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Classroom learning experiences reflecting the practices of real world science

Comp Hydro

Lead Scientist(s): Dr Alan R Berkowitz

The Comp Hydro project addresses one of the most daunting challenges to developing scientific literacy in students: integrating teaching and learning of key ideas and practices of place-based environmental science with computational and quantitative science in authentic, innovative and effective ways.

The basic premise of the Comp Hydro project is that in order for students to develop quantitative model-based reasoning in environmental science, their classroom learning experiences need to reflect the practices of real world science – including computational modeling of Earth systems.

Comp Hydro is funded by the National Science Foundation’s STEM+C partnership program which aims to enhance STEM learning and computing in K-12 education.

Scientists and educators from five states - Maryland, Arizona, Colorado, Montana and North Carolina - have partnered to investigate how students across a broad range of demographics and locations think and learn about topics in environmental science.

Comp Hydro will produce a trajectory of learning and associated assessment instruments that can describe how students become more sophisticated in applying scientific practices (analyzing, interpreting and representing data; developing and using models; using computational thinking; and constructing scientific explanations and predictions about hydrologic systems) to explain and predict how water and contaminants move in the environment. 

Comp Hydro Baltimore includes concepts, datasets and protocols about watersheds and runoff in Baltimore addressing the question, “Why does Baltimore flood so frequently?”

During the 2-year pilot phase, 12 Baltimore teachers implemented Comp Hydro in a mix of biology, environmental science, computer science and technology classrooms.  Baltimore students explore local flooding events through videos and first hand accounts and then proceed through a series of hands-on explorations of precipitation, runoff, infiltration and transpiration.

Students use physical, mathematical and computer models to simulate flooding events and discuss ways flooding can be reduced in the Baltimore region.

The unit culminates with students modifying land cover, infiltration and other watershed features and water pathways and processes in a computer simulation to reduce the impacts of flooding from a real storm event in a local watershed. 

For more information or to get involved, contact Bess Caplan at caplanb@caryinstitute.org or 410-455-1863.