Burning Issues

Students will become familiar with fire terminology, realize how fire can be used as a management tool, and better understand the factors that need to be considered when planning a prescribed burn.

Chemistry of Burning

Why is CO2 increasing in the atmosphere? Who is doing it? Many people think that CO2 is “pollution,” so that clean burning should be a way to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions. In this demonstration, we review basic chemistry (see illustration) to realize that producing CO2 is an inevitable product of burning any fossil fuel.

Core Sampling

Drilling is the only way to be sure that oil and gas fields exist and exactly what is present in the formation. Core samples reveal the physical and chemical nature of the rock. In this activity, you will create a model formation and “drill” for samples.

Cupcake Core Sampling

Trying to "see" what is beneath the surface of the Earth is one of the jobs of a geologist. Rather than digging up vast tracts of land to expose an oil field or to find some coal-bearing strata, core samples can be taken and analyzed to determine the likely composition of the Earth's interior. In this activity, students model core sampling techniques to find out what sort of layers are in a cupcake.

Earth's Energy Budget

2 pages. Infographic highlighting the major sources providing energy to the earth's surface. More detailed information is provided on the next page.

Energy and Population

Just as your GPS helps you make sure you’re getting from point “a” to point “b” correctly, maps help scientists draw important conclusions and visualize important concepts they study. The right map can help a petroleum engineer find the best drilling site, or help a meteorologist make the best prediction. This interactive mapping activity will help you understand the relationship between the population of a given state and the amount of energy consumed there.

Energy Efficiency

Even in an area with an extreme climate, the ground maintains a relatively constant temperature. Because of this, a house that is built partly or entirely underground can be more energy-efficient than a home above ground. During the winter, the ground is warmer than the air. During the summer, it is cooler. Any large mass of earth tends to maintain a constant temperature. You can see for yourself how this works by testing how long it takes for a thermometer buried in sand or soil to reach the temperature of surrounding air.

Exploring for Petroleum - Modeling an Oil Reserve

Doing this investigation will help you understand how geoscientists identify and explore petroleum-rich reserves.

Getting the Oil Out

Learn how oil rigs work in this activity from the Society of Petroleum Engineers.

Greenhouse in a Beaker

Carbon is naturally found in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide, or CO2, itself is not considered a pollutant. The CO2 being released from burning fossil fuels was part of the atmosphere hundreds of millions of years ago before being captured by plants and sea organisms.


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