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Parks Past, Present, and Future

Over Earth’s 4.5 billion-year history, tectonic upheavals and colliding plates formed mountain ranges and carved out basins. Forces of erosion and weathering have been at work to break down these landforms. Records of these processes are imprinted on the land and define distinctive landscapes around the United States and in its national parks.

Products from Petroleum

Where would we be without petroleum? You can kiss lipstick goodbye!

Not only does petroleum provide fuel to run our vehicles, cook our food, heat our homes, and generate electricity, it is also used in plastics, medicines, food items, and countless other products, from aspirin to umbrellas and, yes — lipstick! We use many oil products as synthetic alternatives to natural materials, including synthetic rubber instead of natural rubber, and detergent instead of soap. Oil also gives us entirely new, unique materials such as nylon.

Rock Around the World

Scientists need your help. Those studying Mars are asking students from around the world to help them understand "the red planet." Send in a rock collected by you or your classroom from your region of the world, and NASA scientists will use a special tool like the one on the Mars Rover to tell you what it's made of. Then everyone can compare their rocks to the ones found on Mars.

Rock Art in the National Parks

Human beings have been linked to earth materials since prehistoric times. They used caves for shelter, shaped rocks into stone implements, and later refined metals to make tools. Beyond practical purposes, Earth materials also were used to make pigments for paint. Rock walls became canvases where ancient artists expressed themselves. In this exercise, we will explore the link between Earth materials and art.

Sky and Cloud Windows

In this activity, students will conduct experiments or participate in demonstrations to answer questions about sky and weather phenomena. Students also will analyze and present data.

Soil Moisture

Where is the water in soil? Solids, liquids, and gasses, the three phases of matter, are always present in soil. Small mineral and organic particles comprise the solid fraction, and there are spaces (pores) between the solid particles. Some pores are large, and others are very small. Air and water, the gas and liquid phases, exist in the pores. The size of the soil particles and pores affects how much water a soil can hold, and how that water moves through the soil.

Splish Splash

Crucial to our existence, water sustains all life on Earth. Following the old adage, "What goes around comes around," water moves continuously through the stages of the hydrologic cycle (evaporation, condensation, and precipitation). How does our drinking water fit into this hydrologic cycle? Where did the water we drink fall as precipitation? Did this water percolate down into the ground as part of a groundwater system, or did it remain on the surface as part of a surface water system? What path did this water follow in order to become our drinking water? This lesson will explore the hydrologic cycle and water's journey to our glass.

Step by Step Weather Observations

As a citizen scientist, you can take your own air temperatures with an outdoor thermometer and compare your readings to the official ones from the National Weather Service. It is important that you follow the correct procedures, however, for placing your thermometer. This activity will help you to do that, as well as find out what the normal yearly average temperature is for each day.

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.

Wash This Way!

People interact with Earth’s water (hydrosphere) in a variety of ways. We depend upon water for survival, but we also need it to keep clean and help avoid spreading disease. On our ever-changing Earth, the supply of fresh water can be limited for some humans. We need good techniques to make the best use of the fresh water we do have. For example, when you wash your hands, how do you do it? With soap and water? With water alone? Do you scrub your hands or simply rinse them under the faucet? Does it even matter? Yes, it does!

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