Formation and preservation of raindrop imprints

Carol Mankiewicz
Beloit College
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Students design an experiment to investigate the formation and/or preservation of raindrop imprints. Students experience working in groups, designing an experiment, collecting data, and presenting data both orally and in writing.

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This exercise is used in an elective undergraduate course in sedimentary geology. Students typically take the course in their junior or senior year.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Controls on grain size, interpretation of sedimentary structures, basic understanding of the scientific method

How the activity is situated in the course

This exercise follows (1) lecture, lab, and field work concerning how grain size reflects the physical environment and transportation mechanisms and (2) lab and field interpretation of sedimentary structures.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Interpretation of sedimentary structures

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Students better appreciate the variety of variables that can alter formation and preservation of a sedimentary structure. In designing their experiment they must decide how to deal with the many variables by forming a testable hypothesis and by synthesizing information on grain size and sedimentary structures previously covered in the class.

Other skills goals for this activity

Working in groups. Deciding how best to present data. Oral presentation. Writing.

Description of the activity/assignment

Students work in groups to study some aspect of formation and/or preservation of raindrop imprints. They start by generating a list of variables that might affect formation or preservation of this sedimentary structure. Using this list, they propose testable hypotheses and then focus their study on one hypothesis. They collect materials needed to carry out their study and then do it. They need to document what they did and how they did it. The groups present their study to the class orally and in writing.

Determining whether students have met the goals

The evaluation is mainly based on the written report. The introduction needs to include a discussion of the importance of their study and the hypothesis to be tested. The methods must be clear and easily reproduced. The results should be clearly presented. The discussion should tie to the results and hypothesis; they should revisit the importance of the study.

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Teaching materials and tips

Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

Pardi, R.R., and Brickner, D., 1990, Modern and fossil raindrop impressions as a lesson in interpretation of ancient sedimentary features: Journal of Geoscience Education, v. 38, p. 316-317.