A Lesson in Observation
Field tripsuggested grade levels: 9-12

view Idaho achievement standards for this lesson

Geological and environmental problems are everybody's problem. These problems can be natural or induced by human activities. This activity will help students observe and identify small-scale features that relate to geological and environmental problems in their local areas.

1. Students will be able to identify and understand geological and environmental problems.

Increase awareness with the following exercise. Collect a notebook and pen and take a field trip around your local community and observe as many small-scale features as you can that relate to geological and environmental problems in your local area. They can be problems with natural systems or induced by human activities. Examples include erosion, soils, floods, landslides, pollution, and others. During your field trip complete the following:

1. In your notes, record six problems that seem significant, including location, situation, and possible causes. Each entry should include, if possible, the type of problem as well as the observable clues that indicate a problem exists. Here are a few examples:

-Leaking Water Mains (wasted resource, hydro compaction & subsidence)
-Foundation and wall cracks (subsidence)
-Large hole in lot (subsidence and/or sinkhole due to excavation/undermining)
-Hillsides tracked by Off-Road Vehicles (compaction & erosion)
-Unstable slopes due to oversteepening and devegetation, deep hillside gullies with, several small landslides, etc., possibility of sudden failure (soil erosion, slope failure)
-Residences located in ravines (flooding, mudslide, slope failure)
-8m x 4m pile of petroleum-based road material in industrial yards (leaching hydrocarbons into groundwater)
-Stained ground and dead vegetation behind car garages (oil dump, soil pollution)
There are literally hundreds of such problems in any community of this size, so you should not have too much trouble finding a few of them. Remember that any potential problem is appropriate to list, but that the solution may be beyond the scope of this exercise. Back in the classroom, or at home expand on what you observed using your field notes to:

2. Describe the six problem areas in a couple of sentences each.
3. Select ONE of the six items on your list and write NO MORE THAN two paragraphs describing in more detail the environmental problem and what you perceive to be the likely cause. Include a statement or two that addresses the likely future scenario (e.g. additional problems if this one is ignored) as well as what you think might be possible remedial measures.

Related Lesson Topics:
Biology: Biology Topics

Lesson Plan provided by Vita Taube, 2000
Idaho Achievement Standards (as of 7/2001) met by completing this activity: