MnSTEP Teaching Activity Collection > MnSTEP Activities > GeoGlitz: An Intensive Geological Survey of the Land at a Specific Location

GeoGlitz: An Intensive Geological Survey of the Land at a Specific Location

Jill Baumtrog
Wayzata Central Middle School
Plymouth, MN
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Please Note: This activity can be applied to several different disciplines. Biology, Ecology, Geology, and even Physics are a few of the possibilities for which this idea is applicable. The process is the same, but the content and terminology are different.

In this geology field lab, students investigate the surrounding land by working in small groups. Students survey the land and look for items based on several specific categories. Similar to a BioBlitz (an intensive 24 hour survey to find all the plants and animals at a specific location), students are looking for as many different features as possible. Unlike the BioBlitz, however, in GeoGlitz the students are looking for non-living features of the land. In addition, this activity does not need a 24 hour period, whereas BioBlitz does due to the variety of species that emerge at different times of the day. The basic idea is that different groups of students walk different transects or areas of land, and identify features that the instructor wishes for them to identify. It can be modified for content due to different school locations (for examples, mountains or other glacial features could be added or subtracted based on geographical location). Additionally, it can be modified for content due to instructional focus or purpose during a specific unit.

Learning Goals

GeoGlitz is designed for students to achieve the following goals. Students will:
1. observe physical characteristics of the local area.
2. classify features and items found using a key.
3. determine the geologic history of an area.

Key concepts should be determined by the teacher. They will vary based on the items the teacher instructs students to identify. The key concepts listed below are possibilities; they may be removed or others may be added to suit the needs of the situation.
1. Rocks are one of three types: igneous, metamorphic, or sedimentary. This is determined by a variety of characteristics.
2. Rivers that bend with S-shaped curves and have single channels are meandering rivers. Rivers that generally flow straight and have multiple channels are braided rivers.
3. Weathering can occur on the landforms, rocks, sidewalks, buildings, and other outdoor items. If the weathering does not change the chemical makeup of the item, it is mechanical weathering. If the weathering alters the chemistry of an item, it is chemical weathering.
4. A mineral is a naturally occurring, inorganic solid that has a crystal structure and a definite chemical composition.

Vocabulary Words
1. Erosion
2. Mineral
3. Weathering

Context for Use

This activity is appropriate for any Earth Science class, middle school or high school. A normal class size of 25-30 students would work with 4-5 students in each group. This is a field exercise that is performed outdoors and can be right outside the school, or it can be taken further to an area of extreme geological interest. This activity could last one class period to collect the data (or more) and one day to process the data (or more). It depends on the extent of data the students are instructed to collect. Ideally, handheld GPS devices would be used to mark latitude, longitude, and elevation. A map of the area would also be helpful for students to make notations on when gathering data. All of the items that the students are identifying in the field need to be covered prior to the GeoGlitz. They should have mastered identifying those items in the classroom via pictures, samples, or textbook before seeing it in real life. This activity is very similar in structure to the BioBlitz.

Subject: Geoscience
Resource Type: Activities:Field Activity
Special Interest: Field-Based Teaching and Learning
Grade Level: High School (9-12), Middle (6-8)
Theme: Teach the Earth:Teaching Environments:K12, Teach the Earth:Enhancing your Teaching:Teaching in the Field

Description and Teaching Materials

See the Introduction, Materials, and Content for GeoGlitz below.
This activity should be used as an assessment or a review or a project to provide closure for major geological concepts. Introduce the GeoGlitz as an activity for students to try field based inquiry techniques to identify local features of the area. By piecing the geology of the area together, students will be able to predict and construct a geological history of the area. Students will be working in groups of 4-5 and will cover a specific transect of the local area. They will map their findings and record their data on a spreadsheet provided by the instructor.
- Local map of the designated area (if possible a topo map, otherwise a hand drawn map to relative scale would suffice)
- Rock Identification Key or book
- Mineral Identification Key or book
- Data Sheet (with required items listed and places to record findings)
- GPS unit (optional, but handy)
- Digital cameras (optional, but handy)

Content for GeoGlitz
Students will identify the following items. This list should be made into a data collection grid. Items may be added or removed depending on content the instructor wishes to cover or depending on the local geological area. Some items include but are not limited to:
1. Rocks
a. Igneous
i. Names, Examples
b. Metamorphic
i. Names, Examples
c. Sedimentary
i. Names, Examples
2. Minerals
a. Pure minerals
b. Minerals in rocks
3. Landforms
a. Rivers
i. Meandering
ii. Braided
b. Glacial
i. Drumlins
ii. Eskers
iii. Moraines
c. Lakes
4. Weathering
a. Chemical
i. Action of Water
ii. Oxygen
iii. Carbon Dioxide
iv. Living Organisms
v. Acid Rain
b. Mechanical
i. Animal Action
ii. Freeze Thaw
iii. Release of Pressure
iv. Plant Growth
v. Abrasion
5. Erosion
a. Mudflow
b. Landslide
c. Creep
d. Slump
6. Climate Region
a. Continental or Marine
b. Tropical or Polar
7. GPS Information
a. Elevation
b. Latitude
c. Longitude
GeoGlitz Spreadsheet (sample) (Microsoft Word 33kB Aug6 08)

Teaching Notes and Tips

All groups need to have multiple copies of keys or books to identify items. Mineral and rock identification may be difficult; it would be beneficial to have mineral identification kits available (streak plates, glass, pennies, nails, etc). Students need to know how to operate a GPS device (if used) prior to the GeoGlitz. It is recommended that they use them in another context prior to the activity so it does not distract from identification. Groups should be fully informed of time limits, boundary constraints and routes, and any special mapping that they may need to do. Depending on the location selected, other items for identification may include: evidence of earthquakes, fault lines, mountains, glacial evidence (arête, horn, cirque, etc), volcano types, and more. Digital cameras are an excellent way to also record information visually. Having a digital camera available for each group would be a great way to document geologic features in an area.


Students successfully achieve the goals if the data collection is filled with accurate information. The data sheet represents their field work. It is up to the instructor to determine what other assessment or conclusions the students may do to summarize their findings. A journal entry, a lab report, or a PowerPoint presentation would all be ways for students to summarize their findings and determine the geological history of the area. Additionally, the students could report their findings back to the class collectively. Using all the data, the students could determine the geologic history as a class or as individuals. The data collection sheet can be created in any format that suits the instructor. A simple grid created in a word document with the required item listed may be sufficient.


B. Scientific Inquiry
The student will understand that scientific inquiry is used by scientists to investigate the natural world in systematic ways.
1. The student will know that scientific investigations involve the common elements of systematic observations, the careful collection of relevant evidence, logical reasoning and innovation in developing hypotheses and explanations.

A. Earth Structure and Processes
The student will identify Earth's composition, structure and processes.
2. The student will describe how features on the Earth's surface are created and constantly changing through a combination of slow and rapid processes of weathering, erosion, sediment deposition, landslides, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.
3. The student will describe the various processes and interactions of the rock cycle.
4. The student will interpret successive layers of sedimentary rocks and their fossils to document the age and history of the Earth.
5. The student will recognize that constructive and destructive Earth processes can affect the evidence of Earth's history.
6. The student will classify and identify rocks and minerals using characteristics including but not limited to density, hardness and streak.

References and Resources