Developing Missouri River Days: Pre & Post Curriculum

By Kristen Schulte and Carly Hopkins

Sunglasses on and covered in unidentifiable bug bites after attending National Great River Research & Education Center (NGRREC) training week, Carly drove down I-70 to her research placement: Missouri River Relief. Carly would spend the next 9 weeks developing and piloting a pre-post curriculum for "Missouri River Days" a half-day field trip that takes the entire 4th grade on the Missouri River in Columbia Public Schools. 

No big deal. She had written some educational material before and thought she knew generally how it was going to go. Research, write, go through 2-3 drafts, and call it done.  She even thought she could complete the project way ahead of schedule. 

Turns out, learning how children best learn and writing lesson plans around a certain layout was all new to Carly.  In the past, she had written things more to just have concepts flow from one another and kind of wrote a lesson plan based on that format.  Kristen, the Education Director of Missouri River Relief soon taught her the importance of having set understandings, knowledge, and skills you want students to walk away with along with specific exercises for them to use while learning.  The hardest part of all was letting go of any previous concepts about curriculum and diving headfirst into relearning about proper development.

Observing lessons being pilots by Russell Blvd Elementary

Carly then piloted these lessons with some local grade school teachers during their summer school sessions.  This may have been one of her favorite parts of the whole internship. She shared that "there’s something amazing about seeing your work unfold. The feeling of hearing the teachers read the words that went through countless revisions, and the kids absorbing it, falls nothing short of complete elation."

The teachers gave Carly their feedback through surveys, and she tweaked lessons accordingly. She shared that "the most impactful part of it all was actually getting to compile all the lesson plans and supporting material to be distributed in the local grade schools".  

Thanks to Carly's hard work and effort, Missouri River Days is now a two-part experience that combines a pre-post curriculum that is standard-based with a half-day field trip on the Missouri River at Cooper’s Landing.

  • Part One: Pre-Post Curriculum: There are two pre lessons and one post.  These lessons are each 35 minutes in length and are meant to introduce the students to topics they will encounter on the field trip. The lessons are also interdisciplinary and align to 4th Grade Columbia Public School standards.  
  • Part Two: Field Trip: The field trip is offered during three specific times during the fall and spring school year, allowing schools to choose a date in either the specified fall or spring semester that best fits their needs. During the field trip, students will leave their lab coats and pocket protectors behind; to do science, Missouri River Relief style. They will investigate the mysteries behind the longest river in North America and learn what makes it tick. 
Students learn about the Missouri River during the summer school pilot

Part One: Pre-Post Curriculum Overview

You might be wondering what standards and activities are involved in each of the lesson plans. below is an overview of each of the lessons. 

Pre Lesson 1: Forces that Shape the Missouri River

Overview: This lesson uses historic photos of the Missouri River to engage students in the exploration of how humans have changed the Missouri River.

Columbia Public School Standards: 

4th Grade Social Studies: Describe how Missouri has changed (and stayed the same) over time. 

4th Grade Science: Students will be able to analyze & interpret data from maps to describe patterns of Earth’s features. 

Lesson Objectives: 

  • Students will understand the complexities of our relationship with the Missouri River.
  • Students will know how the Missouri River has changed over time.
  • Students will be able to explain how humans have impacted the Missouri River. 

Pre Lesson 2: Missouri River Geography Affects Us

Overview: This lesson uses scenario cards to explore students' understanding of weathering and erosion, and to spark a discussion about how the Missouri River shapes where we choose to live. 

Columbia Public School Standards: 

4th Grade Social Studies: Students will be able to explain how Missouri’s physical geography affects the way its citizens live.

4th Grade Science: Make observations and/or measurements to provide evidence of the effects of weathering or the rate of erosion by water, ice, wind, or vegetation.

Lesson Objectives:

  • Students will understand the weathering and erosion that shape the Missouri River.
  • Students will know how the Missouri River’s geography affects the way we live.
  • Students will be able to identify the various effects of weathering and erosion.

Post Lesson 3: The Art of Storytelling with Science Practices

Overview: This lesson explores the value of storytelling in science and the structure of a personal narrative while encouraging students to reflect on science practices they engaged in during the “Missouri River Days” field trip. 

Columbia Public School Standards: 

4th Grade Social Studies: Describe how Missouri has changed (and stayed the same) over time.

4th Grade Writing: Students will be able to recognize and compose narrative texts (e.g. personal narrative, memoir, short fiction, biography).

Lesson Objectives:

  • Students will understand the value of a personal narrative.
  • Students will know key components of a personal narrative. 
  • Students will be able to write a personal narrative based on their own experiences. 
Students learn about the history of the Missouri River during the summer school pilot

Below are comments from Columbia Public School summer teachers that piloted the lessons:

“I would definitely use these lessons in my classroom again. The students were able to recall the information and were for the most part engaged throughout the entire lessons.” 

 “The pre-lessons would help the students be more aware of what they are observing on the actual Missouri River Days.  It gives them some good background knowledge that they can build upon during the field trip.” 

“The lesson plans were engaging and students were interested in the material….The information was very relevant to students, as they will all participate in the Missouri River Days trip.”

For 4th grade Columbia Public School teachers, the pre-post curriculum has been compiled into binders with supporting material already printed and has been provided to the science department. Binders were dropped off at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year with the science department materials. 

If you have a problem locating the pre-post curriculum binders, please contact either Mike Szydlowski at / (573) 214-3945 or MRR Education Director, Kristen Schulte at / (573) 443-0292.  

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