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Soil, Plants, and the Energy Cycle

Soils are critical for many aspects of our daily life. They provide food such as grains, vegetables, and animal feed. They provide fiber for clothing, as in cotton, flax-linen, and hemp. And they provide shelter materials like wood and brick. But did you realize that soils also are an important part of the energy cycle?

Soil, the Forgotten Resource

Soil is often overlooked as a natural resource. Like fossil fuels, we depend on it for energy in the form of foods. And, like fossil fuels, it is nonrenewable. Soil is a delicate balance of inorganic minerals, organic matter, living organisms, soil water, and soil atmosphere. The natural development of soil is an exceedingly slow process. In a few hours, a heavy rain falling on exposed soil can remove inches of what took hundreds of years to form. Here is a simple exercise that will allow you to compare the rates and amounts of erosion that result from various land uses.

Solar Cell Energy Nationwide

MY NASA DATA microsets are created using data from NASA Earth science satellite missions. A microset is a small amount of data extracted from a much larger data file. Data is available on the atmosphere, biosphere, cryosphere, ocean, and land surface. Data and related lessons can be used with existing curriculum to help students practice science inquiry and math or technology skills using real measurements of Earth system variables and processes. In this activity, students use NASA data to determine areas of the country that are most likely to produce solar energy by analyzing differences in incoming solar radiation graphs.

Space Archaeology

Want to be an archaeologist without leaving your school? No problem! Use a computer to become a space archaeologist (no spacesuit required)!

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.

Surficial Features

Various types of sediments, or “surficial features,” lie above the bedrock in many places. The following activity shows how a visualization map of surficial features can be used to consider the interactions of the geosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and atmosphere.

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.

Systems in Earth Science

What systems can you find within the Earth sciences? How do they work? How do they interact with each other? Within its new online Earth sciences theme, SEED has collected articles, activities, animations, and simulations to highlight the many systems of Earth.

Take the Pulse of Your Classroom

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

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