Skill Building: Physical Science Concepts

Survey Mark Hunting

Geodesy is the science that measures and represents the size and shape of Earth. In the United States, survey reference points are developed and maintained by NOAA’s National Geodetic Survey (NGS). In this activity, you will find data on the location and description of survey marks in your area and—if you like—search for them through a variation of geocaching.

Take the Pulse of Your Classroom

The following activity can leverage SeisMac technology to help students understand how a seismometer records ground motions.

Texas Rocks

Geologic maps can tell you a lot about the rocks beneath your feet. You can use the legend with the map to figure out what rock types are in various geographic areas. The legend can also tell you in what geologic period those rocks formed. Geologists use such maps to help identify where natural resources are and where natural hazards are likely to occur. They are also critically useful in other ways, such as in making wise land use decisions.

The EarthTrek Gravestone Project

The Gravestone Project, part of the global citizen science program called EarthTrek (, is seeking volunteers to visit cemeteries around the world and collect scientific data on how marble gravestones are weathering.

The Great Ocean Conveyor

Learn about ocean currents and systems in this activity from NOAA.

The Slope of Land in Your Community

The slope of the land and the materials under ground must be considered when planning how to build on the land in a community to lessen landslide risk. Changing the slope of the land (or even the amount of vegetation on a slope) can have dangerous consequences. This activity will introduce you into thinking critically about the land in your area!

Third From the Sun

In 1972, NASA launched a special satellite called Landsat that contained a new camera designed to take pictures of the Earth. Why was this satellite so incredible? Well, it could take a series of pictures of almost the entire Earth over and over again, season after season, month after month, year after year. You will be seeing Landsat images in this activity and learn how to interpret them.

Traveling Nitrogen

Nitrogen is an element that is found both in living things and the nonliving parts of the Earth system. In this classroom activity, students play the role of nitrogen atoms traveling through the nitrogen cycle to gain understanding of the varied pathways through the cycle and how nitrogen is relevant to living things.

Watch Out for Landslides

Landslides not only are dangerous — causing on average more than 25 deaths and over $1 billion in damages a year — but are also widespread, occurring in all 50 states. Compounding the hazards, these natural disasters often occur along with other similar natural phenomena, such as floods or earthquakes. To minimize risk, the slope of land and materials underground must be considered when planning how to build in a community. Altering the slope of land, or even the amount of vegetation on a slope, can have dangerous consequences.

What's Down There?

To learn about sedimentary rock layers that we cannot see, geoscientists drill and bring up core samples of rock layers. Information from core samples, combined with that from other imaging techniques, allows geoscientists to map the depth and thickness of sedimentary rock layers below the surface. This activity will help you understand what's beneath the Earth's surface.


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