Shrinking Mississippi River Levels
Students will read a recent science news article and discuss the content.
Depending the on the article, students may be asked to draw connections to current events or other classroom exercises.
Depending on the article, one of these standards may be most appropriate:
Subject Area - 1: Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening
Standard Area - 1.3: Reading, Analyzing, and Interpreting Literature - Fiction and Non-Fiction
Grade Level - 1.3.6: GRADE 6
Standard - 1.3.6.A: Read, understand, and respond to works from various genres of literature
Assessment Anchor - R6.A.2: Understand nonfiction appropriate to grade level.
Preparation Time Needed
<30 minutes, enough time to read the article and associated questions, answer the questions, and possibly come up with more that are relevant to recent class exercises.
(Part of the PAESTA In The News - Current Events in Earth and Space Science Series. This series compiles current resources and background materials for recent scientific events in the news. Questions are provided with each topic, written across Bloom's Taxonomic Scale, and can be used for classroom discussion and/or as a writing prompt at the beginning/middle/end of an instructional unit.)
In the spring of 2011, the Mississippi River swelled to historic levels. In 2012, the record-low levels in sections of the Mississippi River have halted cargo traffic.
Articles to Share with Students
- Los Angeles Times – Drought has Mississippi River Barge Traffic All Choked Up
- NASA Earth Observatory – Mississippi River Well Below Normal
- National Geographic News: Drought Reaches New Orleans; Hurricane Isaac Could Add Insult to Injury
- ABC STORY & VIDEO: Drought Affecting Mississippi River Levels and Traffic
- The Encyclopedia of Earth – Mississippi River
- USGS Daily Streamflow Conditions for Louisiana
- New York Times Topics – Drought
Questions for Classroom Discussion
- Some people are stating that the Mississippi River is experiencing a “drought.” Examine the definition of “drought” – is this an accurate use of the term?
- In July-August 2012, why is the water level low in the Mississippi River?
- How important are the water levels of the Mississippi River to commerce? Could the low levels have an effect on us in Pennsylvania? Explain.
- Is there any action humans can take to raise the water levels of the Mississippi River? Why/why not?
- If you had to get a shipment of grain from Memphis to New Orleans, and you could not ship the grain down the Mississippi River, how else might you deliver the grain? What might be the impact on Earth’s systems (biosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, lithosphere) to this different form of shipping?
Compiled September 2, 2012, by L.A. Guertin. Teachers are encouraged to search for more recent articles and related discoveries.