Spatial Thinking Workbook > Teaching Activities

Teaching Activities

The activities in this collection are designed to help undergraduate geoscience students develop their spatial visualization skills, and particularly their penetrative thinking skills: the ability to visualize spatial relations inside an object. Collectively, these exercises are the Spatial Thinking Workbook.

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Spatial Thinking: Instructional Strategies

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Linear and Planar Features
Students gesture the orientations of linear and planar features. In the first part of the exercise, students can only see one surface of a wooden block, and are asked to speculate about how planar features penetrate through the interior. Later, they uncover the other faces of the block and gesture the actual orientations.

Fault Separation
Students use gestures to explore the relationship between fault slip direction and fault separation by varying the geometry of faulted layers, slip direction, and the perspective from which these are viewed.

Contractional Strain
Students use gesture to describe the bulk deformation and local deformation apparent in images of a contractional analog experiment. Students then calculate bulk shortening and bulk thickening for the experiment and describe the structures accommodating that strain.

Miller Indices
Students use one hand to gesture crystallographic axes and the other hand to represent planes designated by Miller Indices.

Primary Structures and Rotation
Students gesture the orientations of cross-bedded sandstones, and in particular the relationship between a single cross bed and the bed sets. They do this for photos of undeformed and deformed cross-bedding.

Restraining Bends and Releasing Bends
In this exercise, students use gestures to re-create the motion of fault blocks adjacent to restraining bends and releasing bends. They then answer a few questions about a map view of the San Andreas Fault and two of its bends.

Folds and Cleavage
In this exercise, students explore the geometric relationship between bedding/cleavage intersections and fold axes for axial planar, fanning, and transecting cleavage.

Deformation Mechanisms and Microstructures
In this exercise, students match microstructures to the deformation mechanisms by which they form; compare pairs of photomicrographs chosen to highlight key differences between some common microstructures; and complete a self-quiz in which they identify microstructures and infer deformation mechanisms from photomicrographs.

Slices Through 3D Objects
In this exercise, students identify and draw slices through an ice cream cone, a pyramid, and a beverage six-pack.

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