Stream Tables for Teaching in Geography and Geology

Project Title: Stream Tables for Teaching in Geography and Geology

Project Lead’s Name: Bartosz Grudzinski


Phone: (513) 529-4112

Please Choose the Primary Affiliation: CAS

Are There Other Project Team Members?: No

Brief description of project: The proposed project is for the acquisition of four Emriver stream tables by the Departments of Geography and Geology & Environmental Earth Science. The Emriver tables are interactive stream models that accurately mimic stream response to natural and anthropogenic forces and environmental change (see video clip: The stream tables will be used to teach river and coastal processes in introductory physical geography and geology labs (two EM2 tables), as well as various other geomorphic processes (tectonics, subsidence, sand dune dynamics, sediment transport, etc.) in upper level geography and geology courses (two EM3 tables). The stream tables will be housed in the new Shideler Hall laboratory classrooms, including the Physical Geography laboratory (SHD 07), the introductory Geology laboratory (SHD 09), and the upper level Sedimentology and Hydrogeology laboratory (SHD 242). The stream tables will allow for a wide array of inquiry-based learning activities at all levels of the curriculum including introductory Geology labs (~950 students per year), introductory Physical Geography labs (~375 students per year), and upper level courses in Geography and Geology serving (~200 students per year).

Does this project focus on graduate student education or graduate student life?: No

If yes, please explain: No, this project is focused on undergraduate students enrolled in introductory geography and geology labs and upper level majors courses. However, graduate students teach most of the introductory lab courses and are also teaching assistants within upper level courses. The acquisition of the stream tables will help graduate students develop as inquiry-based teachers. Additionally, all of the 400/500 level courses also enroll graduate students. Therefore, although the focus of the project is on inquiry-based undergraduate education, graduate student education will also be served.

Describe the problem you are attempting to solve and your approach for solving that problem.: OCoastal regions and river floodplains are the most densely populated regions on Earth. Streams are the dominant systems for the transport or water and sediment across the Earth's surface, are key biogeographic corridors, and have been severely impacted by natural and anthropogenic processes. Understanding stream structure and function is essential for a wide array of disciplines including biology, urban planning, civil engineering, geography and geology. Unfortunately, without experimentation it is extremely difficult to understand the complex response of stream systems to such disturbances as climate change, agriculture, flood control, and urbanization. This is also true for coastlines, which have been severely impacted by coastal development, civil engineering projects, and sea level rise. It is often impractical to bring large groups of students out to natural streams due to class room teaching time constrictions and unpredictable weather. The lack of coastlines makes it impossible to show students coastal processes. The utilization of the stream tables will allow students to test how streams and coastlines respond to external forces within the confines of a classroom. Science outreach and engaging students to participate in STEM disciplines is also a key part of our mission within the Department of Geography and Geology & Environmental Earth Science. Stream are excellent tools for engaging students of all ages to the Earth Sciences. This type of hands-on inquiry-based learning is perfect for engaging students at events such as Science Week at the end of the spring semester, and on events such as Earth Day and Geography Awareness Week. Simultaneously, the stream tables will be used to recruit students within Miami University to pursue majors within the departments of Geography and Geology & Environmental Earth Science.

The criteria state that technology fee projects should benefit students in innovative and/or significant ways. How would you describe the innovation and/or significance of your project?: The Em2 and Em3 stream tables are innovative for many reasons, including but not limited to;

1) They increase our ability to teach about aquatic and terrestrial landscapes, across both introductory and advanced courses. The stream tables can and will be used teach about streams (concepts such as slope, sinuosity, drainage density, erosional-depositional zones, impact of flooding), coastal areas (impact of large storms, shore line evolution, beach development), sand dunes (structure and movement), climate change (increased storm intensity, changes in water availability), and land use impacts (i.e. urban development). Several labs have already been developed by the faculty and are ready to be implemented.

2) Their ability to demonstrate large-scale processes within the confines of a class room. Students often have difficulty visualizing and understanding landscape-scale forms and processes. Due to class time constraints, unpredictable weather, and cold temperatures (and often frozen water) in the spring, it is difficult to take students into an outdoor setting. The purchase of these tables will allow for the demonstration of how specific processes alter landscapes. Since the physical laws that govern stream and coastal systems remain constant between the natural environment and scaled models, we will be able to determine how various factors influence stream morphology and channel behavior.

3) Their ability to control specific landscape features and intensity of processes. When teaching in the outdoors, we are limited by environmental conditions (i.e. amount of flow in a river, antecedent environmental conditions). By having control over all the variables within the model, we can isolate specific drivers (e.g., wave size) and measure response variables (beach erosion) under variable conditions (e.g., large and small waves). One of the most beneficial optional tools that may be purchased is the flow control module. With the flow controller we can modify water release rates. This will allow us to determine the impact of small versus large floods and how flood waters propagate downstream. In the real world teaching about floods is not practical and quite dangerous.

How will you assess the project?: Student learning will be assessed within introductory and upper level courses using several methods.

Introductory courses

The stream tables will be used in the introductory courses GEO 121 and GLG 115. Within each of introductory labs that use the stream tables (i.e. coastal, river, sand dunes) students will take a pre-quiz that focuses on key learning outcomes from readings completed prior to class. Each lab will then provide several scenarios and students will come up with hypotheses before operating the stream tables. After "turning on" the stream tables and observing a physical force (i.e. wind or water erosion) each student will describe how the landscape has changed (e.g., a beach has enlarged or been eroded). At the end of each lab students will return to the pre-lab questions. Learning outcomes will be assessed based on improvement in scores on pre- and post-quizzes. Lastly we will ask students to rate the effectiveness of the stream table as a learning tool following each lab.

Major courses

The stream tables will be used in upper level majors courses including GEO 425/525 (Hydrogeography), GEO 460/560 (Fluvial Geomorphology), and laboratory courses GLG 301 (Sedimentology and Stratigraphy), GLG 354 (Geomorphology), GLG 408/508 (Hydrogeology). The stream tables may also be used in large lecture courses such as GLG 307 (Water and Society) and GLG 244 (Oceanography). Within the geomorphology courses the stream tables will largely be used to demonstrate methods that will be later taught in the field. For example, the principles of channel geometry, slope, meandering, and discharge can all be demonstrated on the tables. In courses such as Sedimentology and Stratigraphy the tables will be used to model sediment transport and depositional landforms, wherein courses such as Hydrogeology and Hydrogeography the tables will be used to understand specific components and interactions of the hydrologic cycle and groundwater-water table interactions. Student learning in the upper level courses will be assessed based on the quality of completion of each lab that incorporates the stream tables. The students within each lab will be asked to describe how a landscape will change, diagram how the landscape will look (before and after), and explain what processes will drive the landscape impacts. After the stream tables are turned on and complete a process the students will be asked to explain specific forces that were responsible for the observed changes. Lastly, students will need to accurately explain how their observations relate to specific processes and impacts observed in nature.

Have you applied for and/or received Tech Fee awards in past years?: No

What happens to the project in year two and beyond? Will there be any ongoing costs such as software or hardware maintenance, supplies, staffing, etc.? How will these be funded?: No additional funds are needed to maintain the steam tables once purchased.

Budget: Hardware

Hardware Title(s) & Vendor(s): Little River Research and Design

Hardware Costs: $37,550.00

What is the total budget amount requested?: $37,550.00

Comments: The web address for the vendor is