Initial Publication Date: June 26, 2012

Teaching with Geochemical Data

Element maps showing Ca and Na zonation in plagioclase. Details
Teaching with data offers a great opportunity to relate and apply classroom knowledge to concrete scientific studies, strengthen quantitative and critical thinking skills, as well as to learn about the instrumentation used in geochemistry, including methods, techniques and instrument strengths and limitations. Whether students have access to geochemical instrumentation to gather data themselves or you are interested in using existing data sets, the resources below will get you started.

Geochemical Data Sets and Plotting Programs

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Geochemical Data Plotting Programs

This page offers a collection of commonly used programs to plot data sets in several formats, including general plotting programs, ternary and tetrahedral plotting programs, spider diagrams and other specialized plots, isotopic data plotting programs, and mineral composition plotting programs.

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Teaching Phase Equilibria (part of Integrating Research and Education)

This site contains essential background information needed to understand phase equilibria, links to related resources, examples of worked problems, and teaching activities. It includes a series of "primers" or tutorials that will enable students and other users to appropriately use modern thermodynamic modeling programs as well as descriptions, definitions, and worked examples of standard topics covered in petrology.

EarthChem examples
EarthChem (part of Integrating Research and Education)

This project includes a collection of useful tools and databases as well as example exercises and activities that involve using geochemical data sets.

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Using Data Sheets Collection

A DataSheet concisely describes a particular scientific data set in a way that is useful to educators interested in teaching with the data set. DataSheets highlight the connections between data sets and specific topics in science; they explicate how to acquire the data and include (when available) links to classroom activities that use the data. Using Data in the Classroom module offers many data sets and activities, including, Geology data sources and tools, which can be further refined to include only sheets related to geochemistry or igneous and metamorphic petrology by using the boxes on the right side of the browse page.

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Examples of Using Data to Teach Earth Processes

This is a browsable collection of activities from a GSA session held in 2003. The collection contains examples contributed by scientists and faculty of ways in which exploring or collecting data can be used to engage students in learning geoscience. Each example includes a description of the activity, its learning goals, the context in which it is used, information on the needed data, tools, and activities and suggestions for evaluation.

Geochemical Instrumentation and Analysis

Using geochemical data, instrumentation, and analysis in class or as an independent study is an effective, engaging, and concrete way for students to apply their knowledge to solve a real-world problem while also learning about the scientific process. If time and/or available instrumentation limit your ability to engage students in research, learning about the instruments and techniques still provide students with valuable information about how geochemical data is collected and analyzed. The resources listed below provide further information for incorporating geochemical data into the classroom.

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Geochemical Instrumentation and Analysis (part of Integrating Research and Education)

This module is designed to help novice users understand the basics of geochemical instrumentation and analyses. This module contains a collection of over 25 geochemical instrumentation and analysis "sheets", each of which describe commonly-used instrument/techniques, including information about what the instrument is, what it measures, how it works, and strengths and limitations of the instrument.

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Optimizing Instrumentation in Support of Undergraduate Research (part of the Undergraduate Research module)

This page offers tips on how to conduct research with undergraduate students for both in class and independent study projects, including practical considerations such as benefits and challenges of using instrumentation with undergraduates. The site also provides information on using instrumentation remotely for those who don't have instruments on their campus, and how to afford fees associated with instrument use.

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The Analytical Instrument Registry

This registry hosts a collection of profiles for over 120 instruments from labs across the nation that may be available for you or your students to use to collect geochemical data. Instruments can be sorted by type and each instrument profile includes information regarding where the instrument is located, if visitors are allowed to use the instruments (and if there are educational programs or support for using the instrument), and the fees for using the instrument or having your samples analyzed. If you have an instrument you'd like to add to the collection, please share it using the analytical instrument submission form.