Crushing the Aquifer Crisis with Kinematics
Crushing the Aquifer Crisis with Kinematics
Saving the Day Through Modeling


A hero – someone like James Bond or Katniss Everdeen – has been captured by her nemesis! She sits there, desperate and alone in a dreary cell. Here’s the worst of it: our hero knows the villain’s master plan: to blow up one of the biggest aquifers in the world that sits on top of, of all things: a water park! If only there was a way to roll a boulder down a curvy water slide just as the villain is delivering the bomb? BUT, she has no way to stop it from inside her dark room in the villain’s subterranean chamber.

Another prisoner arrives, thrown rudely into the villain’s lockup. This isn’t just any convict. He’s a scientist and he knows a thing or two about kinematic equations that will help solve the crisis. …You know where this is going. Now, go save our fresh water!

STEAM Challenge

Crushing the Aquifer Crisis with Kinematics

Submission Due Date: April 17, 2020

Designed for Middle and High School Students


Table of Contents

  • The Challenge
  • Assumptions and Logistics
  • Process
  • Presentation of Learning
  • Meridian Support Resources
  • Evaluation Rubric
  • Essential Questions
  • Student Proficiencies
  • Curricular Correlations:
    NGSS – HS-PS2-1, HS-PS2-2, HS-PS2-3, HS-ETS1-2
    CC ELA – W3, W4, SL1, SL5, RH9

Range of Activities

  • Research about Aquifers
  • Research of Physics Concepts
  • Construction of Physical Model to Demonstrate Kinematic Equations
  • Digital Literacy Skills – Video Pre-production, Production and Post-Production
  • 21st Century Skills – Creativity, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Presentational Skills

The Challenge

A hero – someone like James Bond or Katniss Everdeen – has been captured by her nemesis! She sits there, desperate and alone in a dreary cell. Here’s the worst of it: our hero knows the villain’s master plan: to blow up one of the biggest aquifers in the world. But she has no way to stop it from inside her dark room in the villain’s subterranean chamber.

Another prisoner arrives, thrown rudely into the villain’s lockup. This isn’t just any convict. He’s a scientist.

Here’s what our hero knows:

  • The villain is planning on bringing an explosive into a water park that sits on top of this huge aquifer.
  • The explosive will be transported in a construction truck.
  • The explosive will detonate at the base of the largest slide there: the infamous Serpentine Slip Slider!
  • The truck will roll by the base of the slide at exactly 23:00 hours tomorrow…when no one is in the park.

Alas, there is nothing …but wait! Our fellow scientist prisoner thinks that by leveraging physics equations and the water park’s slides, they can direct a boulder on a nearby mountain to crash into the truck and save the day! By gathering materials around the cell and stealing some items from guards, they construct a model to prove their plans.

Your job is to bring this story to life. Show us the hero’s dejection when she believes all is lost. Who is this scientist and why has the villain captured him in the first place? Most importantly, research the relevant physics equations so you can depict the scientist explaining the plan to the hero and back it up with numbers and a demonstration – several in fact – that shows the boulder really will hit the truck when released down the water slide at the right time.


Deliverables include:

  • Digital Story (this is the only Meridian Stories deliverable)
  • Script (at teacher’s discretion)
  • Storyboard (at teacher’s discretion)

Assumptions and Logistics

Time Frame– We recommend that this Meridian Stories Competition takes place inside of a three to four-week time frame.

Length– All Meridian Stories submissions should be under 4 minutes in length, unless otherwise specified.

Slate– All media work must begin with a slate that provides:

  1. the title of the piece;
  2. the name of the school submitting;
  3. the wording ‘Permission Granted’ which gives Meridian Stories the right to a) publicly display the submission in question on, as linked from, related to or in support of Meridian Stories digital media; and b) use or reference it for educational purposes only in any all media; and
  4. We strongly recommend that students do not put their last names on the piece either at the start or finish, during the credits. 

Submissions– Keep in mind that each school can only submit three submissions per Competition (so while the entire class can participate in the Challenge, only three can be submitted to Meridian Stories for Mentor review and scoring).

Teacher Reviews– All reviews by the teacher are at the discretion of the teacher and all suggested paper deliverables are due only to the teacher. The only deliverable to Meridian Stories is the media work.

Teacher’s Role and Technology Integrator– While it is helpful to have a Technology Integrator involved, they are not usually necessary: the students already know how to produce the media. And if they don’t, part of their challenge is to figure it out. They will! The teacher’s primary function in these Challenges is to guide the students as they engage with the content.  You don’t need to know editing, sound design, shooting or storyboarding: you just need to know your content area, while assisting them with time management issues.

Digital Rules/Literacy– We strongly recommend that all students follow the rules of Digital Citizenry in their proper usage and/or citation of images, music and text taken from other sources. This recommendation includes producing a citations page at the end of your entry, if applicable. See the Digital Rules area in the Meridian Resources Center section of the site for guidance.

Location– Try not to shoot in a classroom at your school. The classroom, no matter how you dress it up, looks like a classroom and can negatively impact the story you are trying to tell.

Collaboration– We strongly recommend that students work in teams of 3-4: part of the educational value is around building collaborative skill sets. But students may work individually.


Below is a suggested breakdown for the students’ work.

During Phase I student teams will:

  • Conduct background research.
    • The villain is planning to blow up one of the worlds largest aquifers… but do we care? Yes! You need to explain why. What is an aquifer? Why are they important? And what might happen if one were to be ‘blown up’? Is the villain correct in his/her assumption that the result will be massive flooding? Begin with research to answer these questions. This information must be included in your story.
  • Learn about the relevant physics equations.
    • An integral part of your short film will be the explanation of the relevant physics and the model of the experiment that the hero and the scientist create. To be able to accurately write these scenes, you’ll need to understand the physics yourself. Do research on kinematic equations to learn how to predict the motion of simple objects.
    • Some examples of relevant equations you may want to begin with are as follows:
    •   The final velocity of an accelerating object after t seconds is its initial velocity plus its acceleration times t.
    • The final position of an accelerating object after t seconds is equal to its initial position plus its initial velocity times plus one half its acceleration times t. 
    • The square of the final velocity of an accelerating object after t seconds is equal to its initial velocity squared plus 2 times its acceleration times the difference between its final and initial position.
      • Using the above equations, you can predict the motion of a boulder down a curvy waterslide – of your own design – so you know when to release it to hit a moving truck.
    • Plan out the physics model.
      • Your model will be an important part of the narrative, as it proves that the hero and scientist have successfully constructed a plan that will allow them to destroy the truck and put an end to the villain’s evil plans.
      • The model should be constructed out of things that the prisoner’s can find around their cell, but don’t let that hinder your creativity. Maybe the villain is a big marble collector, and he happened to leave some of his marbles in the cell: they would make a great model boulder. Maybe one of our protagonists manages to steal a wind-up car from a visiting guard: that would make a good model truck.
      • Gather these materials and begin to experiment with the model demonstration that will be featured in your digital story.

During Phase II student teams will:

  • Design the characters.
    • What is a good story without good characters? We recommend focusing on character design because this is essentially a two-character drama – the dynamic between them will carry the energy of this narrative forward. Once you have a clear idea of who your characters are – their motives, backgrounds, and personalities – writing the scene becomes easier.
    • Don’t feel locked into any one box. While you may choose to take inspiration from heroes and villains in famous stories, think about how you can come up with characters that are entirely your own as well. See the Meridian Resources on ‘Building Characters’ for useful ideas.
  • Plan the lesson.
    • For the scientist and the hero to be able to effectively hatch a plan together, the scientist will need to explain to the hero, and by extension the audience, how the relevant physics works. Plan this section out in advance so you can make sure your explanations are clear, while staying within the narrative.
    • Science is an iterative process – people don’t normally get it right the first time! Show that process. Be authentic. If it doesn’t work the first time – why? And showing how it doesn’t work – this creates drama! And then they can learn from their mistakes to fix it. What changed in the construction of the model or the calculation to make it work?
  • Draft the script.
    • We recommend keeping the scope of the film small so that you can keep the interaction focused on a) the relationship between the characters; and b) their iterative process of solving the problem and saving the day. You don’t need to show us a scene in the waterpark, andthe villain’s layer, andthe guards’ lounge. You can splice in still shots of other locations if needed, but generally keep the narrative in the cell. This goes for the resolution as well. For example, a newspaper clipping showing something along the lines of ‘hero saves the day’ will suffice as a wrap-up.
      • Teacher’s Option: Script The teacher may require teams to hand in a draft script of their digital story for review and feedback.
    • Consider creating a storyboard for the digital story.
      • As you move from script to pre-production – the planning of how you will realize this script visually through your camera shots – a storyboard can be an incredibly useful tool.
      • Storyboards help you understand the pacing of the narrative you’ve written and help make sure the story proceeds in a logical order. And it lets you have an idea before hand of what camera angles you want so the shoot takes less time and the story itself is rendered visually in the most powerful way.
        • Teacher’s Option: Storyboard The teacher may require teams to hand in a storyboard showing an outline of their camera setups and narrative.
      • Finalize the script and be sure your demonstration model is working!
      • Pre-produce the video:
        • Scout locations for shooting (if some of this is being shot on location);
        • Create costumes, props and other set pieces, as needed;
        • Prepare the logistics for the actual shooting of the video; and
        • Rehearse the scenes that will comprise the video.

During Phase III student teams will:

  • Shoot the video.
  • Record the voice-over or narration, as necessary.
  • Edit the video, adding stills and graphics as desired.
  • Post-produce the video, adding music and sound effects as desired, keeping in mind the effect that music – in terms of enhancing the emotions, triumphs and suspenseful tone of the story – can have on the audience.

Presentation of Learning

Meridian Stories is a proud partner of the non-profit Share Your Learning, which is spearheading the movement of over five million students to publicly share their work as a meaningful part of their educational experience.

The workforce considers Presentational Skills to be a key asset and we encourage you to allow students to practice this skill set as often as possible. These short videos provide a great opportunity for kids to practice their public presentational skills.

According to Share Your Learning, Presentations of Learning (POL) promote…

  • Student Ownership, Responsibility & Engagement. POLs can serve as a powerful rite of passage at the end of [a project]. By reflecting on their growth over time in relation to academic and character goals, grounded in evidence from their work, students are encouraged to take ownership of their learning. Just as an artist wants their portfolio to represent their best work, POLs encourage students to care deeply about the work they will share.
  • Community Pride & Involvement. When peers, teachers and community members come together to engage with student work and provide authentic feedback, they become invested in students’ growth and serve as active contributors to the school community.
  • Equity. POLs ensure that all students are seen and provide insight into what learning experiences students find most meaningful and relevant to their lives.

Meridian Stories’own research indicates this to be a really useful exercise for one additional reason:  Students actually learn from their peers’ presentations – it is useful to hear a perspective that is not just the teacher’s.

It is with this in mind that we you encourage you to plan an event – it could be just an end-of-the-week class or an event where parents, teachers and student peers are invited – to allow the students to showcase their Meridian Stories projects. For more free resources that will support this planning, visit

Meridian Support Resources

Meridian Stories provides two forms of support for the student teams:

1.    Meridian Innovators and Artists – This is a series of three to four-minute videos featuring artists and innovative professionals who offer important advice, specifically for Meridian Stories, in the areas of creativity and production.

2.    Media Resource Collection – These are short documents that offer student teams key tips in the areas of creativity, production, game design and digital citizenry.

Recommended review, as a team, for this Challenge include:

Meridian Innovators and Artists Media Resource Collection
On the Importance of Character in Storytelling – Scott Nash

Fiction Writing –Lily King

Acting for Film and Stage – Janet McTeer

Producing– Tom Pierce

“Creating Storyboards, Framing a Shot”

“Creative Brainstorming Techniques”

“Building Characters”

“Video Editing Basics”

Evaluation Rubric – Crushing the Aquifer Crisis with Kinematics


Criteria 1-10
Research of Relevant Background Information related to aquifers is accurate and demonstrates background research of topic
Use of Iterative Process Construction of physics model follows iterative process utilizing results from previous attempts to arrive at a solution
Accuracy of Model Physics model accurately displays concepts that are explained in the narrative


Criteria 1-10
Narrative Clarity The digital story has a clear and consistent tone that is well organized and delivers an engaging narrative
Integration of Content Physics concepts are integrated into the story and do not detract from, but instead enhance, the quality and pacing of the narrative
Character Creation The characters – through their words, actions and emotions – are well developed and as a pair, deeply engaging


Criteria 1-10
Editing The documentary is edited cleanly and effectively, resulting in an engaging viewing experience
Sound and Music Sound effects and music enhance the audience’s engagement with the scene
Setting and Cinematography The setting and use of the camera angles enhance the action of the scene, creating the necessary tension and tone


Criteria 1-10
Collaborative Thinking The group demonstrated flexibility in making compromises and valued the contributions of each group member.
Creativity and Innovation The group brainstormed many inventive ideas and was able to evaluate, refine and implement them effectively.
Initiative and Self-Direction The group set attainable goals, worked independently and managed their time effectively, demonstrating a disciplined commitment to the project.

Essential Questions

  1. What is an aquifer; why are they important in the modern world; and what might plausibly happen if an explosive were detonated near it?
  2. What are kinematic equations and how can one use them to predict the motion of an object?
  3. How can one construct a model/experiment to demonstrate understanding of theoretical scientific concepts?
  4. How can storytelling be used to more deeply understand complex educational ideas?
  5. How has immersion in the creation of original content and the production of digital media—exercising one’s creativity, critical thinking and digital literacy skills—deepened the overall educational experience?
  6. How has working on a team—practicing one’s collaborative skills—changed the learning experience?

Student Proficiencies

  1. The student will learn why aquifers are important and why they need protection from harm, both intentional and unintentional.
  2. The student will learn to use kinematic equations to predict the motion of an object with constant acceleration.
  3. The student will learn to create physical manifestations of their learning to solidify comprehension of theoretical concepts.
  4. The student will learn that utilizing an engaging story to teach complex educational ideas can make them more accessible and appealing than on their own.
  5. The student will utilize key 21stcentury skills, with a focus on creativity, critical thinking and digital literacy, in their process of translating scientific content into a new narrative format.
  6. The student will have an increased awareness of the challenges and rewards of team collaboration. Collaboration – the ability to work with others – is considered one of the most important 21stcentury skills to develop in students as they prepare for life after secondary school.

NGSS and Common Core Curricular Correlations

The Crushing the Aquifer Crisis with Kinematics Challenge addresses a range of curricular objectives that have been articulated by two nationally recognized sources:

  1. The Next Generation Science Standards;
  2. The CommonCore Curricular Standards – Mathematics; and
  3. The CommonCore Curricular Standards – English Language Arts & History/Social Studies.

Below please find the standards that are being addressed, either wholly or in part.

Next Generation Science Standards
MS-PS2-1 Apply Newton’s Third Law to design a solution to a problem involving the motion of two colliding objects.
HS-PS2-1 Analyze data to support the claim that Newton’s second law of motion describes the mathematical relationship among the net force on a macroscopic object, its mass, and its acceleration.
HS-PS2-2 Use mathematical representations to support the claim that the total momentum of a system of objects is conserved when there is no net force on the system.
HS-PS2-3 Apply science and engineering ideas to design, evaluate, and refine a device that minimizes the force on a macroscopic object during a collision.
HS-ETS1-2 Design a solution to a complex real-world problem by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable problems that can be solved through engineering.


Common Core – Mathematics
CCSS.MATH.Content.HSF.LE.A.1 Distinguish between situations that can be modeled with linear functions and with exponential functions.
CCSS.MATH.Content.HSF.LE.B.5 Interpret the parameters in a linear or exponential function in terms of a context.
CCSS.MATH.Content.HSF.BF.A.1 Write a function that describes a relationship between two quantities
CCSS.MATH.Content.HSF.IF.A.1 Understand that a function from one set (called the domain) to another set (called the range) assigns to each element of the domain exactly one element of the range. If f is a function and x is an element of its domain, then f(x) denotes the output of f corresponding to the input x. The graph of f is the graph of the equation y = f(x).
CCSS.MATH.Content.HSF.IF.B.5 Relate the domain of a function to its graph and, where applicable, to the quantitative relationship it describes

Common Core – English Language Arts
W3 (grades 8 – 12)


Text Types and Purposes

Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
W4 (grades 8 – 12)


Production and Distribution of Writing

Produce clear and coherent writing which the development, organization and style are appropriate to task, purpose and audience.


Comprehension and Collaboration

Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one- on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 8–12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.





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