Building quantitative skills with a simplified physical model of coastal storm deposition

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Eli Lazarus 


This article describes an exercise for a physical laboratory experiment designed to enable physical geography students to practice transferrable quantitative skills through inquiry-based learning. The exercise is a deliberately simplified physical model of storm-driven coastal overwash typical of low-lying coastal barrier systems. The experiment can be trialled in anything from a baking pan or plastic tub to a specialised flume; set-up requires an erodible barrier with a low height relative to its alongshore length. Flow across the barrier is called overwash, which leaves behind depositional features called washover. Students measure geometric characteristics, or morphometry, of the experimental washover and examine them with scaling relationships. Here I present a dataset of nearly 450 student measurements, along with a sample of my own, from six experimental trials to demonstrate that students with little or no preparatory training were able to successfully complete the exercise and collectively generate a dataset of washover morphometry that resembles scaling relationships from the published literature. Using inquiry-based observations of a physical process to steer morphometric measurements that in turn motivate methods for quantitative analysis may serve as an effective means of embedding quantitative training in a physical geography syllabus or programme curriculum.



Earth Sciences, Educational Methods, Geomorphology, Higher Education, Scholarship of Teaching and Learning


physical laboratory experiment, inquiry-based learning, stream table, flume, Coastal processes, washover


Published: 2024-07-04 23:50

Last Updated: 2024-07-05 06:50


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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