Protecting Our City With Levees

Contributor
Katherine Beggs; Brian Kay; Abigail Watrous; Karen King; Denise W. Carlson; Janet Yowell Teach Engineering
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Types
Activity , Experiment/Lab Activity , Lesson/Lesson Plan
Note
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.

Reviews

Description

In 2005 Hurricane Katrina caused severe damage and suffering to the people who lived in New Orleans. The levees that surrounded the city did not hold the immense amount of ocean water that rose from the storm.  In this activity, students will use the engineering design process to design and build their own model levees. Acting as engineers for their city, teams create sturdy barriers using limited materials to prevent water from flooding a city in the event of a hurricane.

Intended Audience

Educator and learner
Educational Level
  • Upper Elementary
Language
English
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

3-ESS3-1 Make a claim about the merit of a design solution that reduces the impacts of a weather-related hazard.

Clarification Statement: Examples of design solutions to weather-related hazards could include barriers to prevent flooding, wind resistant roofs, and lightning rods.

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
The criteria of the student’s prototype is that the levee must maintain a boundary between the lake/river to prevent flooding in the city (the other side of the container). while using limited materials that cannot cost more than $10 (fun money) and must maintain a height of 5 inches. Although this resource lists materials that the teacher could provide, it may be suggested to allow students the opportunity to brainstorm other materials they may want to try. This idea is suggested in the Activity Scaling section for older students.

3-5-ETS1-1 Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.

Clarification Statement: none

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this performance expectation, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
The criteria of the student’s prototype is that the levee must maintain a boundary between the lake/river to prevent flooding in the city (the other side of the container). while using limited materials that cannot cost more than $10 (fun money) and must maintain a height of 5 inches. Although this resource lists materials that the teacher could provide, it may be suggested to allow students the opportunity to brainstorm other materials they may want to try. This idea is suggested in the Activity Scaling section for older students. On page 2 of the student handout it asks the students to test materials to see how well they 'absorb' water. It is suggested to have the students focus on 'slowing down the water' as was stated in the first sentence. Levees are meant to confine water, not absorb it.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Students will be comparing multiple solutions in the final assessment where they present to the class how their prototype met or did not meet the criteria and constraints of the problem. It may not be suggested to give prizes to the levees that worked best as suggested in the resource as we would want to encourage the groups to work together to find out what they can do to hold back the water. It is also suggested that prior to presentations, students are given time to revise and redesign their levees.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
It is suggested that students be given more than the allowable time to research the flooding that occurred in New Orleans as well as how levees work before designing. They can illustrate and label the parts of a levee in their science journals and use these in partner discussions as they are designing the prototype.

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
To best meet this disciplinary core idea it is suggested that prior to beginning the design challenge there is conversation/research that although humans can not stop earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or flooding there are steps people can and have taken to reduce the impact. Although third graders may not have had lessons on earthquakes yet, they can use their experience on weather related lessons or real life experiences to discuss natural hazards.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
To fully meet this expectation students should share out how what worked and didn’t work with their levees after they have had a chance to test them. While stressing the cause and effect of each of the materials they used the teacher can ask the students, “Was the water held back by the height?”. “Was the seal strong enough?”. If students used materials such as a sponge or cotton balls that kept the town dry temporarily, ask why the floodwaters eventually broke through?

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: Following the suggested tips to make sense of a science phenomenon, this activity provides students the opportunity to design a small scale solution to a real world problem using all three dimensions. Grade appropriate connection to Math Common Core Standards are included. To make this resource stronger it is suggested that more time be allotted for student research on levees and the effect Hurricane Katrina flooding had on the levees in New Orleans.

  • Instructional Supports: Research ideas and activity scaling is included for older students to create a more challenging levee system. Troubleshooting tips are included that could help students relate this investigation/design to a real world scenario. It is suggested students be given more time to reflect on what worked and didn’t work in their science journals. As suggested, it is important that students are given time to redesign and retest.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: Pre and post activity assessments have been included as well as worksheets for students to write and reflect about the engineering design process. It is suggested the teacher and/or students design a rubric that can be used to monitor the students progress.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: This resource does not include a technologically interactive component.