Make Way for Trains! Holding Back Earth Materials
A Community-Connected Elementary Geotechnical Engineering Unit
In the “Make Way for Trains” unit (MWT), students explore key concepts of geotechnical engineering in the context of a train track expansion for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA): as railway corridors are widened, the sloping earth material surrounding the tracks must simultaneously support existing structures and not fall onto the tracks. Developed specifically for the Boston, Massachusetts, context, the unit begins with a look at how MBTA workers employ science and engineering for the geotechnical support for the network of tracks that make up “the T.” Over 8 class sessions, fourth-grade students integrate their understanding of the engineering design process and earth science concepts, like how piles of earth materials behave with and without stabilization technologies, to generate multiple possible solutions to retain and support earth materials.
Note: This unit was developed specifically for the Boston-area context and makes many references to its public transportation system. If you are in another location consider looking into your local transportation system. More than likely they will have a similar track or road expansion project from which you can draw. Any project where earth materials must be moved and supported can work.
STELAR is not the author of these materials and cannot provide permission or access. For more information click the “Related Projects” link below.