Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Earth & Space Science: Session 6

Lesson and Curriculum

Waters classroomLesson at a Glance:
Watershed to Bay: A Raindrop Journey
University of Massachusetts Cooperative Extension System
Grade: 4-8
Topic: Groundwater

Barbara worked with Robin’s fifth graders on groundwater. She started by having the students work in pairs to draw what they thought a groundwater table looked like. Barbara notes that children and adults alike are full of misconceptions about groundwater. “Almost all the drawings I get have the same misconception, and that is that water is in some kind of river or pool or lake underground,” Barbara commented. She also asked the students to think of and write down any questions that occurred to them as they worked on their drawings. “That’s essential for them: this is a question that I have that I hope is going to be answered.”

When they were done briefly discussing their drawings and questions, Barbara introduced a material she feels is analogous to the rock in groundwater — a sponge that was saturated with water. The students were then ready to work with their groundwater models. In groups of four or five, the class used plastic tanks that had an uneven layer of gravel on the bottom. When the students poured water into the model, they had a clear example of the water table: the bottom of the tank represents the aquifer, the gravel that is saturated in water represents the groundwater, and the dry gravel serves as the water table.

After working with the model and a little more discussion, the students, again in pairs, drew a picture of a groundwater table and wrote down some questions about it. “Well, I had a very good class of students that did a lot of thinking,” Barbara said after the lesson. She was slightly disappointed in the children’s second drawings — “they seemed to understand saturation, but their drawings didn’t reflect it” — but she considered the lesson an overall success. “I asked them to come up with questions when they started and more questions when they were finished. Those end questions were much more sophisticated, like a boy who said, ‘What is a pond like on top of the mountain? It couldn’t be connected, it’s too high up. Would it be connected to the water table the way it was in our model?’ That question shows me that he understands the concept, because he couldn’t have asked that question if he didn’t. So soliciting questions can be more important than giving answers. ”

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