Back to School: USGS Hydrologist Talks Water Science with Local 5th Graders

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Facing a room full of 5th graders is no easy task, made even harder by the difficult job of attempting to explain the water cycle, aquifer systems, and groundwater in an age-appropriate, engaging, informative way. That was the mission David Dillon, California Water Science Center Hydrologist, attempted on a recent visit to Maude Price Elementary School in Downey, California.

While at Price Elementary, David taught an auditorium filled with 160 students – and their teachers – about the basics of the water cycles, groundwater resources in California, and how CAWSC scientists sample, test, study, and understand water-related issues in the State.

A picture of a USGS scientist speaking at a school assembly

David Dillon, Hydrologist at the California Water Science Center, gives a lesson to 160 5th grade students at Maude Price Elementary School in Downey, California, Aug. 29. David discussed science conducted by CAWSC scientists, including issues like land subsidence and groundwater studies. Photo Courtesy of Maude Price Elementary School. (Public domain.)

"It's important for these students to understand that groundwater is one of our most precious resources," David said. "I was really happy to see that the kids were engaged. They asked a lot of very good questions, and were really involved in the lesson."

David used metaphors to describe technically difficult issues like land subsidence and aquifer systems to the students. In explaining land subsidence, he asked the students to think of an aquifer as a balloon, and as pumping water out of the aquifer as letting air out of the balloon. A balloon full of air will hold land up, but as it deflates, the land will sink, causing subsidence. These metaphors helped increase the students’ comprehension and led to a successful start to their study unit on the water system.

Picture of a USGS scientist speaking at a school assembly

David Dillon, Hydrologist at the California Water Science Center, presents a talk on U.S. Geological Survey water science issues to 160 5th graders at Maude Price Elementary School in Downey, California, Aug. 29. David was invited to speak to the students at the beginning of their science unit on the water cycle. Photo Courtesy of Maude Price Elementary School. (Public domain.)

What a great way for the Price Panthers to start their new school year!

Looking for a way to bring water science into your classroom? Visit the USGS Water Science School for resources.