Monday, 3 August 2020

How valuable ores can be found on river beds

This activity investigates the importance of differences in density of sand and a valuable ore, to see how the ores may become concentrated by the action of moving water.
Many more activities about density and the values and uses of minerals can be found on the website.

Monday, 27 July 2020

A rock is a time capsule – a message from the past

The new ELI today is 'A rock is a time capsule – a message from the past; bringing to life the extraordinary stories of ordinary rocks.'

When we see a rock as a bundle of evidence of how the Earth used to be, we can begin to look for the clues that tell us about its past history, and the past history of the planet. Rocks are natural time capsules and by using the ‘time capsule’ approach you can bring a rock to life in ways that will amaze pupils and adults alike.
Many other activities about bringing a rock to life can be found by using the search engine on our website.

Monday, 20 July 2020

Working out what happened during unconformity time gaps

'Filling the gap – picturing the unconformity ‘abyss of time’? Working out what happened during unconformity time gaps'.

This activity gives a good method of helping pupils to visualise the enormous time-spans between the upper and lower layers of unconformities. This exercise can be carried out for any unconformity in the field or on a photograph. You could superimpose the hand onto an unconformity photo of your own.
Many more activities can be found on our website.

Monday, 13 July 2020

World energy needs in the future

New ELI today 'What is/are the least bad option(s) for plugging the future global energy gap? A discussion on the least-damaging ways to meet world energy needs in the future'.

Given that renewable fuel sources will be unable to fulfil all global energy needs for the foreseeable future, pupils consider which of the alternative sources might plug this energy gap.
Many activities related to energy sources can be found on our website.

Monday, 6 July 2020

'Shell shake – survival of the toughest; why is the fossil record incomplete?'

Pupils deliberately smash a variety of seashells to see which ones are strong enough to remain recognisable, and which ones are so weak that they would leave little or no evidence of their existence. This leads pupils to realise that the fossil record is often biased. Many organisms are destroyed by being eaten or by being broken up into tiny fragments by moving water, or by processes of lithification of the host sediment. This lesson demonstrates that a slab of apparently well-preserved fossils may not present a true record of all that lived there, so caution is needed in reconstructing the ancient environment in its entirety.
Many more activities in the Evolution of Life category can be found on our website.

Monday, 29 June 2020

Deformed Trilobites

Geologists can work out the stresses that rocks have undergone by looking at the ways in which fossils have changed shape. This activity can be used as an introduction to the concept of principal stress orientations as part of a scheme of study on rock deformation.
Other Earthlearningideas related to metamorphism and rock deformation can be found on our website,

Monday, 22 June 2020

Plate tectonics - an introduction

Plate tectonics - big picture, 'facts', earthquake and volcanic evidence.

These three video clips give an excellent introduction to the theory of plate tectonics. More video clips about the topic can be found on our website.

Monday, 15 June 2020

Make your own sedimentary structures

New ELI today - 'Which sedimentary structures can you make? Making sedimentary structures in the classroom using simple apparatus and materials'.

This ELI is a revision activity, involving investigations into how sedimentary structures are formed in loose sediment. Pupils are given a choice of simple apparatus and materials to work out how they can best demonstrate the formation of a particular sedimentary structure.
Many activities related to sedimentary structures can be found on our website either by using the search engine or the alphabetical index.

Monday, 8 June 2020

ELI now has eleven videos to explain the structure of the Earth.

There are video question scripts and ELI activities associated with each video. Also you will find a comprehensive workshop 'Investigating Earth's structure'.

Monday, 1 June 2020

The amazing journeys of rubber ducks around the world

New ELI today 'Lost at sea – the amazing journeys of rubber ducks around the world; studying ocean currents following the Friendly Floatees ocean spill'.

Our new ELI uses a real case to study ocean surface currents. The activity provides an opportunity to address the topic of ocean circulation by means of a real case reported by the media. It also promotes awareness of the connections between local and global sea pollution.
Many more interesting case studies can be found on our website by putting the topic into the search engine or by using the alphabetical index.

Monday, 25 May 2020

Earth's structure and Plate tectonics videos

NEW online videos. As well as the rock cycle, there are now videos about Earth's structure and Plate tectonics  All are fun to watch and to do.

Also there are two new professional development workshops, Investigating the Earth's structure and the plate tectonics story.

Monday, 18 May 2020

Geological time and the Anthropocene?

New ELI+ today 'What might be the marker for the ‘golden spike’ at the end of the Anthropocene? How is geological time subdivided and what are likely future human impacts on the Earth?'

One of the latest scientific debates is about whether or not a new geological time period should be recognised, called the Anthropocene Epoch. If it is recognised, this would be the time on Earth when human activity dominated the climate and the environment.
This ELI+ activity involves a class discussion focussed on how geological time periods are devised and what the future for the Earth might be.
Other activities related to Geological time may be found on our website.

Monday, 11 May 2020

Virtual Rock Kit for those stuck at home

Are you stuck at home? 
No rock specimens to examine? 
Try using our  


You can now view sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic rocks as they appear in the landscape, in hand specimen. under hand lens magnification, in thin section and even in use. The thin sections can be viewed with plane polars or cross polars.
Once you know your rocks, you can try many of the Earthlearningidea activities or watch some of our new videos. The latter show all aspects of the dynamic rock cycle so your knowledge of the rocks from the virtual rock kit will be put to good use. You could try collecting some small pieces of your local rocks as you exercise and then identify them.

Monday, 4 May 2020

How does a reduction in pressure lower melting and boiling points?

Today's new Earthlearningidea is an ELI+ activity - 'Melting and boiling – the influence of pressure; how does a reduction in pressure lower melting and boiling points?'

This ELI is a demonstration of the reduction of boiling point due to reducing the pressure. This provides an analogy with rocks melting at a lower temperature when the overlying pressure is reduced, notably at a divergent plate margin.
Other activities related to pressure or to plate tectonics can be found by using the search engine or alphabetical index on our website.

Monday, 27 April 2020

Laying out the rock cycle

Today's new videos are 'Laying out the rock cycle'.

Pupils are asked to place a series of rock cycle products in the correct places on a diagram of the rock cycle, then to consider how all these are linked by rock cycle processes.
Other teaching videos and a copy of the Dynamic rock cycle workshop can be found in our new Teaching videos and workshops page on the website.

Monday, 20 April 2020

Freeze-thaw weathering

The new activity today is 'Breaking up – classroom freeze-thaw weathering; showing how freezing and thawing can break porous rocks in the classroom'.

This activity is a classroom demonstration of the physical weathering process, freezing and thawing.
Also, you may like to try 'Ice power' to accompany this.
Other weathering processes can be found in the alphabetical index or by using the search engine.

Monday, 13 April 2020

Teaching videos

New ELI teaching videos! A new teaching video will be published every two weeks. Videos and question scripts will show how, by using the CASE methodology, Earthlearningideas can be used to develop critical thinking skills as well as knowledge and understanding.
 Video - Explanation of CASE
 Video - 'Atmosphere and ocean in a tank' - an example of using the CASE method of teaching

The videos plus their associated question scripts can be found on our website under ELI Teaching Videos

Monday, 6 April 2020

Create your own music - inspired by the natural world

Today's new ELI is 'Geo-music - music inspired by all things ‘geo’: create your own geo-music'

Much of our great music was and is inspired by the natural world. This activity encourages pupils to listen to such music and to compose their own.
The activity creates a cross-curricular link between the sciences and arts.
Other cross-curricular activities can be found in Teaching strategies and in Children's Fun on our website.

Monday, 30 March 2020

Ideas for Home Schooling

In these very difficult circumstances, many of you will be working from home and trying to think of ideas for your pupils or for children at home.
Earthlearningidea has a Children's Fun page which may help.

Alternatively, you can find topics by using either the search engine or the alphabetical index. Each activity has a suggested age range (usually on the second page).

Monday, 23 March 2020

New ELI today ‘Tagging’ nitrogen atoms – to explore the nitrogen cycle: a thought experiment to investigate nitrogen cycle processes'

Drawings showing the cycling of matter are abstract concepts and so difficult for pupils to understand. Using the pretend ‘tagging’ method helps them to gain a more concrete idea of the different steps involved and so can be used to teach or consolidate understanding of the nitrogen and other cycles.
More activities involving chemistry in Earth science can be found in Teaching strategies on the website.

Monday, 16 March 2020

Different densities of Earth's layers

'From an orange to the whole Earth; using an orange to model different densities of the Earth’s layers'.

The orange is analogous to the Earth in having a relatively dense centre (mantle/core) and a much less dense skin (crust).
More activities about the structure of the Earth can be found on our website in Teaching strategies or by using the search engine or alphabetical index.

Monday, 9 March 2020

Updated 'mantle plume' activity

Because the science has moved on, we have just re-published an activity we first wrote in 2010. This includes all the latest thinking on this topic.

A “mantle plume” in a beaker – but not driving plates: mantle plumes ‘yes’ – but convection currents driving plates, probably ‘No’

This Earthlearningidea replaces A “mantle plume” in a beaker: modelling processes at a constructive (divergent) plate margin’, which was published when the convection current model of mantle drag was thought to be the main driving force of plate movement.
Many more activities relating to plate tectonics, including recent UPDATES can be found on our website.
(Please refresh your page or clear your history if you get the old version of this ELI.)

Monday, 2 March 2020

How did Charles Darwin discover how soil formed?

"Darwin’s ‘big soil idea’. Can you work out how Charles Darwin ‘discovered’ how soil formed?"

This activity involves finding out how Charles Darwin ‘discovered’ soil by using the evidence he used and trying to think as he thought, including building a wormery like he did.
You can find many more activities about soil on our website.

Monday, 24 February 2020

Understanding plate tectonic processes

 New ELI today - 'What do the top and bottom of a tectonic plate look like? Questions to test understanding of plate tectonic processes'.
When asked to draw tectonic plates on cross sectional diagrams, many students have drawn plates deep beneath the surface, thus showing a lack of understanding of plate processes.
This deep question discussion tests understanding not only of the tops of plates but also of the lithosphere-asthenosphere boundary (LAB) at the bases of plates, currently the focus of much geoscientific research across the world.
Search the alphabetical index or the keyword search on our website for many more activities related to plate tectonics.

Monday, 17 February 2020

Power sources

'Power through the window; which power source might be built in the view you can see from your window?'

Are you a NIMBY? Pupils are asked to think about which sorts of power source (power station, wind farm or wave power plant) COULD be built in the view through their window – before considering which of them SHOULD be built there.
Many activities about power sources can be found on our website.

Monday, 10 February 2020

Recent research in plate tectonics

This week we have two updates in plate tectonics:
'UPDATE: Recent research in plate tectonics (2020)'
'UPDATE: Follow the Joides Resolution research ship at sea (2020)'

The first activity involves students investigating web-based material aimed at updating their understanding of the nature of the oceanic lithosphere and the processes involved in sea-floor spreading in different oceans.
Similarly, following the Joides Resolution research ship gives web-based resources enabling students to follow the current work of geoscientists at sea.
Many activities about plate tectonics can be found on our website.

Monday, 3 February 2020

Solar eclipse - the Moon hides the Sun

'Why does the Sun disappear? Demonstrate what happens when the Moon hides the Sun'

This activity can be carried out when investigating our Solar system. It compares the relative sizes and positions of the Moon and the Sun in relation to the Earth.
Similar activities can be found in our 'Earth in Space' catgory on the website.

Monday, 27 January 2020

New ELI today 'Where on Earth is no soil found? A ‘deep question’ discussion about soil-formation'.

This activity involves a class discussion to consolidate learning about soil-forming processes.
Many other soil-related activities can be found on our website in teaching strategies. The search engine and alphabetical index can also be used.

Monday, 20 January 2020

The carbon cycle

'The carbon cycle through the window; how much evidence of the carbon cycle can you see through the window?'

The carbon cycle can be introduced when teaching many topics including the atmosphere, photosynthesis, respiration, decomposition, combustion and fossil fuels, climate change and so on. Possible answers are provided in the activity.
Many more activities relating to the Earth as a system can be found on our website.

Monday, 13 January 2020

A palaeogeography in your school yard

The new ELI today is 'Playground continents; a palaeogeography in your school yard'.

In this Earthlearningidea, pupils are asked to match a set of specimens or photographs to their probable location on a map of an imaginary continent, drawn on the playground surface or on paper in the classroom.
This topic provides an excellent link between evidence in the geological record for former climatic regimes and modern geography. It could well be run in liaison between the science and the geography departments.
For more activities related to Palaeoenvironments, please refer to our Teaching strategies, the alphabetical index or use the search engine on our website.

Monday, 6 January 2020

Rock cycle - product and process

'Laying out the rock cycle: product and process; sorting out the rock cycle products – and then adding the processes'

In this activity pupils are asked to place a series of rock cycle products in the correct places on a diagram of the rock cycle, then to consider how all these are linked by rock cycle processes.
Many activities about the rock cycle can be found on our website.