administration student task rubric student work technical quality
River Planning
Administration Procedures
Contributed by: Kentucky Department of Education (KDE)


Students use a model to conduct an experiment involving dam construction. Based on their observations, they draw conclusions about social, economic, and environmental issues and make a decision concerning dam location.

As a group, the students will use clay and water to test possible site locations for a dam on a model, keeping a record of the trials. Individually, students will answer three questions, choosing a site for the dam and explaining and exploring ramifications of the choice.

This task is designed to take students approximately 45 minutes to complete.

Overall Task Content Area:

Earth/Space Science
Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

Specific Knowledge Areas:

Human interactions with, and effects on the environment

Performance Expectations:

  • conducting investigations
  • using equipment
  • gathering, organizing, and representing data
  • formulating conclusions from investigational data
  • applying scientific principles to develop explanations and solve new problems

National Science Education Standards:

8 A SI 1: Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry: Grades 5-8
1.4 Develop descriptions, explanations, predictions, and models using evidence. Students should base their explanation on what they observed, and as they develop cognitive skills, they should be able to differentiate explanation from description - providing causes for effects and establishing relationships based on evidence and logical argument. This standards requires a subject knowledge base so the students can effectively conduct investigations, because developing explanations establishes connections between the content of science and the contexts within which students develop new knowledge.

8 D ESS 1: Structure of the earth system: Grades 5-8
1.3 Land forms are the result of a combination of constructive and destructive forces. Constructive forces include crustal deformation and deposition of sediment, while destructive forces include weathering and erosion.

8 F SPSP 4: Risks and benefits: Grades 5-8
4.1 Risk analysis considers the type of hazard and estimates the number of people that might be exposed and the number likely to suffer consequences. The results are used to determine the options for reducing or eliminating risks.

4.2 Students should understand the risks associated with natural hazards (fires, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions), with chemical hazards (pollutants in air, water, soil, and food), with biological hazards (pollen, viruses, bacterial, and parasites), social hazards (occupational safety and transportation), and with personal hazards (smoking, dieting, and drinking).

4.3 Individuals can use a systematic approach to thinking critically about risks and benefits. Examples include applying probability estimates to risks and comparing them to estimated personal and social benefits.

4.4 Important personal and social decisions are made based on perceptions of benefits and risks.

(Use the "hot" link on the PALS home page to check the full text of related National Science Education Standards, if desired.)

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics:

PS2: Solve problems that arise in mathematics and in other contexts:
Grades 6-8

General Instructions to the Teacher:

This task is designed to take students approximately 40-50 minutes to complete.

Students will be working in groups of 4 - 6 for the experiment/activity part of this exercise.

Students work together for up to 20 minutes. They are instructed to notify you when finished with the group work, and then to go on to the individual work beginning with question #1. If students are still working together 20 minutes after the testing begins, instruct them to cease their group work and begin individual work. At this point, they may no longer talk. Whether or not they are just beginning their individual work, remind students that they now have about 25 minutes to complete the individual activity.

Students should be ready to work as soon as the period begins. Group assignments should be made in advance. The materials should be set out at each lab station, if possible. A central supply area, if needed, should be easily accessible. All supplies should be clearly labeled.


The teacher will need:
  • The original version of this task was designed to be used with a plastic model which depicted a three-dimensional version of the map (also) required for this activity. A suitable replacement model will have to be created or obtained prior to administering this task.

At this station students should have:

  • Model
  • Clay
  • Water in a pitcher
  • Map
  • Ruler
  • Paper Towels
  • Pencils

Advance Preparation:

  • Perform the activity with your created model prior to administering to be sure your model functions the way you would like it to.


  • Be careful.
  • Teachers and students should always exercise appropriate safety precautions and utilize appropriate laboratory safety procedures and equipment when working on science performance tasks.


  • Again, the original version of this task was designed to be used with a plastic model which depicted a three-dimensional version of the map (also) required for this activity. A suitable replacement model will have to be created or obtained prior to administering this task.



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