About Us
Our Team
Our Impact
Contact Us
Corporate Programs

Our Place In The Rio Grande Rift Valley Watershed

Page Views: 2909

Email This Lesson Plan to Me
Email Address:
Subscribe to Newsletter?
Log in to rate this plan!
Overall Rating:
(5.0 stars, 1 ratings)

Keywords: Flip Video, Digital Camera, Watershed, Arroyo, Earth Science, Life Science, Technology, Geography
Subject(s): Video, Social Skills, Technology, Geography, Life Science, Earth Science, Information Skills, Photography
Grades 6 through 8
NETS-S Standard:
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Research and Information Fluency
  • Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Technology Operations and Concepts
View Full Text of Standards
School: Albuquerque Academy, Albuquerque, NM
Planned By: Mary Ann Jurney
Original Author: , Albuquerque
Content Standards:

Populations and Ecosystems
Identify the living and nonliving parts of an ecosystem and describe the relationships among these components.

Changes to Earth
Know that landforms are created and change through a combination of constructive and destructive forces, including:
• weathering of rock and soil, transportation, deposition of sediment, and tectonic activity
• similarities and differences between current and past processes on Earth’s surface (e.g., erosion, plate tectonics, changes in atmospheric composition)
• impact of volcanoes and faults on New Mexico geology.

NETS*S Standards:

Creativity and Innovation
Students create original works as a means of personal or group expression.

Communication and Collaboration
Students contribute to project teams to produce original works or solve problems.

Research and Information Fluency
Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information.

Digital Citizenship
Students exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning, and productivity.

Critical Thinking, Problem-Solving & Decision-Making
Students use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources.

Digital Citizenship
Students understand human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behavior.

Technology Operations and Concepts
Students transfer current knowledge to learning of new technologies.


Our arroyo, that usually remains dry but occasionally flash-floods during heavy thunder storms, bisects the campus and serves to water flora along its edges and to provide food, cover, and shelter for rabbits, roadrunners, rodents, lizards, coyotes, bobcats, mourning doves, great-horned and burrowing owls, as well as other creatures. Students will explore the natural science of this area and document and communicate their findings.

Students will be assigned to groups in one of five focus areas: flora, fauna, humans, land and water, and weather. Each group will have two flip cameras and a digital still camera, and each student will carry their science composition notebook and a pencil. Starting with a 90 minute walk to and through the Bear Canyon Arroyo, students observe and document evidence within their group’s focus area. The field work is followed by a modeling activity using stream tables in the science lab and by several classes in our tech lab for supplemental research, to download flip camera videos and digital still photos, and to organize a digital presentation of their topic. The five topic presentations will be combined into one documentary that tells the story of our arroyo, our relationship to it, and its place in the Rio Grande Rift Valley Watershed. The documentary will be presented to our entire sixth grade community of 146 students and supporting faculty and staff.

Essential Questions:

Why does this place look the way it does? What evidence is direct and what evidence is indirect?
What are the living and nonliving components of a watershed ecosystem?
What are the relationships among the components of a watershed ecosystem?
What is our place in the Rio Grande Rift Valley Watershed?


Formative Assessment
In their science composition notebooks, students will identify and describe evidence of their component in shaping this watershed landscape. Using flip video cameras and digital still cameras, they will document their observations.

Each student group will submit a one page report that analyzes and evaluates the impact of their component on the dynamic interrelationships of the Rio Grande watershed landscape.

Summative Assessment
Students will collaborate in creating a video presentation to demonstrate their knowledge of the impact and the interconnectedness of the components of this watershed ecosystem.

Tools and Resources:

Digital Tools and Resources
Flip Video Cameras
Digital Cameras
Digital presentation template
We can use Windows Movie Maker and Audacity, or PhotoStory to create digital stories (documentary). Students can also use their videos in Youtube, Moodle, PowerPoint, etc. We have many training resources for students and will have students help create additional tutorials with Screen-Cast-O-Matic.

Other Tools and Resources
Hand Lenses/Microviewers
Brock Microscopes
Laboratory Stream Tables
Assessment Rubric

Instructional Plan:

Previous studies of forces and energy help students to identify evidence of moving water in the sediments of the Bear Canyon Arroyo. A previous study of the properties of minerals gives students the tools for identifying rock material eroded from the nearby Sandia Mountains found in this watershed ecosystem.

Instruction will begin in the classroom where students will gather with the necessary tools and materials. As we walk to the arroyo there will be several stops to identify and discuss points of interest. As we approach the arroyo, students will appreciate the vista and the features of the Rio Grande Rift Valley. In the arroyo itself, teachers will describe the natural history of the watershed and introduce the arroyo. After this introduction, student focus groups will continue observing, documenting, and gathering evidence for their presentations.

Instruction and Activities
This is an exciting adventure for the students and they are always engaged in learning to interpret and appreciate the landscape. We are eager to provide this experience. Our role as classroom teachers is to guide their discovery and offer the resources to facilitate their learning.

Much of scientific analysis is built on observing natural phenomena and trying to understand the controlling variables. The day following our field trip, students will model erosion and deposition produced by moving water using stream tables in our science lab.

Given a teacher generated template, each group will work collaboratively for the next two classes to further research their topic. They will synthesize digital still images and video along with an informative narrative to produce a polished presentation. The five topic presentations will then be compiled into one feature presentation of our arroyo and our place in the Rio Grande Rift Valley Watershed.

By virtue of group work, students will be able to use their individual skills and talents to ensure the group success. Furthermore, as we utilize technology to complete our project there is inherent differentiation. Technology helps level the playing field for different learners so they can create professional and successful presentations at differing levels of ability. We have many training resources for students and will have students help create additional tutorials as we continue to learn new tricks in the software and with the flip video cameras by videotaping them and/or recording on the computer screen with Screen-Cast-O-Matic. Along with the resources we already have and will create, we have a playlist of resources available to students in their course pages in Moodle, (they also find resources to help continue our building of this playlist) which provides additional enrichment and extensions. We can employ several exiting assistive technologies, when and if needed, such as text-to-speech, larger screen sizes, additional audio support, etc. as the needs of the students require it.

Closure and Reflection
At the end of every unit, students routinely complete a document reflecting on their experience, as well as their personal success, involvement, and growth. This reflection includes feedback for the teachers including what went well and what can be improved.

The culminating event for this lesson will be viewing of the feature presentation followed by comments and discussion. Students will serve as experts on their topics and will answer questions from the community at large.
We have done our arroyo walk with students for several years, and we are excited about the prospect of adding a video technology component. When we saw this grant opportunity online it was immediately apparent that we can enrich and extend our students' experience by including this video component.

Other budgeted items listed above do not need to be purchased. They are already in our inventory.

This lesson plan is the product of a collaboration between Mary Ann Jurney and Henrietta Bauer, sixth grade teachers at Albuquerque Academy, with technical support from Dr. Jill Brown, Director of Educational Technology.
Cross-Curriculum Ideas
World Geography - compare other rift valleys around the world with our Rio Grande Rift Valley
World Geography - naming and identifying land forms and their formation processes
Spanish/other Languages - students narrate their presentations using their developing foreign language skills
Art - design and create colorful posters to advertise each group's focus area
Music - students compose and perform original music to accompany their presentations
English - developing expository writing skills
Drama - writing, rehearsing, and performing the narration for each presentation
Math - measuring and drawing scaled maps
Students can return to the arroyo the following autumn to make observations and compare them with their spring observations.
Long- term population studies of plants and/or animals
Documenting physical changes of the arroyo path over time
Materials: Whiteboards, Mobile Labs, Video Cameras, Flash Memory Camcorders, Flip Video, Digital Cameras, Point and Shoot, Projectors, Short Throw Projectors, Networked Projectors, Portable, Auditorium, Projector Screens, Digital Voice Recorders, MP3 Players, Microphones, Televisions, DVD/VCR Players, Wacom Tablets, Art Tools, Video Tools, Microscopes, CDs and DVDs, Hard Drives, Printers, Camera Bags, Flash/USB Drives, Tripods, Batteries, Memory Cards, Cables, Power, Keyboards, Headsets, Ports and Hubs, LCD Monitors, Mice, Music, Internet Services, Worksheets, Student Resources, Clip Art, Prof. Dev. Workshops, Hardware Devices
Other Items: 20 Magnet Wands encased in plastic, $3.00 each, total of $60.00
1 box of 100 Zip Lock Baggies, $3.00 each, total of $3.00
5 Brock Field Microscopes, $125.00 each, total of $625.00
5 Protective Field Cases for Microscopes, $25.00 each, total of $125.00
40 Plastic Handheld Magnifiers, $.50 each, total of $20.00
4 Laboratory Stream Tables, $65.00 each, total of $260.00
4 Pumps for Laboratory Stream Tables, $25.00 each, total of $100.00