Developing an interactive groundwater model to increase the accessibility of K-12 groundwater education

Abram Farley, Laura E. Condon, Reed Maxwell1, and Lisa Gallagher1
Department of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences
The University of Arizona

Despite the importance of groundwater as a water resource, it is often misunderstood by the general public. One of the biggest reasons for this is that groundwater is not emphasized in educational standards. Even when groundwater is taught in a K-12 setting, there are often incorrect conceptual models, which promote misconceptions, insufficient instructor training, and a lack of educational resources for hydrologic processes. Physical aquifer models, often referred to as sandtanks, are a powerful educational tool that can overcome some of these barriers. They are used to teach audiences about hydrologic principles, such as contaminant transport, groundwater and surface water connections, and groundwater pumping. While these demonstrations are effective for a wide range of audiences, they require the physical resources and the personnel to instruct the lessons, which limits their application. This project seeks to address this limitation developing a computer sandtank model that can be used when these resources are not available. To accomplish this, an integrated hydrologic model was implemented with a user interface to replicate a physical sandtank model. The dynamic features of the user interface allow for the computer model to achieve the same educational utility of the physical model and additional features. Our application allows users to change subsurface materials and displays meaningful quantitative outputs. The computer sandtank model is available through multiple digital devices using Docker to increase the range of potential end users. Currently a template for the model is being prototyped with the goal of developing additional templates for a variety of educational settings.

1Department of Geology and Geological Engineering, Colorado School of Mines

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