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Sedimentation Caused by Human Interaction

This video shows students a 100-year-old dam on the Mississippi River. The aerial shots provided by Google Earth give students an excellent viewpoint to assess the sedimentation that is building up behind the dam. This can lead to great class discussions on the benefits and drawbacks of structures, such as dams, on a habitat.

Lock and Dam 19, Keokuk, Iowa

Possible Guiding, Compelling and/or Anchoring Questions

  • What is sedimentation? Where does the sediment come from?
  • What do you think would be some of the benefits and drawbacks of dams?
  • Describe how excess sediment buildup can affect the plant and animal life that lives in the area. How does it affect the dam structure itself?
  • What can be done to avoid or remediate dam sedimentation?

Classroom Suggestions

  • Start with a driving question board. Hopefully, this will lead to some questions about lily pads, where sediment originates from, what kind of plant or animal life can live in that type of environment, etc.
  • Assign groups of students to dig deeper into each of the topics that are created through the driving question board and then have them share their findings.
  • The standard implies that students should “... design a method for monitoring…” This phenomenon lends itself well to working with some design thinking, STEM, and engineering practices.  
    • Have each team pitch a feasible solution for the issue of sedimentation to their classmates. This pitch would include a model using either a computer program or a 3D prototype.
    • To create more classroom discussion and creativity, have some students focus on an after-the-fact perspective (dredging) and others focus on prevention (soil conservation practices in the watershed). 

Related Resources

Iowa Core Alignment

Earth and Space Science
Disciplinary Core Idea
ESS3: Earth and Human Activity

Credit Info

Submitted by Courtney Giesel.


Have you used this resource in your classroom? Do you have ideas for improvement? Share your ideas, experiences and feedback about this phenomena.

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