Monsoons are a change in the wind pattern that draw moisture up from the Pacific Ocean, Gulf of California, and Gulf of Mexico into Arizona and surrounding areas. This change is marked with heavy rainfall. It is this heavy rainfall that can be a blessing or a curse.
This year especially, the American Southwest is in a severe drought. The rains are much needed. The land is parched, vegetation is dry, and lakes/reservoirs are low. One would think the added moisture is a blessing. And it is. When it comes nice and steady. The only problem with monsoons is that they usually release a lot of moisture in a short amount of time. How short? Well, the local joke is that if you don't like the weather, wait 15 minutes and it'll change. Inches and inches of water are released within 30 minutes or less. This causes flooding annually. Cars are swept away, people are rescued by helicopters, and landscapes change instantly. This deluge can be especially troublesome in areas recently affected by wildfires. The roots of plants and trees helps to hold the soil on mountain slopes. After a fire, those roots no longer abate the soil and runoff. Mudslides cause thousands of dollars of damage every year.
Watch this amateur video, capturing a monsoon last summer. Watch how the rain comes down in sheets.
But, what can be done? Monsoon: Blessing or Curse is a STEM PBL project where students work to solve a real-world problem. Since monsoons typically occur July - August, Monsoon: Blessing or Curse is a perfect STEM project for students to do at home with their parents. Possible engineering activities include harnessing the power of the monsoon, collecting rain water, and distributing the rain water. Students can view videos of how fast flood waters rise and how meteorologists use radar to track the storms. If parents want to include an element of history, students can read about how the ancient Native American tribes were able to harness the rain water to water their crops in the arid climate of what is now Phoenix.
|Illustration by Rebecca Leer|
What if you don't live in the American Southwest and don't get monsoons? You can alter the activity to be used with any rainstorm. Don't have rain in the forecast? A hose can always double for mother nature.
The Arizona Geographic Alliance also has great lesson plans for those who prefer a more structured lesson.
1. Monsoon Days
Description: In this lesson students will gain a deeper understanding of Arizona’s monsoon season. They will learn what causes this yearly phenomenon and how to act safely in monsoon storms. This lesson uses the children’s book Hip, Hip, Hooray It’s a Monsoon Day
Author: Gale Ekiss
Grade Range: 4
Duration: 3 class periods
2. Mapping the Monsoon
Description: In this lesson students will gain a better understanding of a monsoon and Arizona weather. They will look at world maps to see how seasonal wind changes happen all over the world, layering the transparencies to learn how information can be compared using maps.
2 class periods
Questions? Comments? Pictures of your engineering projects? I would love to hear from you at STEAMingAheadWithSusan@gmail.com