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Can Seventh Graders Design Erosion Control Systems?

When students have caring teachers and local volunteers who share their expertise, even the very young can accomplish remarkable things. Last fall, students at Cincinnati’s Nagel Middle School learned about erosion control from Terracon’s Jeff Dunlap, P.E. Jeff is a project geotechnical engineer in the Cincinnati office who took the time to make a real impact on these students and their education.
Jeff was invited to speak to 220 seventh graders (his son among them) who were studying erosion control. Jeff’s presentation became a key resource for these students who had been assigned real-world erosion control problems to solve. One group had to figure out how to keep eroding soil from collecting on a local basketball court located at the bottom of a slope. The other group had to design an erosion control system for a stretch of stream they had visited on a field trip. Students created models of their solutions.
In his free time, Jeff spent several hours preparing a PowerPoint presentation, collecting photographs that showed examples of erosion control as well as an array of erosion control products for the students to see and feel. He also tapped the knowledge of co-worker and Cincinnati Project Engineer Bruce Rome, P.E., who provided information about the Federal Clean Water Act and the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System.
“It was good to see how students showed real concern about what I was teaching them,” said Jeff.” In my son’s class, they completed the basketball court project. I am told that the students applied what they had learned quite well and kept their model basketball courts soil-free!”
Jeff received thank you notes from all of the students who heard his presentation. Many show that students learned a great deal.
“One student even told me it was the first time he had ever earned an ” ‘A’ on a science project,” said Jeff. “That felt good.”