Human Impacts

Reclaiming a Mine Site

Mined land is reclaimed for future use. The objective of this activity is to investigate how plants will grow on a reclaimed landscape. Over a period of days, you will learn how overburden is incorporated into the landscape after it has been removed during the mining process.Before beginning, discuss vocabulary terms: overburden, stockpile, grading, soil types, seeding, stability, seed germination, nutrients, closure planning, and reclamation.

Sea Level and the Terrapin

This activity from the Environmental Protection Agency will give children the opportunity to see how changes in sea level effect coastlines, animal life, and community development.

Seismic Calendar

This activity allows you to investigate how often earthquakes of various magnitudes happen within a geographic region of your choice. You will use the online resources of the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) to do the investigation. These resources are available at

Seismic Mapping

Scientists use seismic technology to map patterns of rock formations below the surface of the Earth. Different types of rocks affect sound waves. Geologists use these sound waves to locate rocks that may contain oil and/or natural gas. You can explore this principle with a tuning fork and various rocks. Gently strike a fork against the rocks. Note variations in sounds produced by different rocks. How could scientists use this information to help map the rock layers underground? In the following activity, you will explore one way scientists find oil beneath the Earth’s surface.

Temperature and Precipitation Connections

No matter where we are on Earth, we can observe changes in vegetation. Some changes are drastic, such as going from dormant to full growth during a temperate winter.

Vegetative growth is dependent on both surface temperature (which influences soil temperature) and precipitation (which influences soil moisture). Together these environmental variables help determine the beginning, duration, and end of the growing season; the latter marked by leaf senescence, when leaves of deciduous trees die and turn colors.

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!

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.

Visualizing terrain with maps

Traditional geologic maps — sometimes crisscrossed with lines, blotted with colors, and marked with strike and dip symbols — have been used to depict the geologic makeup of the Earth for many years. New technologies such as satellite-enabled remote sensing are allowing geoscientists to create and use maps of greater richness and complexity than ever before.

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!

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.


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