Tombstone Weathering Lab
Alison M Anders
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process.
This review took place as a part of a faculty professional development workshop where groups of faculty reviewed each others' activities and offered feedback and ideas for improvements. To learn more about the process On the Cutting Edge uses for activity review, see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.
This page first made public: May 2, 2008
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During a field trip to a cemetery students collect data on the weathering of tombstones. They graph the data and make hypotheses about factors other than age that contribute to the different degrees of weathering observed.
Mixed undergraduate/graduate course in geomorphology with students from geology, natural resources, and geotechnical engineering.
Skills and concepts that students must have mastered
Basic controls on physical and chemical weathering rates.
Ability to recognize sandstone
How the activity is situated in the course
This is the second lab in the semester - very early in the class
Content/concepts goals for this activity
measuring with calipers
qualitative evaluation of weathering
Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
interpretation of results/dealing with scatter in data
generation of a hypothesis
Other skills goals for this activity
working as a team
producing a scatter plot
Description of the activity/assignment
Students work in groups in a cemetery to collect a quantitative and a qualitative measure of the extent of weathering of tombstones and their ages. The data are shared between all students, graphed as scatter plots, and the rate of weathering is estimated. Students write about and then discuss the results, the difference between the quantitative and qualitative measures, and speculate on factors in addition to time that may be important for weathering rate. The exercise ends with each students writing a hypothesis about a factor that influences weathering rate and describing a research project that could test that hypothesis. This activity is aimed at developing an understanding of the scatter in "real data", allowing for practice of team work, and hypothesis generation and testing.
Designed for a geomorphology course
Has minimal/no quantitative component
Determining whether students have met the goals
Students keep a research notebook in which they record both the data and written responses to questions during and after the activity.
More information about assessment tools and techniques.
Download teaching materials and tips
The website http://www.envf.port.ac.uk/geo/inkpenr/graveweb/methods.htm
describes several methods of estimating weathering from tombstones.