Skip to main content

See also:

Three Levels of Rigor

Learning by doing
Learning by doing
Danny M. Vaughn, Ph.D., CMS

Introduction

Three examples of group project form and data base development are briefly discussed in the following essay. The three levels of rigor are suitable for grades 11-16 (upper level high school, junior college, and undergraduate four year college programs), and a curriculum can be adjusted to inculcate various skill sets and foundations in a number of science courses. The strength of this form of learning is optimized by involving multiple disciplines, faculty, and professionals in the work force with students through a joint effort designed to demonstrate how each component in a project contributes to a better understanding for how multiple variables interact and function in the natural environment. Faculty should consider contacting various municipal, county, state, or federal agencies to identify applicable joint ventures that incorporate experiential learning in a professional environment. Anyone interested in developing curriculum around these basic models are welcome to contact the author for assistance and references to the URLs (web sites) that provide access to the free software.

Introductory Project Form and Data Base Development

Basic Field and Laboratory Techniques. Develop an understanding and demonstrate elementary skills in image and map interpretation; establish general locations from imagery and maps, make basic field observations and compare them to imagery, develop questions, collect field measurements, understand the function of a working hypothesis, develop elementary analytical skills, and summary statements.

Example Project. Locate a water source (small lake, or pond) near a farming community, power station, or urban corridor and assess the impact of farming practices (fertilizer, insecticides), industry by-products and waste, or other factors on the water quality.

Example Hypothesis. Water quality is impacted by the infiltration of fertilizer and insecticides, changes in temperature (power stations), or other pollutants due to farming practices, industrial waste, or some other identifiable factors.

Basic Equipment and Supplies. Aerial photographs, satellite imagery (multi-spectral), topographic maps (all data is regionally defined based upon the location of the study area), global positioning system (GPS) receivers for determining accurate location coordinates (optional for the basic projects), data loggers for measuring water pH, temperature, dissolved oxygen, phosphorus, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, etc.

Intermediate Project Form and Data Base Development

Intermediate Field and Laboratory Techniques. Develop an understanding and demonstrate a higher level of competence in digital image processing and spatial analysis using a geographic information system (GIS). Build on more robust image and map interpretation skills, establish accurate locations using a global positioning systems receiver (GPS), add additional variables determined from more detailed field and laboratory observations and questions, formulate a working hypothesis, analyze, and summarize the findings in a written report.

Example Project. Expand the field area and water source to a several small lakes, ponds, and/or streams. Create an unsupervised classification to establish more specific class features such as vegetation types (trees, shrubs, grasses, etc.), crop types, water classes (pure (relative) water, sediment filled, variations in color or presence of vegetation, algae, etc.), and types of bare ground (soil types, bedrock, partially vegetated land, etc.). Identify (classify) soil classes (series/associations, slope, parent material, some soil chemistry). Reassess the impact of farming practices (fertilizer, insecticides), industry by-products and waste, or other factors on the soil by identifying concentrations of elements using portable soil test kits. Next, compare them to the spectral (unsupervised) classification to determine if the chemical concentrations can be identified by spectral signatures in digital imagery and aerial photographs. Compare the concentrations with proximity to water (lakes or ponds) and question whether they impact the water chemistry. Introduce basic map overlay techniques used in a geographic information system.

Example Hypothesis. Water quality is impacted by the infiltration of fertilizer and insecticides due to farming practices, industry by-products and waste; and soils with high concentrations of chemicals derived from point sources.

Basic Equipment and Supplies. Aerial photographs, satellite imagery (multi-spectral and hyper-spectral), topographic maps (all data is regionally defined based upon the location of the study area), GPS receivers for determining accurate location coordinates, data loggers for measuring water pH, temperature, dissolved oxygen, phosphorus, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, etc., soil test kits, digital image processing software, and spatial modeling (GIS) software. Software is available on line (Internet) and is free.

Advanced Project Form and Data Base Development

Advanced Field and Laboratory Techniques. A time change/series analysis: looking at the impact of select variables over several time intervals. Develop an understanding and demonstrate advanced competence in digital image processing of remotely sensed, multispectral imagery, and spatial analysis using a geographic information system (GIS). Advanced image and map interpretation, establishing accurate locations using a global positioning system receiver (GPS), identify and include additional variables determined from more detailed observations and questions, formulate multiple working hypotheses, analyze, and summarize based upon multiple time intervals. Prepare both a written report and oral presentation.

Example Project. Develop a spatial and temporal data set for multiple time periods. Create an unsupervised classification to establish more specific class features such as vegetation types (trees, shrubs, grasses, etc.), crop types, water classes (pure (relative) water, sediment filled, variations in color or presence of vegetation, algae, etc.), and types of bare ground (soil types, bedrock, partially vegetated land, etc.). Include a normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) and other filtering/classification techniques using computer-assisted digital image processing software. Identify (classify) soil classes (series/associations, slope, parent material, appropriate soil chemistry). Reassess the impact of farming practices (fertilizer, insecticides) on the soil looking at areas of high concentrations of non-indigenous elements; compare them to the spectral (unsupervised) classification to determine if chemical compounds can be identified by spectral signatures in digital imagery and aerial photographs. Compare the concentrations with proximity to the water types (lakes, pond, and streams), and question whether they impact the water chemistry. Introduce additional spatial modeling techniques (overlay operations, boundary delineation, elementary Boolean operators, etc.) in a geographic information system (GIS) and create maps used to identify the spatial distribution of the measured physical and chemical characteristics.

Example Hypothesis. Water quality is impacted by the infiltration of fertilizer and insecticides due to farming practices; and soils with high concentrations of these chemicals will have a local impact of the water chemistry in lakes, ponds, or streams. The concentration of elements will vary throughout time based upon distance from point sources, conditions of weather, crop type, lack of crops, and other criteria investigated and determined in the field study.

Basic Equipment and Supplies. Aerial photographs, satellite imagery (multi-spectral and hyper-spectral), topographic maps (all data is regionally defined based upon the location of the study area), GPS receivers for determining accurate location coordinates, data loggers for measuring water pH, temperature, dissolved oxygen, phosphorus, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, soil test kits, digital image processing softwar