Educators' Guide

Measuring the Waters

Students will discuss and understand measurement of a single event and measurement over time. After listening to excerpts from an oral history with Earl Cavenaugh, a survivor of Hurricane Floyd, students will understand how people devised ways of keeping measurements during that flood and earlier floods.

For Grade 5 - Math

Learning Outcomes
Materials and Resources
Teacher Planning and Preparation
Curriculum Alignment

Learning outcomes

Students will discuss how the same height can be measured in different ways.

Students will demonstrate an understanding of patterns and relationships in measurements.

Students will graph these patterns.

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Materials and Resources

  • Resources available from this site:
    "Four Feet Higher" - Oral history excerpt from Earl Cavenaugh, hurricane survivor, about how Hurricane Floyd compares to previous floods his family has experienced
    "A Foot an Hour" - Oral history excerpt from Earl Cavenaugh, hurricane survivor, about the rapid rise of floodwaters from Hurricane Floyd
    Oral history transcript and "listening clues" (Word doc)
  • Technology necessary in the classroom:
    -Internet connection
    -headphones (preferred)
    -CD player (in lieu of the computer, speakers and internet connection, if you have burned your own CD with the audio excerpts).
  • Other Materials
    - Masking tape (to use on classroom walls)
    - Measurement "tools" - including a ruler or tape measure, leaf, stapler, sheet of paper
    -Textbook (optional)
    -Measurement data (like precipitation or lake levels) from your local weather station or from Map Room (optional)

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Teacher Planning

Time required for the lesson: 90 minutes

Teacher Preparation:

  1. Listen to the entire audio excerpt in advance of class.
  2. Familiarize yourself the location: Duplin County is in eastern North Carolina.
  3. Read over the Floyd essay and Floyd facts
  4. Download oral history excerpt to your computer in preparation for class. (You may consider making a CD. This may help if you wish to use a CD player instead of a computer with speakers.)
  5. If you have an Internet connection in class, you do not have to download the oral history.
  6. Collect the materials/resources listed below and bring to class.
  7. Measure a height (suggested 3'3') from the floor, and mark it on the wall with masking tape. Do this in at least four or five places around the classroom walls, using the same measurement. Make sure there is enough room between the markings for a group of students to gather.

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Classroom Activities

Warm Up Activity- What is in a measurement?

At the start of class, divide the class into groups of three or four. Hand each one of the groups a different measurement "tool" (mentioned above: a leaf, stapler, sheet of paper). All but one group gets a "tool." One group has to devise their own tool using some part of an arm (i.e. a fist, a thumb, a finger, the part between the elbow and the wrist, the hand outstretched.) Students need to place their measurement tool directly on the wall, and count how many "units" represent the height of the masking tape.

Since one group has a ruler or tape measure, they should get the answer 39" but every other group will get varying answers depending on their unit (i.e. 10 "leaves", 3.2 "staplers" or 7.5 "fists.")

Discuss that any item can be used for measurement, so long as it is used consistently. Discuss which tools might be more exact than others and why.

(Optional, if there's time) To drive this point home, have the groups exchange tools and measure again. Check in and see if the second group got the same measurement as the first group. Explain that part of the work of scientists and mathematicians is to repeat the same "experiment" to see if they get the same answer.

Activity Two- Background and Oral History

Have students take a seat, and pass out the oral history transcript (Word doc)

Read or explain the background on the top of the page so that students know what they will be listening to. Discuss the "Listening Clues: Preliminary Questions" included with the transcript.

Listen to "Four Feet Higher"

Discuss the "Listening Clues: Follow up Questions" from oral history transcript.

Read introduction to excerpt: "People have informal ways of measuring, like those we tried earlier in this class. We're going to find out how Earl Cavenaugh informally measured the rising flood, and we're going to find out the reason his system didn't work during Hurricane Floyd."

Discuss the "Listening Clues: Preliminary Questions" from oral history transcript.

Listen to "A Foot an Hour"

Discuss "Listening Clues: Follow Up Questions" from oral history transcript.

Activity 3 - Measuring in your life

Why did Mr. Cavenaugh want to measure how fast the water was coming up? What did it mean when the yardstick floated away?

Discuss more accurate ways of measuring the rate of floods.

Discuss measurements that we hear on the daily news on TV. The weatherman may mention the lake level, the temperature outside, the barometric pressure, how many inches of rain or snow fell, the lake levels etc.

Does your knowledge of some of these measurements help you decide to do or not do something in your daily life? Why is it important to take these measurements?

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Draw a graph

Graph it: Using graph paper, draw a graph. The x-axis will be units of time, and the y-axis will be units of height.

On the same graph, show two lines that represent years. One will be 1962, and the other 1999.

Start at zero, and show the rate the 1962 flood rose (according to Mr. Cavenaugh.) The second will also start at zero, and show the rate the 1999 flood rose.

Remember, we don't know how high the original 1962 was, so make a guess. Add four feet to that height to show how high the 1999 flood was.

Extra Assessment : Class activity

Mr. Cavenaugh's grandfather nailed a post to a tree to mark where the floods had been. This was a way of relating measurements over time. Look around the classroom. Brainstorm on what might change over time, depending on the season or time of day. Agree on what you will measure, and how it will be measured. Remember to take these measurements throughout the year. Later on, discuss how the thing you measured changed.

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North Carolina Curriculum Alignment: Grade 5 Mathematics

Goal 2: Measurement - The learner will recognize and use standard units of metric and customary measurement.

Objective 2.01
Estimate the measure of an object in one system given the measure of that object in another system.

Goal 4: Data Analysis and Probability - The learner will understand and use graphs and data analysis.

Objective 4.02
Compare and contrast different representations of the same data; discuss the effectiveness of each representation.

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