Fun with Foam: Introduction to Strike and Dip

Angela Moore
Guilford College
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This is a hands-on activity designed to help students better visualize and become more familiar with the strike and dip of deformed beds.

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This activity can be used in introductory physical and historical geology courses, and can also be implemented as a fun 'refresher' in a structural geology course.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students should be introduced to the concept that rocks can be deformed (tilted and folded), and should have a refresher on the compass directions.

How the activity is situated in the course

This exercise is used as a short group exercise in a classroom lecture setting, prior to the laboratory on basic structural geology.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Understanding and visualizing strike and dip of sedimentary layers

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity


Other skills goals for this activity


Description of the activity/assignment

Before this exercise, student should be briefly introduced to the concept that rocks can be deformed. I will usually show relevant images from the textbook regarding strike, dip, and basic fold geometry. In addition, I spend some time reviewing compass directions, and how to describe the orientation of a line. After the introduction, each student (or pair of students) is given a flexible piece of foam which is treated as an analog for a sedimentary bed. Students are asked to place their foam into the proper orientation, given the strike and dip measurements. Students are encouraged to help one another as the tasks become more complex.

Determining whether students have met the goals

I do not use a formal assessment, but the foam provides a strong visual cue to indicate which students would benefit from additional time at the beginning of the laboratory on structural geology and folds.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Teaching materials and tips

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