Scholastic Explorer

The Oral History of the Skagit River Watershed by Suzan Frampton

Susan was an Earthwatch Institute Teacher Fellow  from DE on Earthwatch's "Oral History" project led by Dr. Liebow in July-August 2002.

Standards Addressed:

Standard 1: Nature of Application of Science and Technology

  • The ultimate goal of any scientific investigation is to obtain evidence precise and thorough enough to answer a question.  Various experimental designs and strategies can be developed to answer the same question.  The comprehensiveness of the investigation depends on the tools and technologies used.

Standard 5: Earth’s Dynamic Systems

  • Water falling to Earth flows over the surface as run-off and collects in ocean basins, rivers, lakes, ice caps, and underground.  Water stored underground (sub-surface) and water stored above ground (surface) form a continuum, each supplying water to the other.  Human activity and natural events can introduce chemicals affecting the quality of the water supply.

Standard 6: Life Processes

  • The functioning and health of organisms, including humans, are influenced by heredity, diet, lifestyle, bacteria, viruses, parasites, and the environment.

Standard 8: Ecology

  • Changes in the physical or biological conditions in an ecosystem can alter the diversity of species in the system,  As the ecosystem changes, populations of organisms must adapt to these changes, move to another ecosystem, or become extinct.
  • The size of a population in an ecosystem may increase of decrease s a result of the interrelationships among organisms, availability of resources, natural disasters, habitat changes, and pollution.
  • Agriculture relies heavily in technology to increase productivity.  Advances in irrigation allow crops and to control damage done by rodents, fungi, insects, and weeds.  The need to increase agricultural production results in an environmental trade-off (e.g., saltwater intrusion, water table lowering, agricultural run-off into rivers/streams, elimination of beneficial insects, desertification.


Dr. Liebow’s study required the skills of interviewing to collect his data.  Students need practice in interviewing.  In addition to the actual questioning that is involved in the interview, students need rehearsal in accurate reporting of the information attained from the interview.  The following activity is one that I use at the beginning of the school year.  The activity serves many purposes.  First students need to be aware of the value of interviewing as a means of collecting information and to assess the point of view of the interviewee.  Students also need to be cognizant listening to the interviewee without interjecting their personal opinions.  I find that just listening, without interruption, is very difficult for students. In addition, making sure that students accurately report the information they collect is important.  Finally, this activity provides the opportunity for the students to get to know each other a little better.  It always helps to have students see each other in a different light.

Interview activity:

Students brainstorm where they may have been interviewed before.  A list of persons in professions who interview is listed on the board.  Many students are unaware of how many interviews they experience in their everyday life.  Students also may not realize that interviews not have to be conducted verbally.  Many interviews are in written form (job applications, tests, surveys, etc.).  The list of professions where interviews are common generated could include: doctors, lawyers, police, teachers, parents, friends, salespersons, scientists, etc.  Students always list the obvious first: newspaper reporters, television talks show hosts, and magazine editors.  As they start to think about the purpose of an interview, as a tool to collect information, they are able to expand the list.  After the list is finished they then have the opportunity to collect information about a classmate.  They are paired with someone they do not know.  The each take turns interviewing each other with the following questions:

1.      What is your classmate’s full name (first, middle, last)?
2.      What are their hobbies?
3.      What is their favorite book? Movie?
4.      What are their favorite sports?
5.      Where did they go on their favorite vacation?
6.      What are their favorite foods? 

Students take notes on the responses of their partners.  After the interview is complete I ask if there are any students who would like to introduce their classmate to the class.  I tell them to pay strict attention because I am going to take notes and I will see how well they are paying attention by giving them a fact and seeing if they can associate it with the correct individual.  When several students have presented their information I give them the “quiz”.  I am always amazed how even picking the most obscure fact about a person does not stump them. They rarely make a mistake.  They are also good at reporting the information accurately.  Their partners correct any mistakes they make in sharing their classmate’s information quickly.  It is at that time that I remind them of the importance of being accurate in reporting any information.  The students love this activity and I find it very useful as a reference point for any discussions that involve interviewing throughout the school year.