A Model of Three Faults

A Model of Three Faults Activity Source: Adapted from the USGS Learning Web Lesson Plans Background One of the most frightening and destructive phenomena of nature is a severe earthquake and its terrible aftereffects. An earthquake is a sudden movement of the Earth, caused by the abrupt release of strain that has accumulated over a long time. For hundreds of millions of years, the forces of plate tectonics have shaped the Earth as the huge plates that form the Earth’s surface slowly move over, under and past each other. [Read More]

Chocolate Rock Cycle

Chocolate Rock Cycle Activity Source: The Geological Society of London. Adapted with permission. How sweet is this activity? It’s an introduction to the rock cycle using chocolate! Chocolate can be ground into small particles (weathered), heated, cooled, and compressed — just like rocks. Unlike rocks, chocolate can undergo these processes safely and at reasonable temperatures. Use your chocolate to create “sedimentary,” “metamorphic,” and “igneous” chocolate. And at the end of it all, make a tasty treat! [Read More]

Core Sampling

Core Sampling Activity Source: Society of Petroleum Engineers. Adapted with permission. Core samples are small portions of a formation taken from an existing well and used for geologic analysis. The sample is analyzed to determine porosity, permeability, fluid content, geologic age, and probable productivity of oil from the site. Drilling is the only way to be sure that oil and gas fields exist and exactly what is present in the formation. [Read More]

Critical Zone

Critical Zone Activity Source: Critical Zone Observatories The Critical Zone (CZ) is defined as the zone at Earth’s land surface extending from the top of the vegetation canopy through soil to subsurface depths at which fresh groundwater freely circulates. This is the zone where most terrestrial life — including humanity — resides. The U.S. Critical Zone Observatories (CZOs) provide important platforms for studying processes occurring in this zone. The CZOs aim to advance interdisciplinary studies of Earth surface processes, partly to recognize and predict variations in processes resulting from humans’ land use and climate change. [Read More]


EarthCaching Activity Source: Geological Society of America. Adapted with permission. EarthCaching is an exciting educational activity through which you can learn about Earth and the natural processes that shape our planet over time. By combining GPS technology with outdoor field experiences, EarthCaching allows students and others to experience the wonders of Earth in an entirely new and entertaining way. Information about EarthCaching for educators can be found at http://www.geosociety.org/GSA/Education_Careers/Field_Experiences/EarthCache/GSA/fieldexp/EarthCache/teachers.aspx. There is a free Educator’s Guide that includes lessons and correlations to the National Science Education Standards and National Geography Education Standards. [Read More]

Earthquake Machine

Earthquake Machine Activity Source: Incorporated Research Institutions in Seismology, 2005. Adapted with permission. Materials: 1 - One foot piece of 2x4 scrap wood 1 - 4"x36" Sanding Belt, 50 Grit 1 - 1/3 Sheet of Sandpaper, 60 Grit 2 - Screw Eye 12x1-3/16 1 - Bag of Rubber bands, varying size 16 in of Duct Tape 2 - Cloth measuring tapes with both English and metric markings 1 - Manila Folder Saw Needle Nose Pliers Scissors Glue (White or Contact Cement) Pencil Procedure: Using the tape measure and pencil, divide the one-foot length of 2" x 4" into two 4" blocks. [Read More]

Earthquake on the Playground

Earthquake on the Playground Activity Source: Adapted with permission from L.W. Braile and S.J. Braile and the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS). Push away from those paper seismograms and get outside to make your own earthquake waves! You’re going to learn about earthquake location kinesthetically. In the activity below, you will model how earthquake waves travel through the Earth at different speeds. You also will construct and utilize a graph to characterize the relationship between distance and time of travel of seismic waves (a travel-time curve). [Read More]

Exploring 'Wild' Places with GIS

Exploring ‘Wild’ Places with GIS Activity Source: ESRI, 2008. Adapted with permission. Does your neighborhood have “wild” places? What’s “wild”? What’s the personality of the environment between home and school? What’s there? How do you relate to it? How does your perspective of local geography change between being on the ground and exploring from above? Regardless of where you live, engaging with the landscape means exploring spatial relationships between human and natural phenomena. [Read More]

Find Your Park

Find Your Park Activity Source: Adapted with permission by National Park Service. A park can be many different things to many different people. For many people, Canyonlands National Park is a favorite showcase of geology. In each of the park’s districts, you can see the remarkable effects of millions of years of erosion on a landscape of sedimentary rock. The Green River has carved a channel out of rock layers deposited nearly 300 million years ago creating an open book for earth science enthusiast of all ages. [Read More]

Finding Slope

Finding Slope Activity Source: Soil Science Society of America. H.M. Galloway, A.L. Zachery, Agronomy Department, Purdue University, Revised by S.S. Fulk-Bringman. Adapted with permission. Earth scientists play an important, if largely invisible, role in many aspects of our daily lives, such as building homes or growing food. For example, geoscientists help determine which locations would be best for undertaking these vital activities. The slope of the soil is an important soil property to consider when building or planting. [Read More]