Creative Education
2012. Vol.3, No.8, 1371-1379
Published Online December 2012 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s . 1371
Creativity and Thinking Skills Integrated into a Science
Enrichment Unit on Flooding
Audrey C. Rule1, Jean Suchsland Schneider1, Denise A. Tallakson1, Diane Highnam2
1Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, USA
2Area Education Agency 267, Cedar Falls, USA
Received October 10th, 2012; revised November 15th, 2012; accepted November 25th, 2012
Floods that used to happen every hundred years are now occurring more frequently. Human influences on
the damage inflicted by flooding need to be well-understood by future voters and property-owners.
Therefore, the timely topic of flooding was used as the focus of a special multi-grade enrichment short
course taught by two university education professors for 26 preK-8th grade high-achieving and creative
students. During the course, students listened to guest speakers (city council member, meteorologist, and
environmentalist), watched two flood-related videos, read books on floods, viewed electronic presenta-
tions related to dams and recent floods, discussed causes, effects, and mitigations of flooding, and devised
creative games from recycled materials to teach peers about flood concepts. The de Bono CoRT Breadth
thinking skill system was used to organize many of the course activities. The flood lesson activities were
relevant to these students who had experienced a flood of the city’s river the previous year and challenged
students more than their typical classroom activities, an important finding considering that many gifted
students drop out of school because of irrelevant and non-demanding class work. The course broadened
students’ knowledge of floods and assisted them in thinking beyond the immediate situation.
Keywords: Floods; Elementary Education; Enrichment
Elementary and middle school students who are high-achiev-
ing in science and who exhibit creativity are often not challen-
ged or given the opportunity to fully use their abilities in the re-
gular classroom. Many gifted students drop out because school
is boring, repetitious, and lacks relevance to real life (Hansen &
Toso, 2007). Students who consider dropping out want more
exciting, challenging tasks and coursework (Snyder, 2003). Un-
fortunately, many classroom teachers lack sufficient background
knowledge to design stimulating, advanced science projects for
these students; some avoid science altogether. A national sur-
vey (Fulp, 2002) revealed that multi-subject teachers (mostly
elementary teachers) are ten times more likely as single-subject
teachers to be unprepared to teach science. Another study (Dor-
ph et al., 2007) found that eighty percent of K-5th grade multi-
ple-subject teachers who were responsible for teaching science
in their classrooms reported they spent an hour or less per week
on science, with sixteen percent of teachers spending no time at
all on science. Special programs for students that dig deeply
into relevant science topics and highlight careers fill an impor-
tant need, as motivated high-performers or exceptionally crea-
tive students are the ones most likely to become future scien-
tists, engineers, and inventors. The attractiveness of science
careers and self-confidence in science are strong factors in the
choice of science or engineering coursework and careers (Ro-
bertson, 2000; Woolnough et al., 1997).
Zhao (2009) asks what knowledge is of most worth in the
current global and digital economy that has changed the old eco-
nomic rules by enlarging and connecting markets with work-
forces across the world, by meeting a larger variety of needs,
and by reaching customers with unique wants. Preparing stu-
dents for the global and digital economy requires that future
workers acquire 21st century skills of core subjects such as sci-
ence; but also learning and innovation skills; information, me-
dia, and technology skills; and life and career skills (Partnership
for 21st Century Skills, 2011). Besides a need for Science, Te-
chnology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) skills for
economic growth from innovative processes and products, the
current global climate change phenomenon requires more sci-
entific knowledge to mitigate and solve the effects of severe
weather, flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards, drought,
and wild fires on energy supply, transportation and infrastruc-
ture, residential and commercial buildings, agriculture, forestry,
waste management, and industry, among other issues (Barker et
al., 2007).
To meet the need for a science enrichment short course fo-
cused on 21st century skills at a local elementary school, two
education professors designed, in collaboration with school fa-
culty, a short course for exceptional preschool through middle
school students in which the students delved deeply into the sci-
ence content of flooding. Students practiced learning and inno-
vation skills as they devised creative games to teach their class-
mates about the information they had learned. They utilized in-
formation, media, and technology skills by accessing online in-
formation and developing game boards and components with
drawing software. Three guest-speakers, who were working in
the flood-related areas of meteorology, environmental science,
and city planning, provided students with a glimpse of possible
career paths related to this real-world topic. This article reports
the results of this successful endeavor to provide ideas and gui-
dance to others designing a similar program or teaching about
the topic of flooding.
National Standards
Technology and invention are important components of the
elementary and middle school science curricula. Science and
Technology Content Standard E of the National Science Edu-
cation Standards (National Research Council, 1996) states that,
as a result of activities in grades K-4, all students should deve-
lop abilities of technological design. Similarly, Science and Tech-
nology Content Standard E for grades 5 - 8 states that all stu-
dents should develop an understanding of abilities of techno-
logical design: “In the middle school years, students’ work with
scientific investigations can be complemented by activities in
which the purpose is to meet human need, solve a human pro-
blem, or develop a product rather than to explore ideas about
the natural world” (p. 161). Invention supports scientific in-
quiry, allowing students to make connections to the real world
and to other subject areas. During this flood unit, all students
worked either individually or in teams to invent a game using
many recycled items that presented flood concepts to players.
The authors of the Benchmarks for Science Literacy (Ameri-
can Association for the Advancement of Science, 2008, 1993)
in Chapter 3, The Nature of Technology, discuss how elemen-
tary and middle school students need to know about the con-
nections between science and technology, the nature of engi-
neering and design, and societal issues related to technology.
Besides students considering the suitability of recycled items
for game parts, students also considered the use of human tech-
nology in flood prevention and mitigation throughout the short
course. Additionally, the Benchmarks, in Chapter 4, The Phy-
sical Setting, state that elementary students should know how
water shapes the earth’s surface through erosion and deposition.
The topic of flooding explores these ideas.
Invention lessons address the often-neglected domains in
science education of “Imaging and Creating” (Domain III) and
“Using and Applying” (Domain V) as defined by Yager (2000).
Invention allows students to combine objects in new ways, to
produce alternate or unusual uses for objects, and to design and
test devices and machines. Through invention, students apply
learned science concepts and problem-solving skills to every-
day technological problems and household devices. These op-
erations occurred as students used cast-offs in their game-mak-
ing. Students involved in invention also work in Domain VI,
“Viewing Science and its History as Human Enterprises.” In
this science domain, students considered the motives of scien-
tists, engineers, and technologists, along with investigating the
history of technology and its effects on our society. These con-
cepts were addressed as students learned of beaver dams, his-
toric human dams, and modern hydroelectric dams during the
Objective o f th e St udy and Rat i o nale
The purpose of this project was fourfold: 1) to present high-
achieving elementary and middle school students with a chal-
lenging special enrichment short course; 2) to involve students
with the real world problem of flooding directly connected to
their community; 3) to provide students with the opportunity to
study a science topic in-depth with expert instruction that pro-
vided models of possible careers; and 4) to ask students to cre-
ate an authentic product—a flood game—that would allow them
to practice creative thinking and invention while applying re-
cently-learned information about floods.
The invention of a flood game allows students to apply their
new knowledge while practicing important creativity skills. Glo-
balization since World War II has challenged America’s role as
economic and strategic world leader. Much of our workforce
now compet es for employ ment with lowe r-wage earners fr om
other countries. Workers in other nations conduct innovative
scientific and engineering work, and are easily employed th-
rough the Internet (National Research Council, 2005). Inventors
and innovators will help Americans to compete with other na-
tions and to craft solutions for our serious environmental prob-
Sustainable development is the practice of protecting the
environment while improving living standards for all, and
invention and innovation is the key to its success. Inven-
tion and innovation for sustainable development isn’t just
developing new technology, but includes new processes
and new ways of solving old problems—creative thinking
is the rubric… Despite the fact that people everywhere
have an innate ability to be creative, rich countries are not
doing enough to stimulate and harness invention and crea-
tive thinking… due to a combination of factors … [in-
cluding] education systems that don’t inspire or value
creativity… (Lemelson-MIT Program, 2003: p. 4).
Educational Theory
The Schoolwide Enrichment Model (Renzulli, 1976; Renz-
ulli & Reis, 1997) has three main instructional components:
Type I General Exploratory Activities, Type II Group Training
Activities, and Type III Individual and Small Group Investiga-
tions of Real Problems. These three types of enrichment activi-
ties were implemented in the flood unit discussed here. The
Type I General Exploratory Activities included the three spea-
kers’ presentations, the flood videos, a water table (with contai-
ners, sponges, blocks, and toys) for exploring how flooding
works, many books on floods, and electronic slide presenta-
tions of various aspects of flooding. The Type II Group Train-
ing Activities were the de Bono CoRT thinking skill exercises.
Finally, the Type III investigations centered on producing a
game from found or recycled materials to teach peers flood con-
cepts (games were later housed in the school library for check-
out) and to provide models for teachers through conference pre-
sentations and publication.
Students learning to develop their thinking skills and creativ-
ity need a structure that scaffolds their learning and allows them
to practice skills. Therefore, the popular CoRT (Cognitive Re-
search Trust) Breadth thinking skill system (de Bono, 2000) of
Edward de Bono was chosen for this project. The CoRT system
consists of 6 sets of thinking skills with the Breadth set being
the most basic. These Breadth thinking skills have been used in
numerous schools around the globe for several decades, are
well-known in the field of gifted education, and have been em-
ployed by businesses and governments in solving problems
(Barak & Doppelt, 1999; Gardyasz, 2007; Melchior, Kaufold,
& Edwards, 1988; Rule & Barrera, 2006, 2008). The CoRT
Breadth skills form the foundation of de Bono’s lateral thinking,
a creative thinking approach that helps thinkers generate new
ideas in a way that may not be obtainable by traditional step-
by-step logic (Carter, 2007). The set contains ten thinking skills
generally referred to by initials or one-word titles. Table 1 show s
the skills and how each was applied during the unit on floods.
Copyright © 2012 SciR es .
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s . 1373
Table 1.
Edward de Bono’s CoRT thinking skills applied to the flood unit.
Thinking Skill Brief Explanation Application to Flood Unit
CAF Consider all factors Make a list of all the factors involved in floodi ng to consider.
APC Generate alternatives, possibilities, choices Determine alternatives, pos s i bilities and choices of games on which to mo del flood game
final products.
C and S Determine consequence and sequel of an actionDetermine consequences and sequels of fl ooding at differ ent time intervals: immediate, short
term, and lo ng-term.
Planning Constructing a formal plan Plan a flood game, including the obje ct of the game, directions, flood facts, game board, and
playing pieces.
PMI Rate aspects of ideas as plus, minus, interestingConsider the pluses, minuses and in t eresting aspects (neither positive nor negative ideas that
arise as consequences or causes) of specific game ideas.
Decision Make a decision base d on criteria Decide the basic com pon ents of the game that make it engaging and that teach flood con-
Rules State rules Write rules for the game.
FIP Rate ideas for first important priority List new learning and determine the most impor t ant ideas l earned. Tell why they are most
AGO Determine aims, goals, objectives Check if any additional components could be adde d t o bolster t he aims, goals, or objectives
of the game.
OPV Consider other people’s views Obtain other people’s views on the game and use thi s feedback to improve it.
Real World Connection
The topic of flooding is a timely one, as America is experi-
encing a steady increase in the number of record-breaking
natural disasters connected to global warming with resources
being overwhelmed by “hundred-year” events occurring much
more frequently (Huber & Gulledge, 2011; Huq, Kovats, Reid,
& Satterthwaite, 2007) Young citizens need to know how to
vote to design communities and how to build homes in a sustai-
nable way, harmonious with flood plain environments. A unit
that helps students to understand the causes, effects, and miti-
gation of floods addresses important issues. In particular, the
students in this investigation lived through a record-breaking
flood of the river in their city that occurred less than a year be-
fore the students participated in this project. The students were
highly motivated to learn how floods work, as many had ex-
perienced inundated homes or sandbagging efforts, firsthand.
Therefore, this project had a very real-world, authentic focus
for the students involved. The products—the games—generated
by students were also effective because, through these games,
students were able to review the information they learned and
transfer it to peers who had not participated in the flood unit.
The audience for the games extended beyond the school as the
authors made two scholarly presentations of the project, high-
lighting the games students made to science educators and gif-
ted educators.
Flood-Related Instruction Literature Review
In an editorial in the Journal of Geoscience Education, the
editors (Libarkin, Elkins, McNeal, & St. John, 2010) stressed
the importance of education for persons living in geologically
hazardous areas so that they understand the causes, effects, and
ways to mitigate disaster, making informed decisions about
where to live (i.e., not on a floodplain), how to build, and how
politics enter into the situation. In further exploration of the
politics of disaster, Freudenburg, Gramling, Laska, and Erick-
son (2008) focused on the ways humans alter nature through
levee- and canal-building, causing later human suffering during
floods. They noted that, although many of these construction
projects were promoted as economic development, they are
more accurately characterized as “removal of money from the
many for the benefit of the few” (p. 1016). Therefore, students
who are to become voting citizens need to understand the po-
litical and economic factors that create disasters.
Students need to better understand how global events affect
local happenings, such as how the El Niño/Southern Oscillation
phenomena is associated with flooding, droughts, and increased
hurricane activity. Mjelde, Litzenberg, Hoyle, Holochwost, and
Funkhouse (2007) presented a learning module combining sci-
ence and mathematics that focused on students’ understanding
the probabilities of above or below normal precipitation, depen-
dent upon Pacific Ocean anomaly patterns. Authors of another
article (Mahaya, Tippins, Mueller, & Thomson, 2009) examined
global water quality, highlighting the devastating effects of floo-
ding on a pure drinking water supply. These authors presented
classroom-tested activities including a case study of a Kenya
water supply, along with water sanitation and bacteria testing
Several authors have presented ideas for helping students
who have experienced floods understand their experiences. Sh-
reve, Danbom and Hanhan (2002) examined the artwork and
writings of children who were victims of a Red River flood.
They recommended that teachers ask children about their thou-
ghts and experiences, explain how other people (rescue workers,
firefighters, volunteers) help during the disaster, and initiate
lessons that show how floods actually work so as to aid under-
standing and alleviate anxieties. Similarly, Zevenbergen, Sigler,
Duerre, and Howse (2000) examined teachers’ spontaneous
changes to the next school year’s curriculum after a flooding
disaster occurred at the end of the previous academic year, fin-
ding that most teachers chose flood-related examples to illus-
trate information they taught, along with more discussion, dra-
wing, and writing activities related to floods. Because many of
the students in the enrichment class had been flood victims
themselves, we added in opportunities for emotional expression
and community-building.
The Flood Unit
A description of the setting and participants, the course con-
tent, the special speakers, the materials, and the pretest/posttest
Setting and Participants
Twenty-six high-achieving and creative students participated
in the special science enrichment class on flooding. The class
was divided into two multi-age sections of equal numbers of
students from grades prekindergarten through third grade (9
females, 4 males; 4 third graders, 4 second graders, 3 first grad-
ers, 1 kindergartener, and 1 preschooler) and fourth through
eighth grade (6 females, 7 males; 1 eighth grader, 4 sixth grad-
ers, 5 fifth graders, and 3 fourth graders), each group meeting
separately for an hour and a half each day for eight days near
the end of the school year. Students were chosen through tea-
cher recommendations, standardized test scores, and scores on a
short creativity test. The authors obtained approval from their
university’s human subjects committee to collect data on the ef-
ficacy of the project. All students and parents gave permission
for participation, data collection, and for photographs to be
used in any subsequent publications.
Course Content
The course consisted of hour-and-a-half classes, eight in all,
for each of the two age-groups, which occurred over a two
week period. Course content was delivered via guest speakers,
videos, reading of books, and electronic slide presentations. Ex-
ercises and discussions using the CoRT thinking skills helped
students mentally process and better understand the information
they received, as shown in Table 1. Each day, students were
asked to contribute their ideas on several large posters as a way
of recording ideas that could be discussed or used in the games
being developed. Topics of these fact sheets were the causes,
effects, vocabulary, exciting facts, and mitigations of flooding.
Following each guest speaker or presentation, the instructors
prompted students to add additional id eas to the posters.
The three guest speakers were a meteorologist, an environ-
mentalist, and a city council member. A former local television
meteorologist was the first speaker who explained how rainfall
is measured, how river levels are monitored, and how these le-
vels, gathered throughout an area, inform flood predictions. He
brought a rain gauge and other instruments for the students to
explore, demonstrating how they work. He also talked about
flood safety, telling how one of the most common causes of
death during flooding is drowning in a car that has been swept
away by flood waters. Many people are unaware of the danger
of driving into or across flooded streets; only two feet of water
can float a car and allow it to be swept away. Rolling down
windows and escaping immediately may save the occupants’
lives. The second speaker was the director of the Center for
Energy and Environmental Education at the local university. He
provided an effective demonstration of soil permeability and
water storage by use of a clever analogy. As a demonstration,
he poured a bucket of water onto an empty tabletop allowing
students to verbally react as the impermeable surface caused the
water to cascade onto the floor as runoff. Then, covering the
table with a folded beach towel simulating prairie grasses, he
again poured a bucket of water onto the table. This time, how-
ever, the “grasses” absorbed the water, showing how deeproo-
ted vegetation can store water and prevent flooding. He also ex-
plained how rivers naturally overflow their banks inundating
their floodplains regularly; structures such as artificial channels
and levees confine the river to a narrow path but produce over-
flow elsewhere because the volume of the river stays the same.
Therefore, allowing the river to expand onto its floodplain and
halting construction in this area would prevent much damage to
human structures.
The third guest speaker was a city council member who
showed a documentary video of the city’s flood and discussed
the current city issues of buying property that had been under-
water during the recent flood. Students noted the familiar land-
marks and remembered the awesome impact of the flood. The
other video shown to students was a NOVA presentation called
The Mystery of the Megaflood (NOVA, 2005a). An odd lands-
cape located about 200 miles east of Seattle includes vast, deep
gorges, huge boulders dropped in a seemingly random pattern,
rippled hills, and gigantic, waterless waterfalls (NOVA, 2005b).
An insightful geologist, J. Harlan Bretz hypothesized that a
huge flood had created the unique landscape, caused by a gla-
cial dam giving way to a huge glacial lake. Later, other geolo-
gists agreed with Bretz, after a similar, smaller glacial dam
burst in 1996 in Iceland.
The flood-related books were written at several reading lev-
els and contained exciting stories with interesting visuals (Kusky,
2008; Sipiera & Sipiera, 1998; Thompson, 2000; Woods &
Woods, 2007). Students read them in their free time, especially
to find additional flood facts for their games. Several electronic
slide presentations illustrated and explained current floods across
the nation (images and information were drawn from Internet
news sites); how flood control and hydroelectric dams work, in-
cluding the differences between historic and modern dams; bea-
ver dams and their role in natural flood control; and another
flood of a nearby community that involved an upstream town
on the same river.
At the start of the unit, students were asked to respond in
writing (younger students could dictate their ideas) to several
open-ended criterion-referenced questio ns with these same q ues-
tions being asked at the end of the unit as a way of comparing
pretest and posttest knowledge of floods. These included the
following questions:
1) What is a flood?
2) Tell as many different effects of flooding as you know.
3) How can people prevent or lessen (mitigate) the negative
effects of floods?
A survey of “Attitudes about School and Learning” (Rogers,
2002) was administered to students at the start and end of the
unit to gauge the attitudinal impact of the unit and to determine
whether students perceived work during this short course dif-
ferently than their regular schoolwork (This survey was read to
younger students). Twenty statements related to perceptions
about school in general were provided. Students responded on a
four point scale: 1—always agree; 2—usually agree; 3—some-
times agree; and 4—disagree. A few example statements are
listed: “3. School is exciting, every day is great,” “7. My work
at school makes me feel proud,” and “20. The harder the work,
the more interesting it is” (Rogers, 2002: pp. 454-455). The
wording of some of the attitude statements was changed sli-
ghtly on the posttest to reflect work during the flood unit rather
Copyright © 2012 SciR es .
than toward school in general. Cronbach’s alpha (Cronbach,
1951; Cronbach & Shavelson, 2004), a commonly-used meas-
ure of internal consistency of test scores, was .83, indicating
reasonably strong reliability.
Results of the effectiveness of the unit were measured th-
rough the students’ products of creative flood games to teach
others what they had learned and a comparison of the pretests
and posttests. Examples of the games are described in the next
section. Results of the study are illustrated in Table 2 through
Creative Flood Games
Students used creativity skills to put recycled and found ma-
terials to new uses or to use parodies of existing games in their
flood games. Flood game products were of several types: fine
motor skill activities, a word find, board games, a flood simula-
tion game, a memory game, and matching puzzle games.
The fine motor skill games were made by younger students
and involved using tongs to move animals or people from
flooded areas to safety or to place miniature sandbags along a
river to build a flood levee. A fine motor skills game was made
by a kindergarten student who was very concerned about the
animals that would become engulfed in flood waters. She found
clipart images of her favorite animals, mirrored them on the com-
puter, and cut them out. She glued a pompom in between the two
sides to make them three-dimensional, so they could stand and
be easily manipulated using tongs. She also designed sorting
boards for the animals, as every individual animal was a different
clip-art image. Figure 1 shows her in action with the game.
The second fine motor skills game was created by a first
grade student and is shown in Figure 2. It had a village fash-
ioned from cut pieces of craft foam, trees represented by green
flat glass marbles, and hills ma de of trimmed foam packing ma-
terial, and the river represented by shredded blue paper. Her
game involved mostly sandbagging because her family had
sandbagged their home before the flood; she wanted to honor
their efforts by making a game of it.
The student wrote the directions for her game called “The
Big Flood:”
There can be 2 to 3 players. Use tongs to pick the sand
bags up. You have to be careful. Use the board carefully
so you do not break the board. Block the water from the
houses with sandbags. DO NOT USE WATER! When all
your sand bags are placed, you win.
In the fine motor skills game shown in Figure 3, a player
draws a card from a stack of 20 scenarios and reads the infor-
mation, such as, “Floodwater fills home—people need rescue,”
“Live power lines down—rescue people,” or “Man drives car
through flooded streets; car floats away—rescue people,” and
then acts out the drama by picking up plastic people with tongs
and placing them on the rooftop for helicopter or boat rescue.
Blue shredded paper was used to represent the flood waters,
while brown rocks represented boulders and debris carried by
the flood waters. Students made the homes out of used paper
cartons with clip art house fronts glued to them. For all these
fine motor skill games, the tongs were made with two complete
Popsicle sticks with several partial sticks glued between them at
one end, allowing lever action when pinched.
Table 2.
Pretest and posttest responses of 26 students to, “What is a flood?”
Component of F lood Definition Pretest Posttest
Consists of wate r 24 25
Excess or ove r-abundant amount of w ater 12 10
Overflowin g usua l conf ine s 10 11
Rising or surging 10 7
Causing da mage to human structures 6 4
Caused by rain 6 4
Puts land usu ally dry under water 5 4
Caused by dam break 2 2
Dangerous /can kill 1 5
Contains polluted water 0 1
Carries debris or ice 0 1
Causes e r osi on 0 1
Total 76 75
Figure 1.
Fine motor skills game of rescuing and sorting animals made by first
grade student.
A word find, made by a kindergarten student, focused on
new flood-related vocabulary, such as mudflow, jumble ice, and
debris. Words were printed backwards and on diagonals with
other non-related words (e.g., happy, joy, sweet) used to fill
space and make it more entertaining. Clues for the words were
complex and attempted to direct the player to a certain place of
the board.
A variety of board games was created. One activity made by
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s . 1375
Figure 2.
The big flood fine motor skills sandbagging game.
Figure 3.
Fine motor skills game flood rescue game made by second grade stu-
second and third graders combined fractions with house-rebuil-
ding in a cooperative format of moving around a board, landing
on spaces, and giving fractional house pieces to flood victims
attempting to rebuild their homes (See Figure 4).
Others focused on answering questions about flood fact in-
formation to move around a board or to rescue people from
flooded homes. For example, one pair of sixth grade boys made
a parody of a Monopoly® game that focused on flood issues.
There were interesting properties and spaces such as “levee”,
“river”, “river gauge”, “drainage pump”, and “foot-deep water”.
“Rescue” and “Flood” cards told flooding scenarios and conse-
quences for the player.
Another unique game involved players matching questions to
answers, resulting in raising or lowering the river level. This
game consisted of a three-dimensional topographic contour ri-
ver scene. The landscape of this game, shown in Figure 5, was
made with layers of thick cardboard cut to show the contours of
hills surrounding a river valley. The parts that had been cut
away from each cardboard layer fit exactly into the river valley
and were colored blue to represent different stages of the river
that could be placed onto the landscape. These pieces were
Figure 4.
Game combining fractions in rebuilding flood-damaged homes.
Figure 5.
Topographic contour map game of rising and fal ling river levels.
added or subtracted in response to players’ work of matching
cards showing terms and definitions or explanations, thereby
raising or lowering the water level of the river. The game was
made by three fifth graders collaborating with a sixth grader
who assumed a leadership position. Students disassembled some
pompoms and colored the fibers with a marker to make ve geta-
tion. They made houses from bits of sponge foam with paper
Two other games required players to place puzzle pieces
(identical sectors of a circle) into a tray (actually, a decorated
label-covered compact disk (CD) cut into 8 pieces labeled A-H
placed into a CD case with areas marked 1 - 8 with a permanent
marker) as players matched vocabulary to definitions or identi-
fied the order of events in flooding. The reverse sides of these
pieces, when the tray was flipped over, revealed a pattern that
matched the pictorial key if the player had answered all of the
questions correctly. Two sixth grade students working on this
game are shown in Figure 6; a page of questions and pictorial
key that fit neatly into the CD case is shown in Figure 7; the
glued-on labels for the sectors of the cut-apart CD are shown in
Figure 8.
Copyright © 2012 SciR es .
Figure 6.
Two middle school students working on a fact puzzle game made
from a compact disk and its case.
Figure 7.
Matching questions for modified compact disk game.
Figure 8.
Fronts and backs of the eight game pieces made from a cut-apart
compact disk with glued-on labels.
Posttest Outcomes
Table 2 shows that most students, even the younger group of
kindergarten and first graders, had a good concept of what a
flood was at the beginning of the program, with ideas shifting
slightly with the experience of the flood instruction unit. This is
understandable, as many students had witnessed the flooding of
the city’s river the previous summer. New ideas, addressed du-
ring instruction, that were mentioned were the ideas of polluted
water, debris piles, erosion, and the many dangers of flood wa-
Table 3 shows that on the pretest, students focused on the
immediate effects of flood damage, inundation, danger, and
loss of property, while on the posttest, students recognized the
after-flooding problems of debris piles and jumble ice, and
looked ahead to clean-up and rebuilding. This demonstrates a
broadening of student time perception related to flooding ef-
fects from the present to the near and more distant future. Some
secondary effects of flooding such as more flooding, emotional
toll, and building of dams are additional indications of broad-
ening the ability to recognize longer-term effects.
Sandbagging was the most common response of flood miti-
gation methods on both the pretest and posttest. Students knew
about sandbagging because they had seen it on television news
reports and many had participated or had relatives who did. On
the pretest, several students, as shown in Table 4, suggested
currently impractical ideas such as trying to stop rainstorms or
keep flood waters from coming into the area. On the posttest,
Table 3.
Pretest and posttest responses of 26 students to, “Tell as many different
effects of flooding as you know”.
Flood Effect Pretest Posttest
Building damage and destruction 11 11
Water invades homes/things underwater 10 2
Drowning/injury/de ath of people 9 7
Dirt/ mud/mold everywhere 8 8
Lost possessi ons/cars 8 5
Danger and evacuation 5 3
Trees/telephone/electric poles fall over 5 1
Homeless people 3 4
Water carries dirt/soil/se wage/disease 3 4
Power outa ge/surges damage items 3 2
Erosion of topsoil/mudslides 2 4
Economic cost/business loss/crop loss 2 4
Rebuild roads 2 0
Animals die 2 3
Debris washed into piles 1 10
No safe drinkin g water 1 1
Items moved by flood waters 1 0
Drains overflow 1 0
Jumble ice left behind 0 6
Knock houses off foundations 0 3
Rebuilding/other peo ple help 0 3
Clean-up 0 3
Snakes in water 0 2
Scabland land scape 0 1
More floodi n g 0 1
Emotional toll-sadn ess 0 1
Dams regulat e water 0 1
Total 77 90
Copyright © 2012 SciRe s . 1377
Table 4.
Responses of 26 students to, “How can people prevent or lessen the
negative effects of (mitigate) floods?”
Flood Mitigation Action Pretest Posttest
Use sandba g s to make le v ees or walls to protect property 22 21
Build higher than flood plain or away from shore 5 13
Stop rain storms and wa ter from comi n g 5 0
Have stron ger walls 3 0
Have a dra i nage system fo r water 3 0
Go to high ground 3 0
Go upstairs/Move items upstairs 3 0
Lock doors and seal cracks 2 0
Purify water 1 0
Sing rain song to lift spirits 1 0
Stop urbanization 1 0
Use amphibio us vehicles 1 0
Use dams t o r egulate w ater 0 11
Plant prairie grasses creating spongy soil to absorb runoff 0 6
Be prepared 0 4
Evacuate when to l d to 0 3
Educate people about flood s 0 2
Don’t waste water 0 2
Don’t litter or dump debris in water 0 2
Don’t change a river’s shape 0 2
Don’t drive cars into flood wa ters 0 2
Work as a team 0 1
Plant more tre es and forests 0 1
Have plumber fix drains 0 1
Total 50 71
students exhibited more knowledge of the effects dams have in
regulating flood water and the importance of not building on
the floodplain. New knowledge of the role of deep-rooted ve-
getation and safety rules such as evacuating when required and
never driving into flooded streets, appeared on the posttest.
Table 5 shows the mean scores of the responses to the atti-
tude questions that exhibited significant change from the be-
ginning to the end of the program. These questions show that
students felt more challenged during this special program than
during their regular classroom activities where many were used
to taking the spotlight as the most knowledgeable students in
the class (see questions numbered 6 and 8 in Table 4). The fact
that students were less satisfied with grades and checked their
work more carefully before turning it in indicates the more ri-
gorous nature of the flood unit. The overall means of attitude
statements on the pretest and posttest were almost identical,
corresponding to answering “usually agree” to most statements.
This indicates an overall satisfaction and feeling of motivation
toward both regular schoolwork and the special flood unit.
This project satisfied its four planned objectives. First, the
project presented high-achieving elementary and middle school
students with a challenging special enrichment short course.
High-achieving elementary and middle school students were
challenged by the content and skills of the unit as evidenced by
their responses to the attitude survey. They felt less confident
and checked their work more thoroughly during the enrichment
Second, the project involved students with the real world
problem of flooding directly connected to their community. The
enrichment topic was particularly relevant to the students who
Table 5.
Student responses to attitude statements that showed significant pretest
to posttest changes and overall mean scores o n a l l questions.
Mean Rating1
Statements Pretest Posttest
T-Test Result
p value
6. Teachers think I am one of the best
students (pretest).
The professors think I am one of the be s t
students (posttest).
1.92 2.35 .02
8. Teachers count on m e f or correct
answers (pretest).
The professors count on me for correct
answers (posttest).
1.96 2.42 .04
10. I am satisfied with the grades I get
I am satisfied with the ass essment of the
work I did on this project (posttest).
1.44 1.88 .02
17. I check my work carefully before
handing it in ( r etest).
I checked my work carefully before
handing it i n on this project (postte st).
2.04 1.63 .01
Overall mean of all 20 questions 1.83 1.85 .842
Note: 1indicates always agree, 4 indicates disagree. 2this p value does not indicat e
a statistically significant difference.
had endured the flooding the previous year.
Third, students had the opportunity to study a science topic
in-depth with expert instruction that provided models of possi-
ble careers. Students enjoyed listening to and asking questions
of the guest speakers about their jobs as a meteorologist, an
environmentalist (also a college professor), and a city council
member. Additional information was provided via videos, elec-
tronic presentations, and books.
Finally, the project asked students to create an authentic
product—a flood game—that would allow them to practice
creative thinking and invention while applying recently-learned
information about floods. Students were thoroughly engrossed
in developing their flood games and finding interesting facts for
game questions. They worked individually or in small groups to
create an authentic product—a flood game—using recycled or
found materials such as pebbles, sponges, cardboard, plastic
lids, fabric scraps, string, clothespins, and egg or milk cartons.
This allowed them to assign new uses to common materials,
thereby practicing creativity and their newly-acquired knowl-
edge of floods.
A focus on the current, local science issue of floods with an
authentic product motivated the students. Incorporation of thin-
king skills boosted effective processing of information, while
attention to the science domain of creativity resulted in exciting
game products. This enrichment unit on flooding exemplifies a
successful, challenging, integrated, authentic science project.
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