Northridge Elementary Students Experience a Flood of Learning

11.03.2017 7:44 AM

Students in Amy Armstrong’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) classes at Putnam City’s Northridge Elementary recently learned about hurricanes, floods and other weather-related hazards. As part of their studies, students explored the effectiveness of barriers against flooding.

According to Armstrong, STEM lessons typically focus on real-world problems and possible solutions. That’s certainly the case for Northridge students in this unit, she said, as studies began shortly after flooding related to Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma.

After instruction and discussion on the issue of flooding, Armstrong put students to work. Students working together in small groups were given a mock budget to purchase barriers such as sandbags, clay, rocks, craft sticks and glue. Each group of students created a small home out paper, placed it in on soil in a large foil baking pan and then constructed flood barriers with the materials they had purchased.

“There were no pre-determined answers here. Students worked together in small groups to engineer and design something based on their knowledge of stopping water from rising. They used a process of designing, building and testing. It was a project that really required active minds and a hands-on approach,” Armstrong said.

Testing the effectiveness of their barriers meant creating a flood by pouring a cup of water into one end of each group’s foil pan. Flood barriers stood between the water and the house, but would the barriers hold? Students were anxious to find out.

“It was the moment of truth. Students had thought a great deal about the materials and construction that would best protect a home against a flood. Now it was time to find out. The excitement about testing their ideas was off the charts,” Armstrong said.

Students gathered excitedly around as a student from each group poured water into the foil pan. As water surged toward flood barriers, chatter began. Some homes were damaged more than others, but all of the barriers showed some level of effectiveness against flooding.

Armstrong said the study of flooding was good for students.

“They learned that when you are on a budget you have to be thoughtful about what you buy. You can’t just grab something. You have to plan. They also learned that what they thought would protect homes from flooding didn’t always work as well as they believed it would. And that’s OK. Part of what STEM class is about is learning from failure. You build on it, come up with new and better ideas and try again,” Armstrong said.