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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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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.

Reasons for the Seasons
Jeff Thomas, Central Connecticut State University
The inquiry method and meteorological and astronomical online data can be used to elicit the inconsistencies of students' naïve ideas about the "real" reasons for the seasons. The first phase of this two-part investigation uses online meteorological data to identify factors that might explain differences of seasonal temperatures among cities These factors are used to hypothesize why differences of seasonal temperatures occur among cities. During the second phase, the variables and hypotheses that were previously identified in part one are used to design and conduct an inquiry-oriented investigation. Astronomical data is used as part of the investigation to "test" students' hypotheses— conclusions are drawn then communicated.

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.

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.

Energy Balance Game
Bob Mackay, Clark College
This online game activity introduces students to Earth's radiative energy balance. It also explores the use of a simple climate model in the attribution of climate change.

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