Skip to main content

Groundwater educational materials

Groundwater model

Student-using-groundwater-model.jpegStudent using the groundwater model.

Since 2001, training on the use of a groundwater sand tank model [exit DNR] has been provided annually to educators from schools or nature centers around the state. The educators selected through a competitive application process receive a one-day training session, a groundwater flow model and instructions on using it, classroom exercises designed to meet state academic standards, and reimbursement for substitute teachers while at the training. Since 2001, educators from almost 300 schools or nature centers have received training through this program and received a free model.

The training is provided by staff from the Wisconsin DNR, the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey and the UW-Stevens Point Center for Watershed Science and Education. Funding for the groundwater workshops comes from a wellhead protection "setaside" grant given to the DNR by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. For more information on the workshops, contact Bill Phelps.

The goal of the workshops is to teach educators about how groundwater moves, how groundwater can be contaminated, and ways to protect the resource, so they pass along that knowledge to students and the general public. The groundwater model offers a “slice” or cross-section representation of the earth, allowing students to “see” groundwater. Educators and students can use the model to demonstrate a variety of groundwater flow principles, including water table levels, how groundwater supplies are replenished, how groundwater flows through different geologic materials, and how contaminants from a variety of sources can leak into groundwater. The model also contains “wells” which can be used to show the effects of pumping on the groundwater flow system.

Groundwater fun

Teacher workshops

For educators who would like to get an idea of what the groundwater workshops are like and how the groundwater sand tank models can be used, or for teachers who have a model and would like a quick refresher course, here are three short videos recorded during the 2011 workshop in Mt. Horeb.

* The full-length workshop video [1 hour, 21 minutes] is also available.

Groundwater directory

The Wisconsin Groundwater Directory provides listings of state agencies and what they do related to groundwater, contacts for groundwater information and education programs, printed and online resources related to groundwater, and more! This publication was produced by the Education Subcommittee of the Wisconsin Groundwater Coordinating Council (GCC).

Links of interest from the groundwater model teacher workshops

USGS Water Cycle website

The Water Cycle [exit DNR] is a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) site which offers a comprehensive discussion of the water cycle and is available in 36 languages.

This site features a superb diagram of the water cycle done by a USGS artist. There is an in-depth webpage for each of the 15 topics on the diagram, along with a single-page summary of the water cycle. The Water Cycle is one of the modules for the existing Water Science for Schools [exit DNR] site which contains information on many aspects of water. It includes pictures, data, maps and an interactive center.

Wisconsin groundwater study guide

This award winning material is a curriculum development guide primarily for 6th to 9th grade earth science teachers, adaptable to older and younger students, informal education settings and the general public.

Wisconsin academic standards for health education and mathematics

Health Education

Activity Page 2013 Wisconsin Standards for Health Science
‘Round and ‘Round It Goes 5 EHS1.a
Well, Well, Well 9 EHS1.a, EHS1.b
Wisconsin’s Major Aquifers 12 IMT1.a, IMT1.c
A Plume of Contamination 14 EHS1.a, EHS1.b
Where Does It Come From... 16 IMT1.a, IMT1.c
How Septic Systems Work 18 EHS1.a
Caution: This Product May Be Hazardous... 20 EHS1.a, 4C2.a, IMT1.c, IMT1.d, 4C3
It’ll Go With the Flow 22 EHS1.a, EHS1.b, 4C2.a
Trouble in Paradise 27 EHS1.a, 4C3


Activity Page 2011 Common Core State Standards for Mathematics
Porosity and Permeability 7 3.MD.2, 3.MD.3, HS.S-IC
Wisconsin’s Major Aquifers
It’ll Go With the Flow 22 7.EE.3, HS.S-IC

The guide contains:

Exercises using the groundwater sand tank model

Here are three lessons which use the groundwater model to teach students about groundwater.