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Classroom Activities

These classroom and lab activities use data, simulations or modeling to teach geoscience topics. Examples include the use of model output, chemical analyses, remote sensing data, interactive data tools, or large databases.

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Teaching geologic time and rates of landscape evolution with dice part of Rates and Time:GSA Activity Posters
Landscape evolution provides a convenient framework for understanding geologic time and rates because students can observe how processes like erosion and deposition shape their surroundings. In this example, students build 3-D sandbox models based on topographic maps and design and stage a "virtual adventure race." Sandbox landscapes are used to illustrate erosional processes,while local examples are used to discuss landscapes as transient or steady over different time- and length scales. Dice experiments illustrate radioactive decay and the shape of the age equation curve, and 14C dating, geochronology and thermochronology are introduced as "stopwatches" that start when a plant dies, a crystal forms, or a rock nears the surface and cools to a certain temperature. The sandbox model and thermochronometer "stopwatches" are combined to measure erosion rates and rates of landscape change. Ultimately, model rates (cm/hour) calculated from stopwatch times on the order of seconds can be related to geologic rates (km/My) calculated from real million-year-old samples.

Radiometric Dating Isochron exercise part of Cutting Edge:Rates and Time:Teaching Activities
Hands-on introduction to using the isochron method to determine radiometric ages.

Dating Students: Relative vs. Numerical Time part of Cutting Edge:Rates and Time:Teaching Activities
This activity introduces students to the fundamental ideas of relative versus radiometric dating, using the students themselves as a sample population. In the first half, the students attempt to order the people in ...

Oil and Gas Exploration Project part of Cutting Edge:Introductory Courses:Activities
Students play the role of a geologist for an oil and gas exploration company. Given a budget and some basic geological information they are required to bid on leases, explore, drill, and hopefully produce at a ...

Net Radiation and Temperature part of Cutting Edge:Introductory Courses:Activities
This assignment helps students think about how net radiation affects surface temperature.

Exploring Air Quality in Aura NO2 Data part of Earth Exploration Toolbook:Aura
DATA: NASA Aura nitrogen dioxide data. TOOL: Google Earth. SUMMARY: Learn about photochemical smog. Explore the relationships among human population density, nitrogen dioxide concentrations, and geography.

Exploring Monsoon Precipitation and Streamflow in a Semi-Arid Watershed part of Earth Exploration Toolbook:Exploring the Sabino Canyon
DATA: Precipitation, streamflow, and topographic data TOOLS: Google Earth & My World GIS SUMMARY: Explore a semi-arid watershed in Arizona. Investigate the effect of summer thunderstorms on streamflow.

Analyzing Plate Motion Using EarthScope GPS Data part of Earth Exploration Toolbook:Analyzing Tectonic Plate Motion with GPS Data
DATA: EarthScope GPS Data. TOOLS: Spreadsheet, Google Maps. SUMMARY: Learn how GPS monuments make precise measurements of Earth's surface. Graph motion data and map velocity vectors to explore tectonic motion and surface deformation in the Pacific Northwest.

Investigating the Effect of Warmer Temperatures on Hurricanes part of Cutting Edge:Hurricanes-Climate Change Connection:Activities
Students investigate the link between ocean temperatures and hurricane intensity, analyze instrumental and historical data and speculate on possible future changes.

Tropical Cyclones and Global Change part of Cutting Edge:Hurricanes-Climate Change Connection:Activities
This is a full semester project focusing on tropical cyclones and climate change for my undergraduate tropical meteorology class. It consists of five parts, outlined below.

Analyzing Hurricanes part of Cutting Edge:Hurricanes-Climate Change Connection:Activities
The exercise uses GIS to explore historical data on hurricanes (path, strength, name). Students identify trends in hurricane records, the impact of hurricanes on major U.S. cities, and how hurricanes change through ...

From Ocean Topography to Flexural Rigidity part of MARGINS Data in the Classroom:MARGINS Mini-Lessons
Students will use the available bathymetric datasets to test the utility of a flexural rigidity model of oceanic crust.

Acoustic Waves and Seismac part of Cutting Edge:Geodesy:Activities
The students will expand on their knowledge of acoustic signals (from class lectures and book readings) by watching videos and doing an in-class exercise with the seismac program.

Investigating Earthquakes with ArcVoyager GIS part of Earth Exploration Toolbook:Investigating Earthquakes
DATA: Recent and Historical Earthquake Data TOOL: ArcVoyager Special Edition GIS - Explore earthquake data and import them into a Geographic Information System (GIS). Analyze the data to predict where the next big earthquake will occur.

Investigating the Precipitation-Streamflow Relationship part of Earth Exploration Toolbook:Investigating the Precipitation-Streamflow Relationship
DATA: Streamflow data, Precipitation data. TOOL: Spreadsheet application. SUMMARY: Produce a graph to compare data from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC).

Analyzing Populations with Maps (Retired) part of Earth Exploration Toolbook:Analyzing Populations
NOTE: This chapter was retired from the EET collection after CIESIN's US-Mexico Demographic Data Viewer became unavailable. The pages are available here for reference. In this chapter, users describe and ...

Mapping Plate Boundaries part of Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience:Interactive Lectures:Examples
Students can discover plate boundaries by plotting different sets of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions on maps. These are then stacked on the overhead projector, outlining the tectonic plates. -

Measuring Distance and Area in Satellite Images part of Earth Exploration Toolbook:Measuring Distance and Area in Satellite Images
DATA: MODIS Imagery. TOOL: ImageJ. SUMMARY: Examine images of the Aral Sea from 1973 through 2003. Use image analysis software to measure changes in the width and area of the freshwater lake over time.

Harker Diagrams part of Integrating Research and Education:EarthChem:Compositional Diversity in Volcanic Suites
Kent Ratajeski Department of Earth Sciences, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT Published Oct. 26, 2004. Description In this exercise, students use whole-rock major- and trace-element compositions of volcanic ...

Crystallization-Differentiation of the Kilauea Iki Lava Lake part of Integrating Research and Education:EarthChem:Kilauea Iki Lava Lake
Kent Ratajeski Department of Earth Sciences, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT Published Oct. 26, 2004. Description In this exercise, students use major-element compositions of whole-rocks, volcanic glasses, ...