Making Waves in the Classroom – Engaging Students in STEM through Hands-on Coastal Oceanography and Engineering

Jack Anthony Puleo, University of Delaware, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Newark, United States
There is a trend nationally for increased STEM content in the high school curriculum. National attention is being given to the development of STEM students through aspects such as Project Lead the Way and in National Science Education Standards (NSES) and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). NSES and NGSS focus on inquiry-based learning, engineering design and building science-related skills. We present a method that enables adherence to these standards while at the same time engaging students in hands-on activities related to coastal oceanography and coastal engineering. A 16-foot portable wave flume with motor-controlled paddle, in situ sensors, mobile beach, and numerous educational modules has been designed. Thirteen wave flume systems have been delivered to high schools along the east coast of the United States ranging from Sandy Hook, NJ to Naples, FL. Delivery of flume includes teacher training and classroom demonstration and student interaction when possible. Thirteen wave flume modules have been designed around topics including wave parameters, tsunami, sea level rise, beach erosion and beach nourishment to name a few. Students are provided guidance to conduct the modules/exercises but often presented with open-ended questions for inquiry. The mobile bed is composed of plastic particles that respond quickly (pedagogical enhancement) to a change in wave conditions allowing students to see in near real time the effect of modifications made. Data collected by hand or through sensors can be input into provided spreadsheets for further analysis, visualization, and to assist in working through the module assignment. Assessment procedures include pre- and post-module questionnaires and online forms. Teacher teleconferences will also provide feedback for enhancing the student experience.