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Activity descriptions for teaching geoscientific thinking

These activity descriptions were submitted by faculty in preparation for the Teaching the Methods of Geoscience workshop in June 2012. In some cases, participants submitted a supplement calling out the ways in which the activities explicitly addressed teaching geoscientific thinking for a course they had previously submitted.

If you would like to add to this collection by contributing an activity, please fill out the Activity Submission Form or the Activity Supplement Form if you wish to supplement an activity you have previously submitted.


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Collaborative Research Project: Geoscience Undergraduate Curricula
Barbara Bekken, Virginia Tech
Collaborative research project in which undergraduate geoscience curricula at Research 1 institutions are compared. This project uses the methods of science to explore a topic that beginning students can understand. This project uses rubrics for self, peer, and instructor assessment.

Lahar Risk Assessment
Declan De Paor, Old Dominion University
Students act as first responders assessing Lahar risks associated with eruptions. Teacher sets an alert placemark on the Google Earth web browser plug-in and gives students X minutes to decide whether to evacuate a down-slope town. Students collaborate by text messages.

Exploring Evidence of Plate Tectonics Using GeoMapApp
Sean Cornell, Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania
This activity requires students to explore a range of datasets that help substantiate Plate Tectonic Theory. Students investigate plate tectonic environments (convergent, divergent, transform boundaries), topography/bathymetry of continents and ocean basins, the distribution and pattern of earthquakes, the distribution of volcanoes, as well as ages of the sea-floor, and more.

Sea Floor Magnetism
Kyle Gray, University of Northern Iowa
Students use compasses and bar magnets to simulate the collection of sea floor magnetic polarity data. Even though the students do not directly observe the magnets, they use the information to infer tectonic processes present at the mid-ocean ridges and calculate the spreading rates for two different ridges.

Exploring Earth Systems Science: The Interactive GLOBE Earth System Poster
Amy Ellwein, Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory

The "What is Science?" Box
Jennifer Anderson, Winona State University
A group of 3-4 students are presented with a box that has writing on the five visible sides and asked to determine what is on the bottom of the box. In solving this problem, students are using the same techniques that scientists use to learn about nature.

Exploring the nature of geoscience using cartoon cards
Anne Egger, Central Washington University
In this activity, students work in groups to put a set of cartoon cards in order, much in the way that we might assemble a geologic history. The primary goal of the activity is to explore the nature of science in general and the nature of geoscience or historical science specifically, without requiring any content knowledge.

Transport of heavy metals in the Clark Fork River
Kathleen Harper, University of Montana-Missoula, The
This is an activity about transport of sediment contaminated by copper, arsenic, and other heavy metals that was deposited into the Clark Fork River channel as the result of historical mining activity. The Clark Fork River between Butte and Milltown, Montana has been the focus of several large superfund projects designed to address the impacts of this legacy of mining in the watershed. This activity is used in an introductory physical geology lab (primarily non-majors) with students who may have limited experience working with quantitative analysis and analyzing graphs.

Measuring the Campus Green
Paul Vincent, Valdosta State University
Students use basic tools to measure the size of one-quarter acre.

Riparian Plant Lab
Julie Stoughton, University of Nevada-Reno
In this field exercise for an introductory environmental science course, students investigate plant cover and type in a riparian area using transects. The final assignment is a lab report that includes a summary data table, a graph of cover types along their transect and an analysis of riparian health.

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