A Sacred Reunion: The Colorado River Returns to the Sea

Contributor: National Geographic, Sandra Postel

Type Category: Instructional Materials

Types: Phenomenon, Article

Note: This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.

Description

This blog post describes how the Colorado River was once again able to reach the Sea of Cortez after sixteen years of not reaching its final destination. It discusses a reason why the Colorado river no longer reached the Sea of Cortez and impacts of the changes to Colorado River flow and the estuary. Teachers could pose the following questions: What impacts could sustaining this flow of water have on the estuary and fish populations in the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California)? Why were dams created along the Colorado River? What happened to the estuary after dams were created along the Colorado River preventing it flowing into the Sea of Cortez?

Intended Audience
Educator

Educational Level
Grade 12
Grade 11
Grade 10
Grade 9
High School

Language
English

Access Restrictions
Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectation

HS-ESS3-4  Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems.

Clarification Statement:

Examples of data on the impacts of human activities could include the quantities and types of pollutants released, changes to biomass and species diversity, or areal changes in land surface use (such as for urban development, agriculture and livestock, or surface mining). Examples for limiting future impacts could range from local efforts (such as reducing, reusing, and recycling resources) to large-scale geoengineering design solutions (such as altering global temperatures by making large changes to the atmosphere or ocean).

Assessment Boundary:

none

This resource was not designed to build towards this performance expectation, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation

Students can evaluate the continued impact of pulse flows in the Colorado River on the health of the estuary. A possible resource could be this June 2018 article: https://www.nrdc.org/onearth/colorado-river-delta-proof-natures-resiliency Another option could have students develop water usage plans for people dependent on water in reservoirs along the Colorado River (mentioned in the article is the Glen Canyon Dam which resulted in the formation of Lake Powell) to ensure that the pulse flow program continues.

Performance Expectation

HS-ESS3-3  Create a computational simulation to illustrate the relationships among management of natural resources, the sustainability of human populations, and biodiversity.

Clarification Statement:

Examples of factors that affect the management of natural resources include costs of resource extraction and waste management, per-capita consumption, and the development of new technologies. Examples of factors that affect human sustainability include agricultural efficiency, levels of conservation, and urban planning.

Assessment Boundary:

Assessment for computational simulations is limited to using provided multi-parameter programs or constructing simplified spreadsheet calculations.

This resource was not designed to build towards this performance expectation, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation

The article discusses how conservation groups are working with the new water flow to plant trees in order to establish habitats for birds and other wildlife. Not mentioned is the reason for building dams along the Colorado River which could be addressed through other activities to incorporate the sustainability of human populations. One possible activity is Human Footprint (https://ngss.nsta.org/Resource.aspx?ResourceID=407).

Science and Engineering Practice

This resource was not designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice

After students read the article, the teacher could have them ask questions to determine what additional information they would need to find out in order to; evaluate the impact of the pulse flow of the Colorado River on the estuary, evaluate water use in the area, examine the biodiversity of the area when the Colorado River failed to reach the Sea of Cortez, and determine the prolonged impact on estuary health with continued pulse flows.

Disciplinary Core Idea

This resource was not designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea

Students could investigate other solutions used in dam control and ecosystem management in similar situations. A second reading students could use to investigate impacts of dams on river ecosystems can be found here: https://www.internationalrivers.org/rivers-no-more-the-environmental-effects-of-large-dams

Disciplinary Core Idea

This resource was not designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea

This article, and questions students develop from the article, can lead to investigations of dam technologies that preclude ecosystem degradation.

Disciplinary Core Idea

This resource was not designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea

This article could start a unit investigating how water resource management and conservation efforts impact biodiversity and human sustainability.

Crosscutting Concept

This resource was not designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept

Students can evaluate how building dams and their management can impact river ecosystem stability.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: - none -
  • Instructional Supports: - none -
  • Monitoring Student Progress: - none -
  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: - none -