Teaching Notes

Example Output

Example Output
Map and profile data of a section of the Pacific Ocean displayed by GeoMapApp. Click on image for a larger view.

GeoMapApp's Profile tool enables the user to visualize the ridges and trenches on the ocean floor. The white line indicates the section analyzed for the profile. This map created by GeoMapApp displays the profile information in meters for a small section of the Pacific Ocean. Latitude and longitude markings are also shown and depth data is dynamically viewable by moving your cursor while in the GeoMapApp program.

Grade Level

This chapter is appropriate for grades 9 - 16.

Learning Goals

After completing this chapter, students will be able to:


The excitement of scientific discovery is captured in the surprising story of hydrothermal vents and the diverse ecosystem they support in the absence of sunlight. In this chapter, students are guided through their own process of discovery, simulating the past forty years of research at underwater volcanoes along oceanic spreading centers. They use tools and data from the Ridge 2000 Data Portal along with other sources. Students explore the topography and biology of these regions with GeoMapApp, a program developed at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. They investigate, develop, and test hypotheses based upon the observations they collect.

Background Information

Before beginning this chapter, students should be familiar with the basics of plate tectonic theory, and have some knowledge of divergent margins and spreading centers where new ocean crust is forming. As they work through the chapter activities, they will be guided to learn more specific information about the following topics using the Dive and Discover web pages sponsored by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution:

As an introduction to the topic, users may view an 8.5 minute video clip provided by NBC's Today show, documenting a trip that journalist Ann Curry took to the East Pacific Rise in October 2008 aboard the submersible Alvin.

Instructional Strategies

Instructors will want to work through the Case Study and each part of the chapter ahead of time to see what steps might require more guidance for their students. It will be useful for instructors to familiarize themselves with the menu options in GeoMapApp, especially the zoom and profile tools and the data table configuration menu. Since the instructions for GeoMapApp are complex, it is easy to make a mistake and it is easier for an instructor to troubleshoot possible user mistakes when they are familiar with the program themselves. It is also important for instructors to read through the supplemental webpages that provide background information on hydrothermal vents and the ecosystem they support.

The chapter is designed so students can easily repeat the setup steps if they need to quit the GeoMapApp for the end of a class period or if there is a problem in loading or configuring data. At the end of each part, they are directed to save their work before they move on to the next part. At the beginning of each part, they are given an option to reload their data in case they are restarting the program at the beginning of a class period or if the GeoMapApp program needs to be restarted for some reason.

Students can work through the steps of the chapter individually or in small groups. It may be best to have them organized into groups of two or three, so they can share ideas and provide help with following the steps as needed. Instructors are encouraged to move between groups frequently, checking on student progress and providing assistance as needed to avoid long periods of downtime or misdirected work. If possible, organize the classroom so the instructor views most or all of the computer screens at the same time.

The Going Further section describes several opportunities for further exploration by students who are interested in an independent research project for a science fair or extra credit.

Learning Contexts

The material and activities explored in this chapter would be suitable for a high school earth science or college-level introductory geology or oceanography class. The chapter could be used in conjunction with a unit on plate tectonics, volcanoes, or marine ecosystems.

Science Standards

The following National Science Education Standards are supported by this chapter:

Grades 9-12

Geography Standards

The following U.S. National Geography Standards are supported by this chapter:

Time Required

This chapter will require three to four class periods of 45-60 minutes each.

Lesson plan outline:

1. Briefly introduce the topic beforehand by showing the NBC video of Ann Curry's trip in Alvin to the East Pacific Rise.

2. Assign the Case Study as reading homework, making printed copies available for those students who do not have computer access at home. Encourage students to explore the additional resources that describe the first discovery of life at hydrothermal vents in 1977 and 1979.

3. For the first day of the activity, students should be able to work through Parts 1 and 2, depending on the length of class period available.

4. On the second day of the activity, students will work through the observations and images in Part 3, and may have time to continue on to Part 4, depending on the length of class period available.

5. On the third day of the activity, students should be able to work through the example hypothesis in Part 4, as well as two or three of the working hypotheses. Instructors may wish to split up the working hypotheses between groups, so that each group tests one of the hypotheses and reports back to the class on their findings. Instructors are encouraged to assist students in developing their own hypotheses for testing to conclude the chapter.

Sample Results that can serve as an Answer Key

Students will generate a variety of products as they work through each part of the chapter.

Part 1. Getting Started with GeoMapApp

Part 1 Sample Product

Part 2. Explore bathymetry data from the East Pacific Rise

Topographic profile of East Pacific Rise

Part 2 Sample Product

Part 3. Observe life in the extreme environment of the East Pacific Rise

Part 3 Sample Product

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