Landslides! Engaging students in natural hazards and STEM principles through the exploration of landslide analog models

Friday, 19 December 2014
Emily E Gochis, Hans N Lechner, Kyle A Brill, Geoffery Lerner and Edrick Ramos, Michigan Technological University, Houghton, MI, United States
Graduate students at Michigan Technological University developed the “Landslides!” activity to engage middle & high school students participating in summer engineering programs in a hands-on exploration of geologic engineering and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) principles. The inquiry-based lesson plan is aligned to Next Generation Science Standards and is appropriate for 6th-12th grade classrooms. During the activity students focus on the factors contributing to landslide development and engineering practices used to mitigate hazards of slope stability hazards. Students begin by comparing different soil types and by developing predictions of how sediment type may contribute to differences in slope stability. Working in groups, students then build tabletop hill-slope models from the various materials in order to engage in evidence-based reasoning and test their predictions by adding groundwater until each group’s modeled slope fails. Lastly students elaborate on their understanding of landslides by designing ‘engineering solutions’ to mitigate the hazards observed in each model. Post-evaluations from students demonstrate that they enjoyed the hands-on nature of the activity and the application of engineering principles to mitigate a modeled natural hazard.