Skill Building: Physical Science Concepts

Exploring Porosity

Earth scientists play a vital role in harvesting the energy resources on which we all rely. When preparing to drill for oil, for example, geoscientists must assess many aspects of a rock stratum (layer). For example, they must figure out the volume of the rock’s pores, or empty spaces, as compared with the rock’s total volume. This is called the rock’s porosity. To help you understand porosity, think about different sizes of gravel. Which size gravel will have the greatest porosity? Why? In this activity, you will work in groups to explore the answers to these questions.

Finding Slope

Explore how the slope of land will effect water flow and life above ground in this activity from the Soil Science Society of America.


Learn the dangers of flooding in this activity, where students explore soil porosity and permeability.

Food Source

How diverse are the food sources in your community and where are they located? How far do they travel to reach you? Do you think the food sources for your community are sustainable? This multi-day activity explores these questions.

Fossil Formation

Have you ever seen a fossil? A fossil is any evidence of past life preserved in sediments or rocks. Do you think you could have dinosaur fossils in your family car’s gas tank? Did you ever hear that oil and natural gas are “fossil fuels”? Do you think oil and natural gas can be made from fossils? How long do you think it takes fossil fuel to form?

Geography of a Pencil

How is the world connected to the pencil you hold in your hand? Complete this activity to find out.

Geoheritage Via Google Street View

Google’s Street View is a rich resource for exploring geoheritage, since it visually transports us to many impressive sites across the country and around the world. Street View allows you to investigate a site, even one you don’t know well, which can lead to important insights. Of course, the real power and fun of Street View is that it allows you to explore by moving your visual perspective around the image.

Geologic Age

This activity will have students collect data, graph it, and compare the information to what they already know about radioactive elements and dating the planet's age.

Geologic Time Scale Analogy

Unraveling time and the Earth's biologic history are arguably geology's most important contributions to humanity. Yet it is very difficult for humans to appreciate time beyond that of one or two generations, much less hundreds, thousands, millions and billions of years. Perhaps we can only hope that students catch glimpses of our rich geologic heritage, particularly when most of our teaching is done in a classroom and not in a field setting. This exercise begins to make time more "three dimensional" and most importantly, students gain a better appreciation for geologic time and our Earth's history.

Glacier Slide

Glaciers can create lakes, valleys and areas known as kettle marshes. Their weight and movement are the tools a glacier uses to shape the landscape. Use this experiment to look at small "glaciers" and how they shape the landscape around them.


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