Streamflow discharge in the Schuylkill and Susquehanna Rivers

Standards Addressed

(Note that this exercise can be completed in middle school through university-level classrooms):
Standard Area - 4.2: Watersheds and Wetlands
Grade Level - 4.2.7: GRADE 7

Standard - 4.2.7.A: Explain how water enters, moves through, and leaves a watershed.   Explain the concept of stream order.  Describe factors that affect the flow and water quality within a watershed

Supplies/Materials/Articles Needed

The exercise requires the use of Google Earth and the attached Google Earth file.  This file has the USGS streamflow discharge stations already plotted and direct links to the station pages to generate the real-time hydrographs.  If students do not have access to Google Earth, the teacher can show Google Earth in front of the class or print hard copies of the station locations.  Teachers can also generated the graphs ahead of time and just provide them to the students to complete the questions.

Preparation Time Needed

If students will be able to access the data tables in Google Earth on computers/tablets, then no additional prep time is necessary.  If there is no computer access in class, teachers will need to print off the 60-day streamflow discharge graphs for each student or team of students.  This could take 20 minutes, but then the graphs can be reused for the next time this exercise is conducted with students.

Class Time Required

For an introduction to streamflow, accessing and analyzing the data, and answering questions, teachers should have at least 90 minutes of class time.  The activity can be extended where students are encouraged to investigate streamflow of a stream closer to their school or even in another geographic location over the same time period.

Activity Description

NOTE: Teachers may want to start with the PAESTA Classroom exercise Investigating Streamflow in the Schuylkill River and then use this one as a follow on.

The purpose of this exercise is for students to gather a more in-depth understanding of the data contained in plots of streamflow discharge in two different Pennsylvania rivers, the Schuylkill and Susquehanna.  With step-by-step instructions, students generate the plots from the United States Geological Survey Real-Time Water Data website.  Through guided questions, students are first led to make observations from the graphs, before moving on to interpretations of the data.  Students note similarities and differences along each river and between the two rivers.  The questions asking students to interpret the line represented in the graph require students to apply knowledge of recent meteorological events.  The questions can be answered in class or as a writing assignment.