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Seeing Water Through a New Lens

Seeing Water Through a New Lens

We experienced one of Oregon’s amazing weather phenomena during the week of January 16 – a combination of snow melt and rain that lead to flooding and landslides.  Opal 4 students from NW Portland had a hard time getting to school because landslides blocked the roads near their homes.  Local creeks and rivers crested.  According to the Oregonian, floods caused more than $38 million in nine Oregon Counties.  The newspaper also compared these “rain on snow melt” floods to similar floods in 1996 and 1964.

We experienced the impact of all of that water at Opal School.  For the students in Opal 4, seeing that amazing inflow of water gave them a whole new appreciation for the properties and the power of water.

On the afternoon of January 19, Levia announced to the class that we were, “Going on a field trip!”  After some jokes about forgotten permission forms, the class wandered out to the parking lot behind the museum to look at water flowing into a catch basin.

Eventually someone asked, “Where is it coming from?”

The chase was on!  We ran upstream to locate the source.


We kept moving upstream in our drainage basin.


and upstream again






MG:  It's really easy to see where it came from.

DO:  Let's keep going!

The students have building schema for drainage patterns and watersheds all year as they have been investigating the creek.  A few days before this “field trip,” they tried a different investigation in class where they created paper “landscapes” and dropped colored water on them to see how the water would behave.  We were all thrilled to see the water behaving the same way in the field.

RC:  It went down here, it split and then it made a lake.  The water sticks to the path.

AW:  This would be the river because it slopes coming down to it.

SBM:  There are lots of creeks over here.

NF:  This is a creek going off Mount Hood.

AW:  Water will choose the easiest route.

SBM:  The water starts to flow because it’s already wet here.

SBM:  The water affects the mountain too – it weighs it down so it erodes it.

HH:  From all these mountains, rainwater forms a path that’s already been traced by water.  The creeks all go down into the lake.  When it comes from high it looks for water to join a path.

RC:  Water goes the easiest, less obstructed way.

AW:  Water forms the landscape.  Water is its own protagonist.