are doing as well as to enhance the experimental write ups.

Students will have initiated contact with the major water projects that are occurring on the two watershed areas and will participate in their web projects and sharing of information. Besides face to face discussions with the hydrologists doing the study of the Cranbrook Rouges River problem, students will contact the county and water district officials to seek guidance, support and help with their project. The students will also ask their contacts to attend the presentation of the results.

The daily work log is checked by the teacher periodically. The timeline arranged by the students is also evaluated weekly by the team and the teacher..



The final presentation is made at a meeting with the officials who are working with the Rouge River. Using Powerpoint, groups will present the results of their experiments and observations, their conclusions, and possible solutions to the flooding problem.. Each group will produce a document that presents their work from start to finish with conclusions and a bibliography of sources used which will be bounded and presented to the watershed officials. The documents will also be bound digitally and burned on a CD. The Hyperstudio presentation of their work, a digital journal of each team's work towards the final report with key findings or problems, will be burned onto a CD as well. Assessment will be made on the final report, the intermediate goals and presentations, and the oral presentation. All of the information will burned onto a CD that will be given to all of the students. Results of the final report will be given to the watershed projects and posted on the web page.



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Photo credits Huron Ann Arbor http://www.airsho.com/airsho_cfmfiles/public/photo_tour.cfm?id=1200&agentid=1027

Huron canoe http://detnews.com/1999/wayne/9906/10/index.htm

Friends of the Rouge River http://www.therouge.org/REP/index.htm

Rouge River watershed http://www.rivernen.ca/

Rougeheron http://www.wcdoe.org/rougeriver/


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