Rutgers University Problem

How does your watershed impact the ocean?

Investigation Explanation Journal COOL New Terms Index Unit Plan Back to COOL Classroom

Hudson River Plume

Unit Plan

This Human Impact Adventure explores the Hudson River Plume; including what it is, how it is created, and what impact it has on the marine environment. Through this unit students learn about watershed dynamics, density, satellite sea surface temperature data, human impacts on the watershed (non-point source pollution), and eutrophication.

Download PDF Version

The unit is written so that students progress through it as a class with the teacher facilitating the rate of progress and shifting between student work at the computer to group and whole class discussions. This unit can be done with each student at their own computer, in small teams (preferred), or as an entire class working with a white board.

Journal questions have been strategically placed throughout the unit so students have the opportunity to stop and reflect on their learning. Many of these questions can be utilized as class discussion topics and are a great opportunity for formative assessment. There are also several hands-on activities that can be done (outside of the web-based environment) to further increase student understanding.

The units are designed to allow adaptability and customization to the needs of different groups of students. Core activities of the unit (in a recommended sequence) constitute the main flow of the unit, while discovery activities and readings provide extension opportunities.

The following unit progression is suggested (with timing based on an 8th grade reading level and a 45 minute period). Student journals can be printed each day for teacher review.

Overarching Question for the Unit

How does your watershed impact the ocean?

Note: Lessons 1 and 2 can be reversed, depending on your students’ familiarity with watersheds and the computer lab schedule.

Lesson 1 (Computer Lab)

[1-2 class periods]
Introduction to the Hudson River Watershed and the Hudson Plume

*Web Pages: 1-19

Topics to Cover

  • Watershed Dynamics
  • Review of the Water Cycle (animation)
  • Watershed Dynamics (how water flows in a watershed)
  • Hudson River Watershed
  • Plume Characteristics
  • Paint the Plume (students print this version to compare to their revised drawing)
  • Smokestack Analogy
  • Plume Characteristics (food coloring dropped into water video)
  • Repaint the Plume
  • Satellite images of Plume
  • Sea Surface Temperature (SST) explanation
  • Plume paths (how wind affects the plume)

Optional Homework
Print out Learn More about Water from web site page 2

Lesson 2 (Classroom Lab)

[1 class period]
Build a Watershed Activity

Lesson 3 (Classroom Lab)

[1 class period]
Create a Plume Activity

Lesson 4 (Computer Lab)

[1 class period]
Explanation of density and plume characteristics

Web Pages: 19-30
(click on “3 – Why do plumes stay together?” in the left navigation bar to jump directly to page 20)

Topics to Cover

  • Google Earth file: flyby of the Hudson River
  • Extension: NY SST archive
  • Plume Dynamics (why does it stay together)
  • Extension: Learn More About: How Temperature and Salinity affect the Characteristics of a Plume
  • Video of temperature and salinity layering
  • Explanation of Density
  • Knowledge check (layering river, bay, and ocean water based on temp and salinity)
  • Review of Plume Characteristics
  • How scientists track a plume
  • Meet Brian Gaas, Marine Microbiologist
  • Scuba Hugh interviews Brian Gaas (video clip lasts 2 minutes 45 seconds)

Optional Homework: If not done during computer lesson: Learn More About “How temperature & salinity affect the Characteristics of a Plume” (printed from web site page 28)

Lesson 5 (Classroom Lab)

[2 class periods]

First Part: Layering Liquids [Activity | Slides] and Density Jar Demo [Activity | Slides]

Second Part: Density Currents

Lesson 6 (Computer Lab)

[1 class period]
Human Impacts on the Watershed

Web Pages: 31-37
(click on “4 – Why are plumes important?”)

Topics to Cover

  • Why is studying river plumes important?
  • What does the water carry into the ocean? (student ideas)
  • Looking at Land Use
  • Comparing Land Use to Natural Features (rivers)
  • Human Impact graphic
  • Local pollution sources question

Lesson 7 (Computer Lab)

[1 class period]
Explanation of Eutrophication

Web Pages: 38-40
(click on “5 – What is eutrophication?”)

Topics to Cover

  • Start on page 38~ What is eutrophication
  • Eutrophication animation
  • Students answer overarching question asked in the beginning of the unit: “How does your watershed impact the ocean?”

Lesson 8 (Classroom with whiteboard or projector)

[1 class period]
Review of Eutrophication

Project web pages 39-40 on board

Topics to Cover

Lesson 9 (Classroom/Computer)

[2 class periods]
Student Final Project

Web Page 41 (optional)

Student creates essay, children’s book, diorama, informational poster, cartoon strip illustration, etc., to describe what they have learned in this unit, specifically what happens when river water meets the ocean and the impact this has on the marine environment (possibly creating the conditions for eutrophication to occur: delineating the steps and its consequences).

Check out the example rubric for how to grade the final projects.

Time Planning

Lesson Concept Type of Activity Class Periods Extensions
1 Intro to Hudson River Watershed and the Hudson Plume Computer 2 Google Earth Hudson River Tour
2 Build a Watershed LAB in classroom 1
3 Create a Plume LAB in classroom 1
4 Explanation of density and the Hudson River Plume characteristics Computer 1 Find That Plume
Real-time Data: Plumes in SST
Reading: About Water
5 Density and density currents LAB in classroom 2
6 Human Impacts on the Watershed Computer 1
7 Explanation of Eutrophication Computer 1 COSEE Eutrophication Tanks: Teacher Guide and Student Workbook
8 Review of Eutrophication Classroom discussion 1 Reading: Pollution Solution
Reading: Dead Zones
Reading: NJ Dead Zone
9 Student Application of Watershed and Eutrophication knowledge Classroom/Computer student project 2 Literature Connection: Paddle to the Sea

Science Content Standards

This unit address the following national content standards focusing on evidence, models, and explanation:

  • A – Science As Inquiry including abilities to do scientific inquiry and understanding about scientific inquiry.
  • F – Science in Personal and Social Perspectives understanding changes in the environment.
  • G – History and Nature of Science including science as a human endeavor.
  • E – Science and Technology- including abilities of technological design and understanding technology and science
  • Teaching Standard B: Teachers of science guide and facilitate learning
    • Focus and support inquiries while interacting with students
    • Orchestrate discourse among students about scientific ideas
    • Challenge students to accept and share responsibility for their own learning
    • Recognize and respond to student diversity and encourage all students to participate fully in science learning
    • Encourage and model the skills of scientific inquiry, as well as the curiosity, openness to new ideas and data, and skepticism that characterize science
  • Teaching Standard C: Teachers of science engage in ongoing assessment of their teaching and of student learning.
    • Guide students in self assessment

© 2017 Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey