Preservice Teachers’ Knowledge of Deltas and Delta Dynamics
John E. Trowbridge, Deborah McCarthy

There are many and often interrelated reasons for the dramatic loss of wetlands and coastal erosion in the Mississippi River Delta area including human activity and natural causes. It seems that a fundamental understanding of how these fragile lands are formed through a process of delta building, delta switching, and decay known as the delta cycle (Coleman, Roberts, and Stone, 1998) will help in understanding how the deterioration of the US Gulf coast and wetlands is occurring. Understanding of the geology of delta building and deterioration is essential to ongoing plans dealing with coastal wetland loss along the Gulf Coast. A survey instrument was developed and administered to 100 preservice teachers at a regional university in Louisiana. Students were a mix of elementary and secondary areas of certification. The students were enrolled in a methods course that is taken right before student teaching. The questionnaire focused on student knowledge of deltas in general and globally with specific questions focusing on the delta formation, switch and decay model of the Mississippi River. Important results include that there is a lack of understanding why a river will over time shift course and form a new delta, and a lack of conceptual understanding of Mississippi River dynamics and root causes of coastal erosion. It is suggested that curriculum planners and instructors of teacher education programs make sure that their candidates are presented with opportunities to enhance their understanding of concepts related to coastal erosion and wetland loss.

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