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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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Using PhET simulations to replace real equipment in lab Circuit Construction Kit part of Pedagogy in Action:Library:PhET Interactive Science Simulations:Examples
Labs and tutorials that use equipment such as circuits can be modified to use PhET simulations instead. Research shows that substituting the PhET Circuit Construction Kit simulation for real equipment in a variety ...

Writing your own activities - PhET Activity Guidelines part of Pedagogy in Action:Library:PhET Interactive Science Simulations:Examples
You can create your own lectures, homework, and labs around any PhET simulation by using the PhET Activity Guidelines . These guidelines will help you create "guided inquiry activities which encourage students to construct their own understanding," which are the most effective way to use PhET simulations.

Using PhET simulations in high school Open-ended Pendulum Labs part of Pedagogy in Action:Library:PhET Interactive Science Simulations:Examples
These labs provide examples of using very open-ended questions to guide students in exploring a simulation and designing their own experiments. These labs can lead to a high level of quantitative thinking about data analysis.

Using PhET simulations in a large lecture class The Photoelectric Effect part of Pedagogy in Action:Library:PhET Interactive Science Simulations:Examples
This activity provides a complete curriculum for teaching the photoelectric effect using the PhET Photoelectric Effect simulation in a large-lecture modern physics course. It includes links to powerpoint slides for two to three 50-minute lectures using Peer Instruction with clickers, and one homework assignment suitable for an online homework system. Research has demonstrated that students in classes using this curriculum have a better understanding of the photoelectric effect than students in classes using traditional instruction supplemented by a computerized tutor.

Protecting Wetlands from Exurban Development part of Earth Exploration Toolbook:WetlandDev
DATA: Land Use and Land Cover TOOL: My World GIS SUMMARY: Examine land-use changes around Macclenny, Florida. Propose locations for future development that minimize impacts on wetlands.

Investigating Renewable Energy Data from Photovoltaic (PV) Solar Panels part of Earth Exploration Toolbook:Project REDI
DATA: Soltrex Online Data. TOOL: Microsoft Excel. SUMMARY: Examine solar energy generation; explore websites that monitor and report solar energy production from panels at many different locations; and consider how much of a school's or home's energy needs could be supplied by solar power.

Exploring phyllosilicate structures with polyhedral models part of Cutting Edge:Mineralogy:Activities
In this exercise, students build polyhedral models to learn about phyllosilicate structures and how they relate to physical properties. This directed-discovery activity is a very 'hands-on' experience ...

Visualizing Carbon Pathways part of Earth Exploration Toolbook:Carbon
DATA: NASA Satellite Images TOOLS: ImageJ and Image Composite Explorer (ICE) of NASA Earth Observations (NEO). SUMMARY: Build animations of satellite data to illustrate and explore carbon pathways through the Earth system.

Research Experiences in a Mineralogy Class part of Cutting Edge:Undergraduate Research:Case Studies
Dave Mogk, Montana State University Summary One of the goals of my Mineralogy class is to demonstrate how the principles and content covered in class can be applied to questions of geologic interest or that have ...

A Term Research Project Focused on Electron Microprobe Studies of Unknowns in a Junior-Level Mineralogy/Petrology Course part of Cutting Edge:Undergraduate Research:Case Studies
Jeff Ryan, University of South Florida Summary Two students using the FCAEM Electron microprobe via remote operation in Jeff Ryan's GLY 3311C course. DetailsAs the core activity of petrology portion of a ...

Modeling U-Series Concordia/Discordia Using STELLA part of Rates and Time:GSA Activity Posters
U-Series dating techniques are widely used to determine the absolute ages of some of Earth's oldest rocks, but the concordia/discordia diagram can be quite difficult for students to grasp. I have produced a STELLA-based lab exercise to develop students' understanding of this important chronologic technique. Students create models of the two isotopic decay systems and run these models to create the concordia diagram. They then carry out experiments in which they "add" or "remove" varying amounts of lead or uranium in simulation of metamorphism. In the course of the lab, students are introduced to the concepts of exponential decay and secular equilibrium as well as modeling concepts such as the creation of if-then statements.

Cyclostratigraphy and astrochronology exercise part of Cutting Edge:Rates and Time:Teaching Activities
Simple classroom activity to highlight how cyclostratigraphy and concepts of astronchronology can be used to refine age control in sedimentary rocks, estimate rates of processes, and for time control and ...

Pollen and Climate Change part of Earth Exploration Toolbook:Pollen and Climate Change
DATA: Pollen Viewer. TOOLS: Analyzing Digital Images, Spreadsheet. SUMMARY: Study the relationship between climate and the distribution of plants across North America, import data into spreadsheet and graph.

Lahar Risk Assessment part of Integrate:Workshops:Teaching the Methods of Geoscience:Activities
Students act as first responders assessing Lahar risks associated with eruptions. Teacher sets an alert placemark on the Google Earth web browser plug-in and gives students X minutes to decide whether to evacuate a down-slope town. Students collaborate by text messages.

Energy Balance Game part of Integrate:Workshops:Teaching the Methods of Geoscience:Activities
This online game activity introduces students to Earth's radiative energy balance. It also explores the use of a simple climate model in the attribution of climate change.

Investigating Stream Energy and Gradient Using Small Stream Tables part of Integrate:Workshops:Teaching the Methods of Geoscience:Activities
In this Physical Geology lab activity, students investigate the relationship between stream energy and gradient by changing the gradient of a small stream table and observing changes in stream erosion.

Reasons for the Seasons part of Integrate:Workshops:Teaching the Methods of Geoscience:Activities
The inquiry method and meteorological and astronomical online data can be used to elicit the inconsistencies of students' naïve ideas about the "real" reasons for the seasons. The first phase of this two-part investigation uses online meteorological data to identify factors that might explain differences of seasonal temperatures among cities These factors are used to hypothesize why differences of seasonal temperatures occur among cities. During the second phase, the variables and hypotheses that were previously identified in part one are used to design and conduct an inquiry-oriented investigation. Astronomical data is used as part of the investigation to "test" students' hypotheses conclusions are drawn then communicated.

The Use of Cube Puzzle and Toilet Paper Roll Model in Teaching The Nature of Science part of Integrate:Workshops:Teaching the Methods of Geoscience:Activities
This is a hands-on activity in scientific method that uses inexpensive materials such as carton boxes, toilet paper roll tube, strings and toothpicks. It engages the students to conduct pattern observation, prediction, testing and ends up with a model construction. It also encourages thinking outside the box, group discussion and creation of individual cube puzzles.

Transport of heavy metals in the Clark Fork River part of Integrate:Workshops:Teaching the Methods of Geoscience:Activities
This is an activity about transport of sediment contaminated by copper, arsenic, and other heavy metals that was deposited into the Clark Fork River channel as the result of historical mining activity. The Clark Fork River between Butte and Milltown, Montana has been the focus of several large superfund projects designed to address the impacts of this legacy of mining in the watershed. This activity is used in an introductory physical geology lab (primarily non-majors) with students who may have limited experience working with quantitative analysis and analyzing graphs.

An Isograd and Mixed-Volatile Exercise Using Data from the Ubehebe Peak Contact Aureole part of Cutting Edge:Petrology:Teaching Examples
This is a problem set for an introductory or advanced petrology course. It uses field data to help teach the determination and balancing of mixed-volatile reactions and locating isograds in siliceous dolomites in a ...