Earth 34

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The Life of a River

A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another river. In some cases a river flows into the ground and becomes dry at the end of its course without reaching another body of water. Nearly all rivers have an upper, middle, and lower course (stages in the life of a river). The upper course is the beginning of a river – when it flows quickly with a lot of energy. The middle course is when the river gets wide and slows down. Rivers often meander (following a winding path) along their middle course. When a river reaches the end of its journey, it is at the lower course – an old river. At the mouth, there is often a river delta (a large silty area where the river splits into many different slow moving channels with muddy banks).


Day 1 – Introduction
Day 2 – Virtual Textbook



2:57 Why Do Rivers Curve

5:56 Top 10 largest Rivers of The World

6:54 Drainage Basins and Watersheds Simplified


Compare Contrast and Debate

Background: There are two “official” naming conventions for rivers.  A naming convention is am agreed upon way to name things. A naming convention helps communicate useful information – in this instance the name of a river should ideally tell you something about the river. The two (typical) ways to name a river is after the tributary with the largest water volume, or after the tributary with the longest course. Using these “rules” the Mississippi river should be called the Ohio River (largest volume of water). Or it should be called the Missouri River (the tributary with the longest course). But, the Mississippi River has been called “the Mississippi” for so long that old maps use that name – and people seem to just be accustomed to its name.

  • Position A: Even though the Mississippi River has been called the Mississippi for a long time, it should be renamed to either the Ohio or Missouri to follow modern naming conventions.
  • Position B: There is no reason to change the name of the Mississippi River. Despite modern naming conventions for rivers, there is nothing wrong with calling it the Mississippi.

Special Notes and Notices

Instructor Resources

Standard Daily Material
  • Day 1 – Standard material – introduction day
  • Day 2 – Standard material – reading day
  • Day 3 – Standard material – make a presentation
  • Day 4 – Standard material – give a presentation
  • Extra! – Enrichment and remediation options
Other Topic Specific Resources

Special Notes and Notices

Instructor Emphasis:

  • Science & Engineering Practice: Analyze and interpret data.
  • Cross-Cutting Concept: Stability and Change.

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