Environmental Studies Program


Date of this Version

Spring 5-2019


Water is a core topic in standards for science teaching and learning across the K-12 continuum (NGSS Lead States, 2013; National Research Council [NRC], 1966), though research has shown that the American public may possess relatively underdeveloped ideas about water systems (AMNH, 2005). Those who have a better understanding of groundwater systems tend to recognize the impacts that overuse has and express greater concern about conservation of the resource (Pan and Liu 2018). One way to support students’ learning about groundwater is through the use of groundwater modeling tools. Computer-based models have been shown to be effective in supporting K-12 teaching and learning about a variety of Earth systems (e.g., Svila & Linn, 2011). In this study, 7th grade students use the Hydrogeology Challenge (HGC), a data-driven, computer-based groundwater modeling tool to understand how groundwater flows, and how groundwater contamination might occur in an aquifer. Students’ ability to understand the elements within the model was investigated by analyzing student assessments. Findings suggest that students could more easily identify water processes and human components of water systems than they could natural components. Specifically, students struggle to interpret contour lines and elevation, which are important to understand when learning about groundwater systems.