Salting Winter Roads

Part of the Ecology Disrupted Curriculum Collection.

Yellow dump truck fitted with a plow clears a paved road of falling wet snow. A small low building is in background.


Setting the Stage teacher's guide


Setting the Stage investigation booklet



(Time required: about 45 minutes)

Students will be introduced to Dr. Sujay Kaushal, learn about how salt is used to keep roads clear of snow and ice, and discuss how to test the relationship between the density of roads and salt in streams.

1. Introduce students to the case study goals and Dr. Sujay Kaushal, the scientist who conducted the research. (5 minutes)

In this unit, we are going to discuss a case study of scientific research that has been published in a peer-reviewed journal. The goals of this unit are to:

  • Learn about real scientists and their stories—what motivates them, how and why they ask questions, and what type of data or evidence they collect to address their questions.
  • Connect your daily life activities to ecological function.
  • Connect disruptions in ecological function to environmental issues.

Along the way, we will learn about some concepts that are relevant for understanding the case study. We will begin by looking at the work of Dr. Sujay Kaushal, a young scientist living in Maryland.  Dr. Kaushal became interested in learning how snow and ice in the Baltimore area might affect the area’s water supply.

Before we discuss his research, let’s talk about what you already know about snow to understand why Dr. Kaushal thought this was an interesting question.

2. Accessing Prior Knowledge (5 minutes)

Introduce the unit by accessing student prior knowledge about snow and road salt.

3. Winter Roads Make Salty Streams Science Bulletin (5 minutes)

Show the Winter Roads Make Salty Streams Science Bulletin to  introduce students to the case study.

4. Baltimore Winters (7 minutes)

Use the prepared Setting the Stage slideshow to provide more information about Baltimore winters.

5. Meet Dr. Sujay Kaushal (10 Minutes)

Use the video profile of Dr. Kaushal’s story to connect the unit with the motivation for the research and to remind students that this case study is based on real scientific data.  Ask students to write any questions that they have while watching the video.

6. How can we test the relationships between roads and salt in streams? (8 Minutes)

Conclude with a discussion of how to test the relationship between roads and the amount of salt found in forested, suburban, and urban streams.

7. Complete the Setting the Stage section of the Investigation Booklet. (5 minutes)

Summary/Assessment:  Ask students to complete the Setting the Stage section of the Investigation Booklet, available in the Downloads section on this page.