River Research: Experiential Learning for IB Geography Students

LAS Journal

River Research: Experiential Learning for IB Geography Students

Experiential learning is about getting outside the classroom and gaining skills and knowledge not just from textbooks, but from the world around us. After all, we do this in our everyday lives, and it’s a great skill for students to have as they progress through their journey at LAS and into higher education. Last week, grade 11 IB Geography students went on a field trip to the Grande-Eau River, which flows through nearby Les Diablerets. As part of the IB Diploma, students must complete an Internal Assessment (IA), where they choose their own study, conduct research, collect data, and write up their findings. Our students had a fantastic time applying their recent learning to a real-life example and completing an important element of their coursework. 

In class, students have been studying the Freshwater Module and within that, the Bradshaw Model, a geographical model that suggests how a river’s characteristics can vary between its upper and lower course (e.g. a river’s velocity will increase as it flows from its source to its mouth). For this field trip, students were required to choose three variables to study and measure to see whether the Grande-Eau matches the Bradshaw Model. 

The students collected data on velocity, width, depth, discharge (how much water flows in the river), sediment size, roughness, and gradient. The group measured these variables at ten sites along the river, spaced out over a kilometer. To measure the data, students used a web-based app and Geographic Information System (GIS) software, which made collecting the data simple, allowing them to compare variables and, drawing from their classroom knowledge, use them to assess their hypotheses and create conclusions. Following this field trip, students will write their final 2500-word IA report over the summer break and receive feedback in the next academic year.

Even though coursework is a mandatory component of every IB subject, our students always have fun collecting their data and seeing the real-life effects of the theories they learn about in class. Applying their knowledge to real-life situations gives students confidence in the syllabus and reinforces their studies in a way that will prepare them not only for exams but also for geographical research in the future. Aside from the academic element of this trip, it was fantastic for our students to be out in nature and experiencing the beautiful Swiss countryside!


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