A Teaching Unit Engineered to bring Water Resource Problems into the Middle School Classroom

Document Type


Publication Date



The GK12 program at Michigan Technological University gives the opportunity for Ph.D. students in water sciences to introduce students in the K-12 classroom to original research done at the college graduate level. This is done through the development of teaching units that incorporate the graduate students’ research into original, interactive lessons that not only aim to educate students about principles and issues that are not generally considered in traditional K-12 education, but also enhance the communication skills of the Ph.D. student. The developed units are made publicly available and align with state curriculum standards in order to be utilized by K-12 educators.

We present one such developed unit that incorporates engineering principles related to flood frequency analysis aimed at middle school students. The unit starts by establishing that they are engineers in their respective firms given the task of determining if a structure built along their stream in their given watershed is adequate. They are given a data packet that consists of all the information they will need to find this solution. Throughout the unit, students become familiar with the components of their watershed and how water moves through the landscape resulting in discharge at their stream. The teaching of each lesson is designed to guide students through how engineers estimate flood discharge and how these estimates impact the design of structures such as bridges, culverts and dams. Each lesson is meant to be stand-alone, however the progression is strategic in that it builds upon knowledge from the previous lesson. This leads to the final project in which they have to use the principles taught to them to determine if the structure can hold a given discharge. It is designed to bring together engineering and earth science to create a basic yet holistic picture of watershed processes. The core teaching strategy is engineered to be engaging, allowing students to discuss a range of ideas and solutions to the problem(s) presented, as there is never a “right” solution to many engineering issues.

Was this content written or created while at USF?


Citation / Publisher Attribution

Presented at the Geological Society of America Annual Meeting on November 3, 2015 in Baltimore, MD