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9-12 > Earth Science
Grade level: 9-12 Subject: Earth Science Duration: Two class periods
Objectives | Materials | Procedures | Adaptations | Discussion Questions | Evaluation | Extensions | Suggested Readings | Links | Vocabulary | Academic Standards | Credit
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Raging Rapids: The Power of Water

Students will understand the following:
1. The geological features of Niagara Falls
2. The forces that have shaped Niagara Falls

For this lesson, you will need:
poster board
research materials on Niagara Falls
computer with Internet access (optional)

1. Hold a class discussion about the geology of Niagara Falls. Make a chart of the various forces that have impacted the falls and its geological history.
2. Tell the class that a new tourist center has opened at Niagara Falls that focuses on the geology of the area. They are looking for a Webmaster to develop a site for the center. Divide the class into small groups and explain that they will be applying for the job. Each group’s application will be the storyboard (or “mock-up”) that it develops for the new Web site.
3. Distribute three poster boards to each group and ask them to develop a storyboard proposing a new Web site for the tourist center. The storyboard should show a home page for the site along with any other pages they’d like to create. Encourage students to include important facts and illustrations that focus on the most important geological aspects of Niagara Falls.
4. Remind students that the employers are looking for innovative ways to interest tourists in this fascinating aspect of earth science. They want to not only educate potential tourists but also encourage them to visit the tourist center. Have students think about their favorite Web sites. What features make those sites engaging? Bulletin boards with experts? Interactive games? Encourage students to think about how they could incorporate these features into their Niagara Falls Web sites.
5. Upon completion, students should share and evaluate their peers’ projects. Have them vote on whom they would hire for the job.
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Adaptation for younger students
After discussing the geography of Niagara Falls, tell the class that a new tourist center has opened at Niagara Falls that focuses on the geology of the area. Hand out a poster board to each student and ask them to create a tourism poster to be distributed to travel agents around the country. Encourage them to include important information about the area’s geology as well as vibrant images and catchy language to encourage tourists to visit the falls.
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Discussion Questions

1. Discuss how technology has changed the field of geology. What geological questions can be investigated now that could not have been researched 25 years ago?
2. Over the last century, humans have become more involved in changing the natural state of many geological areas. What are the benefits and drawbacks of this involvement?
3. Create a list of the forces that have impacted landforms on Earth. What are the different effects of these forces?
4. If you could select one area to be made into a new national park, what would it be? Why?
5. Discuss the impact of recreational activities on geological landmarks. Should they be banned around landmarks or not? Support your answer.
6. Hypothesize about what condition our geological landmarks will be in in 100 years. What forces would cause this change?
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The storyboards can be evaluated by peers using a rubric that addresses accuracy, neatness and clarity, and creativity. Do the storyboards clearly explain the geological history of Niagara Falls? Are they engaging, with exciting language and appealing images? Could the storyboard actually be developed into a Web site? If the technology is available, encourage your students to transfer their storyboards to the computer using PowerPoint or a similar program.
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The Trip of a Drip
Have your students follow the “trip of a drip” from one of the Great Lakes through Niagara Falls. Gather the information and develop a sequence of events chart. Then have your students create a board game that explains how water journeys into Niagara Falls.

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Suggested Readings

Niagara A history of the Falls
Berton, Pierre, New York: Kodansha International, 1997
Not only does Niagara Falls have a interesting geologic history it shares and equally absorbing human history from Hennepin’s fascination and descriptions of the falls to the horror of Love Canal. Berton’s book is well written and worth the time devoted to reading it.

Fresh Water
Pielou, E.C., Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1998
This book examines fresh water: ground and underground water, rivers and streams, lakes, reservoirs, wetlands, and water in the atmosphere, a resource that plants and animals depend on.

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USGS Water Science for Schools
Offers a wealth of information on "water", including web links, searchable database, activity center, pictures, data, and maps.

Niagara Falls Convention & Visitors Bureau, New York
Includes information about Niagara Falls and a search function.

Niagara Falls: The Magic of Niagara
A variety of information about Niagara Falls, including history and additional web links.

National Energy Foundation Home Page
A non-profit organization with a wealth of information about energy-related instructional materials, including water power.

Old Fort Niagara
History and information on the fort. Links to other historical sites and Niagara sites.

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Click on any of the vocabulary words below to hear them pronounced and used in a sentence.

speaker    alluvium
Definition:The material deposited by rivers, lakes, and estuaries.
Context:If you drag the bottom of a river with a bucket, you will obtain alluvium.

speaker    erosion
Definition:The wearing down of the land surface by running water, moving ice, wind, and weather.
Context:Over many years, the beach has been drastically altered by erosion.

speaker    glaciation
Definition:The molding of land by a glacier or ice sheet.
Context:The geologist determined that the changes in the land were caused by glaciations.

speaker    runoff
Definition:The total flow of water from the land that travels via streams and rivers.
Context:The runoff was very high this year and threatened to flood local areas.

speaker    weathering
Definition:The breakdown of rock when it is exposed to air, rain, and sun.
Context:The sides of the canyon have changed dramatically because of recent weathering.

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This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of theMid-continent Research for Education and Learningin Aurora, Colorado.
Grade level:9-12
Subject area:Geography
Understands how human actions modify the physical environment.
Understands the global impact of changes made by humans in the physical environment (e.g., increases in runoff and sediment, tropical soil degradation, habitat destruction, and air pollution; alterations in the hydrologic cycle; increases in world temperatures; and groundwater reduction).
Benchmark:Knows how people’s changing attitudes toward the environment have led to landscape changes (e.g., pressure to replace farmlands with wetlands in flood-plain areas, interest in preserving wilderness areas, and support for the concept of historic preservation).

Grade level:9-12
Subject area:Science
Understands basic Earth processes.
Knows methods used to estimate geologic time (e.g., observing rock sequences and using fossils to correlate the sequences at various locations and using the known decay rates of radioactive isotopes present in rock to measure the time since the rock was formed).

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Wendy Goldfein, teacher and freelance educational writer.
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