Monday 28 December 2009

Quarry through the window

Have you tried this Earthlearningidea? Click here to download the free activity.
Many people don‘t realise that, to build our buildings, to construct transport links and to make dams and reservoirs, we have to extract millions of tonnes of material from the ground — and that this comes from quarries. Most people would not like a quarry in their 'backyard‘, but quarries have to be sited where the materials are found underground, and not too far from where they are needed, because it is very expensive to transport bulk materials like quarry products for long distances. So, some rock, sand and gravel quarries and clay pits have to be sited near towns and cities. If they are sited near towns and cities, because of the strict planning regulations in many countries today, not only would the quarry be hidden by screens when the quarry was in action, but it would be landscaped afterwards and often would be used later as an amenity by local people (water park, golf course, etc.) or for waste disposal.
There are lots of Earth-related activities for you to try at Earthlearningidea.
Note: At the time of posting, the server hosting our website is undergoing maintenance and the site is temporarily unavailable. Normal service should be resumed soon. We are sorry for this inconvenience.

Monday 21 December 2009

Cretaceous crime scene - forensic geoscience

A large fossil skeleton has been found in rocks near your school. Using the nine pieces of evidence provided, your pupils are asked to work out how the dinosaur died. Did the animal die naturally or was it attacked and killed? Ask them to use their detective skills to investigate what really happened long ago.
Send your pupils' answers to us and we will publish them.
This activity can be found in the category 'Evolution of Life' at Earthlearningidea.

Monday 14 December 2009

Turning Dunes into Architecture

Architecture student Magnus Larsson details his bold plan to transform the harsh Sahara desert using bacteria and a surprising construction material: the sand itself. You can find further details and comment on 'Through the Sandglass'.
This is an interesting, innovative idea and links well with the Earthlearningidea - 'Dust bowl'.

Friday 11 December 2009

ELI workshops in South Africa

Aeon EarthWISE used Earthlearningideas during workshops for National Science Teachers, 12th and 13th November in Bloemfontein, South Africa. 68 teachers and 2 learning area facilitators from 26 schools were involved. If you would like to see the powerpoint, click here, (5MB so it takes some time to download).
Lots of ELIs were tried and teachers took home copies of the activities.
We really like the one shown in the photo where our suggested foam balls have been replaced by marshmallows. You can eat them afterwards too; what a good idea! This idea will be included in the 'extension ideas' for the activity 'Metamorphism - that's Greek for 'change of shape' isn't it?'

Monday 7 December 2009

ELI around the world

As you can see Earthlearningidea is gradually spreading across the Earth. The darker the green shading on the map above, the more 'hits' we have had from that country. We have not reached the countries with no colour. These maps are published at the end of every month on our website - click on 'ELI around the world'. There is also a list of our 'top ten' countries and a map of the towns and cities we have reached.
Please help us to reach teacher educators everywhere. It is very important that pupils understand how the Earth works.

Monday 30 November 2009

NEW Earthlearningidea - Riches in the river

The new activity 'Riches in the river' is an investigation into how valuable ores may become concentrated on river beds. Pupils will explore the importance of differences in density of sand and valuable ore, to see how the ores may become concentrated by the action of moving water.
Pupil learning outcomes: Pupils can
- explain how moving water can separate particles of different density;
- predict where best to look for gold and dense ores on a river bed;
- explain how density differences can be used to separate valuable ores from less dense waste in a commercial situation.
Try this or any of our Earth-related activities and please let us know how you get on.

Friday 27 November 2009

Earthlearningideas translated into Tamil!

We are delighted to announce that we now have a page for translations of Earthlearningideas into Tamil. This is thanks to Michael Anjello Jothi Rajan, Associate Professor, Dept. Physics and Head Dept. of Religion and Value Education at Arul Anandar College in Karumathur, Tamil Nadu, India.
Not only is Jothi Rajan doing the translations but he is also demonstrating Earthlearningideas at workshops. Next week, on 3rd and 4th December, he is organising a two-day orientation cum workshop for rural schools science teachers of Usilampatti Educational District. The participants are science teachers of 9th standard class handling Tamil Medium classes. The Earthlearningidea team wishes Jothi and his students every success at this event! We hope we shall be able to publish some photos afterwards.

Wednesday 25 November 2009

Water problems

Spread out across the top of a hill, nets are coming to the aid of one neighborhood in Lima, Peru. These nets, both simple and slightly absurd, take advantage of the city’s foggy disposition to capture water. One net costs roughly $800 and those nearby benefit from up to 60 litres of water every night to use for drinking, cooking, bathing, and farming. Though this implementation is obviously very site specific, it is encouraging to see sustainable solutions to water crises, especially in an affordable, feasible form.
Have you tried the Earthlearningideas 'Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink' and our Water cycle 'thought experiment', 'Space survival; how could we survive a year in a dome'?

Monday 23 November 2009

Investigating porosity

These photos come from the Earthlearningidea about the porosity of rocks - 'The space within'.
Pupil learning outcomes: Pupils can:
- test the porosity of a model in the classroom;
- work out the percentage pore space;
- explain why some rocks are porous;
- apply their knowledge of rock porosity to real world situations, such as oil and gas reservoir rocks and rocks containing water (aquifers);
- (in the context of other activities from the Earthlearningidea series) explain the difference between porosity and permeability.

Monday 16 November 2009

Density of ores and rocks

Have you tried the Earthlearningidea 'Eureka! - detecting ore the Archimedes way'? A rock that feels heavy may contain mineral ores. But how can we find out if rocks that feel heavy for their size really are more dense than ordinary rocks? The simple way to find out is to use the method discovered by the famous scientist Archimedes more than 2000 years ago. To investigate if something is heavy for its size (has a high density) or light for its size (low density) we need to measure how heavy it is (its mass) and what size it is (its volume).
You can do all this if you try this activity.
We have published lots of activities using minimal resources and equipment - click on Keywords on our website.

Monday 9 November 2009

Earthlearningidea - progress

One of our supporters in India demonstrated some Earthlearningideas at the 6th International Conference on hands-on-Science, at Ahemedabad, India during 27-31 October 2009.
He reports that it was much appreciated.

For our Italian readers - five more translations were added to the site today. Click here to view the page.

To see how our activities have spread across the world, click here.

Have you tried out latest new Earthlearningidea 'Craters on the Moon'? We should be pleased to receive your comments and suggestions.

Thursday 5 November 2009

Artificial glaciers help farmers in India

To offset the disruptive irrigation effects brought on by global warming, the small village of Stakmo, India has been developing a method for creating its own artificial glaciers. The process involves diverting unused autumn and winter runoffs into specially constructed rock reservoirs that hold the water. As the weather grows colder, the collected water freezes, maintaining the supply of water until spring when it begins to melt. This innovative technique provides water to farmers during the planting season when natural glaciers still haven't thawed due to their higher elevations.
This information has been added in the 'Extension ideas' of 'Modelling for rocks: what's hidden inside - and why?'

Monday 2 November 2009

Investigating impact craters

Investigating the shapes and sizes of impact craters on the Moon is the latest Earthlearningidea. This activity can be used in an astronomy lesson, or in a situation where teachers wish to set pupils an investigation in which the procedures are decided by the pupils themselves, rather than following a pre-determined set of instructions. It can also be related to the effects of meteorite impacts on the Earth, past, present and future, with discussion about the possible relationship between meteorite impact and mass extinctions.

Monday 26 October 2009

Manila Flood - 26th September 2009

What was it like to be there - the Manila flood in the Philippines, 26th September 2009. This is an Earth science teacher's eye witness account of surviving the worst flood for more than 40 years and no-one was prepared. This experience has galvanised the teacher's commitment to educate the next generation in understanding how the Earth and its sub-systems work. He says, "With climate change becoming more evident each passing day, we really have to get our act together."
This has been published as an extension to our Earthlearningidea 'Flood through the window'.
If you have personal experiences of natural hazards, please send them to us so that everyone can understand what it is really like to live through such an event.

Monday 19 October 2009

What is a fossil?

Which of the following are fossils? 4000 year-old human footprint, a squirrel killed on the road, 3500 million year-old cell filaments, a petrified tree stump, the trail of a 530 million year-old trilobite, dendritic mineral growths, a beach pebble with holes bored by modern marine organisms? Find out by trying 'Fossil or not?' Earthlearningidea.

Wednesday 14 October 2009

Important note - 'Make your own rock'

Following problems with the use of plaster of Paris, we have added safety guidelines into this activity - 'Make your own rock'. Builders' cement powder is alkaline and should not be used.

Monday 12 October 2009

Make your own rock!

Have you tried this Earthlearningidea? 'Make your own rock' is an activity in which pupils investigate how loose sediment may be stuck together to form a 'rock'. To become hard rocks, most sediments need to be cemented together. Pupils will be able to demonstrate how 'rocks' are made by compacting and cementing loose sand, devise a fair way of testing the strength of their 'rocks' and be able to explain that the strength of the rock may depend as much on the cement that holds the particles together, as it does on the composition of the particles themselves.
Click here to access other innovative teaching ideas.

Tuesday 6 October 2009

How to get drinking water

Mary from New Mexico made the following, very good additions to our latest Earthlearningidea 'Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink' -
"I often use this as a 'challenge' activity, where student teams compete to see who 'best' cleans the water. I offer the students a choice of possible items to filter and let them design their own filters using different layers. The biggest challenge is getting the blue food coloring out of the water. This exercise really works well with the cut off bottles as funnels. If you have a microscope, students can easily see some of the small organisms in the water and you can incubate your own by putting grass clippings in water and letting it sit."
These are positive and enhancing comments which we have published in our 'Extension Ideas'. Thank you Mary!
We shall be very pleased to receive any other suggestions to add to these to take the investigation further.

Monday 5 October 2009

NEW Earthlearningidea - how to get drinking water

'Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink'. This new activity investigates how to get clean water from dirty 'pond' water. Obtaining clean water to drink is a problem in many countries of the world. Pupils plan, carry out and evaluate a complete investigation, work out the necessary equipment to carry out their investigation and then clean the pond water as best they can. They will soon realise that the water will need further processing before it is suitable to drink. At the end of this activity, they should know that 'pond' water contains suspended solids (plants, rubbish, mud), soluble contaminants that they cannot remove in the classroom, and invisibles, for example, bacteria.
This is a popular activity in the UK; do let us know how your pupils get on either by contacting us by email or by leaving a comment on this blog.
Earthlearningidea - - lots and lots of really good Earth-related activities!

Monday 28 September 2009

Earth science out of doors

All pupils like to be taken outside the classroom for their lessons. Have you tried this Earthlearningidea 'Earth science out of doors: preserving the evidence'? The pupils have to try to list 6 processes that are happening around them or that have happened in the last few hours. What is the evidence for these processes happening? Which of those pieces of evidence might be preserved if the area became buried? They will realise that there is a progressive loss of evidence as we go back in time. The usual geologists' approach is to use Lyell's principle 'the present is a key to the past'. This activity involves geological reasoning in reverse, i.e. trying to predict the future from the present. Concerns about global climate change have recently involved geologists in trying to predict the future from the past.
How well does this activity work with your group? Have you tried other Earthlearningideas?

Monday 21 September 2009

Oil and gas trapped in reservoir rocks

This activity demonstrates how oil and gas can be trapped in reservoir rocks beneath the surface - 'Trapped! Why can't oil and gas escape from their underground prison?' At the end of this activity, pupils can explain that oil and gas float on top of water because of their lower density, explain that oil and gas may become trapped underground until they reach an impermeable layer of rock and appreciate the need to control the drilling for oil and gas to avoid 'blowouts' at the surface. This could form part of a lesson on world resources or it could follow a lesson on porosity and permeability.
Please let us know how your pupils get on with this or with any of our Earthlearningideas.

Monday 14 September 2009

Investigating the resistance of rocks

Ask your pupils why they think some areas are hilly and others are low-lying. Such differences in relief are often caused by the relative resistance to erosion of the rocks that make up these areas - more resistant rocks usually form higher areas. Try this Earthlearningidea using some of your local rocks and let us know how you get on.
Have you tried the other Earthlearningideas about erosion? There are activities to help teach erosion by ice, water and wind and soil erosion. All these can be found by looking up 'Erosion' in our Keywords Index.

Monday 7 September 2009

NEW Earthlearningidea - Slopes and angles of rest

Our new Earthlearningidea is all about slopes and angles of rest - 'Sandcastles and slopes: what makes sandcastles and slopes collapse?'
Ask the pupils if they have ever built a big sandcastle. What was the steepest angle they could build the side walls of the castle? Could they make a steeper wall if the sand was dampened? Questions like these go well beyond the playground or beach. Many people have been killed by the collapse of unstable slopes of loose rock or sand. This activity investigates the factors which affect the angle at which loose materials rest before they begin to slide.
Please let us know how your pupils get on by writing a comment on this post or contacting us by email.

Monday 31 August 2009

Sequencing the events that form rock

'Laying down the principles' is all about sequencing the events that form rocks using stratigraphic principles. This Earthlearningidea gives you a simple way to demonstrate complex ideas. Your pupils will soon understand 'Superposition of Strata', 'Original Horizontality', 'Lateral Continuity', 'Included fragments' and Cross-cutting Relationships'. You can also demonstrate Rock deformation' and 'Faunal Succession'. These principles are the fundamental methods used by geoscientists to sequence rocks and rock events.

Monday 24 August 2009

Dinosaur footprints - interpretation of evidence

What was revealed when the old buildings, shown in the diagram above, were removed? Find out when you try 'The meeting of the dinosaurs - 100 million years ago'. This Earthlearningidea is one of many about trace fossils listed on our website; search the keynote index under 'Fossils'.

Sunday 16 August 2009

AEON EarthWISE in South Africa recently hosted some workshops at the Department of Geology, University of the Free State These workshops were a big success with 48 teachers attending. Each teacher received a science activity workbook, including 30 Earth Learning Ideas to use in their classrooms. Two ELI activities were demonstrated, 'Make your own volcano' and 'The rock cycle in wax'. The responses were excellent. Thank you again for the whole initiative of Earth Learning Idea; it is really a great resource.
The Earthlearningidea team is delighted to hear this news from South Africa. This is exactly the result we wished for when the idea was first started.

Wednesday 12 August 2009


We are pleased to report that a long article about Earthlearningidea has been published in Italian in 'Geoitalia', number 26, March 2009, pages 4 - 11 The photo shows a member of the Earthlearningidea team demonstrating 'High flow, low flow?: atmosphere and ocean in a tank'. This activity demonstrates how hot, cold and particle-filled density currents flow in the atmosphere or ocean.

Monday 10 August 2009

Trace fossil activities

Last week's new Earthlearningidea was about making your own tracks and trails similar to those tracks and trails (trace fossils) left by animals millions of years ago. Have you tried the other Earthlearningideas about trace fossils? Click on the category 'Evolution of Life'; you could try
- A dinosaur in the yard
- Dinosaur death - did it die or what it killed?
- How to weigh a dinosaur
- The meeting of the dinosaurs - 100 million years ago.
All of these activities use trace fossils.

Monday 3 August 2009

Making your own 'fossil' trails

'Trail-making; making your own "fossil" animal trails' is our latest Earthlearningidea.
First of all your pupils need to do some 'trail-thinking' by asking themselves why would the animal have been on the sand, in which direction was it moving, how would it have been moving, how fast, how deep would the trail be, would it have been straight, would the animal have rested and how could the trail become fossilised?
When pupils have completed this activity, they will be able to describe how animals of the past might have moved, use their descriptions to make appropriate trail marks in damp sand and explain how the trails they have made give information on how the animals moved in the past.
Of course, they can make many types of trails from those left by trilobites to those of dinosaurs.
We should be very pleased to receive your pupils' ideas and photos of their trails, if possible.

Monday 27 July 2009

Earthquake through the window

This Earthlearningidea is one of our 'thought' experiments. Ask your pupils to imagine what it would be like if they could watch an earthquake happening outside their building. Give them some prompt questions as follows:-
- What would they see?
- What would be happening to the ground?
- What would be happening to the buildings and trees?
- What would people be doing?
- What would it be like inside their building?
- How would they feel?
- What would they do?
- What would they tell their friends to do?
- What do they think caused the earthquake?
- Can they predict when the next earthquake will happen?
Please send us the best of their stories and we will publish them. Maybe they have some true stories to tell?

Monday 20 July 2009

How to weigh a dinosaur

Dinosaurs sometimes left footprints in wet mud or sand which hardened to leave trace fossils. We can work out how heavy the dinosaur was, if we can compare the footprint with the mark made by a known weight in the classroom. The relationship between pressure, force and area can be used to estimate the mass of a two-legged dinosaur from the area and depth of one of its fossilised footprints. Click here to download the activity.
Trace fossils can give very valuable information on the lifestyles and environment of the organisms that created them.
The photo above shows a footprint from a large dinosaur. An impression would have to be taken of this for it to be used for this Earthlearningidea.

Monday 13 July 2009

Earthtrek gravestone project

EarthTrek is a global citizen science programme, launched on 1st July this year. One of the projects that people are being asked to become involved in is the measurement of the weathering of marble gravestones; click here for more details.
Note - the measurement of the lead letters can be done with a tyre depth gauge if a micrometer is not available.
Participants could also look to see if there is any difference in the weathering of one side of the stone from the other side; this may indicate the influence of the prevailing wind. In the U.K. the latitude and longitude of the site can be found on Ordnance Survey maps so you don't need GPS.
The weathering rates of gravestones are an indication of changes in the acidity of rainfall between locations and over time. The acidity is affected by air pollution and other factors, and could be used as a measure of changes in climate and pollution levels.
'Weathering - rocks breaking up and breaking down' is the Earthlearningidea activity concerned with the various ways rocks are weathered.

Monday 6 July 2009

New Earthlearningidea - Make your own oil and gas reservoir

Ask pupils how they think oil and gas are found in their natural state. Do oil and gas deposits lie in great underground lakes, on the sea bed or within the pore spaces of the rocks? Find out by downloading our new Earthlearningidea 'Make your own oil and gas reservoir'.

Monday 29 June 2009

Interpreting the evidence from dinosaur footprints

This is a very popular Earthlearningidea - 'The meeting of the dinosaurs - 100 million years ago: the evidence given by dinosaur footprints'. Tracks or traces of creatures are fossils just as are their shells and bones. Dinosaur footprints give clues to the lives of the animals of the past. They may give more clues to their lifestyles than the fossil bones themselves. They also give clues about the ancient environments in which they lived.
This is a very good end-of-school-year activity. Please let us know what your pupils think happened.

Monday 22 June 2009

Make you own symmetrical ripple marks in sand

Can you suggest how these symmetrical ripple marks were formed? Last week's asymmetrical ripple marks were formed by a uni-directional current. What do fossilised ripple marks tell you about current directions? Find out by downloading this activity.
There are many Earth-related activities for you to try on our website. Do please let us know how you get on with any of them.

Monday 15 June 2009

Make your own asymmetrical ripple marks in sand

Have you tried this Earthlearningidea? If you found a sandstone rock like the one shown in the photo, would you know how the shapes had been formed? Find out by trying this activity - 'Sand ripple marks in a washbowl'. These ripple marks are asymmetrical; how do symmetrical ripple marks form? These are just two of the many types of sedimentary structures that can form in sand.

Monday 8 June 2009

AEON EarthWISE using ELI

AEON EarthWISE is currently hosted by the Department of Geology of the University of the Free State, South Africa. It aims to provide training for science educators in the Earth and Beyond (E&B) field that was incorporated into the Natural Science Curriculum for the General Education and Training Certificate (GETC) in 2005.
AEON EarthWISE is currently preparing two teacher workshops in the first week of August as part of National Science Week. The organisers plan to reach 80 teachers from all over the Free State. Two activity books, (one for Intermediate Phase and one for Senior Phase), have been set up to distribute to the teachers during these workshops and Earthlearningidea activities form a huge part of these books. ELI activities fit right into the National Curriculum. The activities have been printed in their pdf format and put into the Appendices in the back of the books.
The current coordinator says, "I can't wait to show it to the teachers, because I truly believe that doing these activities in the classroom can be nothing but beneficial to the learners. So yes, we are definitely putting your ideas to good use. Thank you very much for them!"
The Earthlearningidea team is delighted to hear about this venture and the use of our activities. We wish the organisers every success for their workshops in August.
To the rest of the world - - please let us know of any similar uses of our ideas.

Thursday 4 June 2009

Earthlearningidea across the world

We are delighted to report that our activities have now reached 142 countries across the world. To see a larger map, our 'top ten' countries and the cities we have reached, click here.

Monday 1 June 2009

Darwin's 'big coral atoll idea'

Our new Earthlearningidea is about trying to think like Darwin did to solve the coral atoll mystery. These islands are circular or nearly circular in shape, so what shape are they in three dimensions? Coral reefs are living things that begin growing in shallow water. What must have happened to make a tall column of coral reef? What could have caused the circular shape in the first place? Try this Earthlearningidea to find the answers.
You could try to make your own coral atoll like the one shown in the photo. Please send us your ideas and some photos of your attempts.

Monday 25 May 2009

The value of using models

Please click here to view the comments following last week's post about modelling the rock cycle by using a candle, a knife, some matches and a piece of paper.
Have you got any good ideas about using models? What do you think of Mike's cross-section of an egg to show the layers of the Earth? Please send us your ideas by writing them in the comments section on this post, or contact us by email.

Monday 18 May 2009

Demonstrate the rock cycle with a candle

All you need is a candle, something to scrape the wax off the candle, a piece of paper and some matches! Erosion is demonstrated as the wax is scraped off the candle, transportation by the pieces falling down on to the paper and deposition by the build up of pieces on the paper. It's then easy to continue to demonstrate compaction, metamorphism, melting and 'crystallisation'. However, which processes are NOT demonstrated? (Weathering, cementation, rising, extrusion, uplift).
This is a brilliant way to revise the rock cycle. Have you tried it yet? Click here to download the activity.
Earthlearningidea website has over 60 free Earth-related activities for you to try.

Friday 15 May 2009

Asked to log-in? You do not need to do so!

We are very sorry if you have tried to access earlier Earthlearningideas through this blog and have been asked to log-in to PBworks before you can gain access. Since November 2008, we have not used PBwiki to host our website and you do not need to log-in to PBworks to access anything on our site.
The problem was that activities and videos mentioned in blog posts before November 2008 were linked to the PBwiki Earthlearningidea website. We have checked all the links on the blog from the first post on 6th May 2007 and all should now go straight to our current Earthlearningidea website.
Our remit at the beginning of the project was that everyone everywhere should have access to our activities without having to pay, subscribe or log-in to anything.
We hope we have solved the problem but please let us know if you are still asked to log-in to access something. You don't need to log-in - just go straight to the website.

Monday 11 May 2009

More landslides

Last week's new Earthlearningidea - 'Dam burst danger - modelling the collapse of a natural dam in the mountains - and the disaster which might follow' was all about the ice in an ice-cored moraine melting and causing the escape of the water in the lake and a resulting landslide. Have you also tried the Earthlearningidea 'Landslide through the window' which can also be found in the Natural Hazards category on our website?
Also, you could try Landslides at BGS (British Geological Survey), a definitive source of landslide information in Great Britain.

Monday 4 May 2009

Dam burst danger

When glaciers in high mountain regions melt they often leave behind deep lakes. The lake waters are held back by natural dams, formed by piles of rocks, sand and clay dumped by the melting glacier. The debris is called moraine. Moraines often contain large hidden blocks of ice. These can take years to melt but when they do, the natural dam may break suddenly, releasing a flood of lake water which rushes down the mountainside sweeping all before it. This activity models the collapse of such a natural dam and shows the disaster that occurred to a 'village' below it. Click here to download the activity.
This is our latest Earthlearningidea and we should be pleased to receive your comments. Can anyone take a video of this activity in action for us to publish on the website?

Monday 27 April 2009

Why does soil get washed away?

Set up two trays as shown in the photo. Ask the pupils which tray they expect the soil to be washed away from more quickly. Carry out the activity - click here for a free download. Are the results as expected? What do the pupils think can be done to protect soil from erosion?
Have you tried soil painting? Click here to see some examples.
All Earthlearningidea activities can be seen on our website. We should be pleased to receive your comments about this or any of the ideas, either via this blog or by email.

Monday 20 April 2009

What controls the speed of a tsunami wave?

Try this Earthlearningidea to find out what does control the speed of a tsunami wave In this activity, pupils look at the relationship between the depth of the water in the tank and the velocity of a water wave generated by lifting and then dropping one end of the tank.
One reader has sent us some comments and suggestions for this popular Earthlearningidea.
Try counting the number of waves which hit the end of the tank in both water depths shown in this video clip. Which is faster - shallow or deep water?
We shall be pleased to receive any suggestions for any of our Earthlearningideas.

Friday 17 April 2009

Kitchen physics - making cross bedding

This demonstration - 'Making cross bedding' is fun.
A mixture of sand and sugar will separate into its components if poured slowly and evenly into a pile. The process can also be tried with different materials - sand, glass beads, sugar crystals - and the results are clear. Typically, larger grains will have a steeper angle of repose than smaller ones, and they will roll down the slope more energetically. The smaller grains tend to get stuck at the top of the pile, the larger ones at the base—they spontaneously segregate. But things become more complicated. As the different angles of repose of different grains are reached and exceeded, successive avalanches will be made up of different-sized grains. The cascades of smaller grains will stop first, to be then covered by a layer of the larger grains still on the move. The process repeats itself over and over, creating a layered pile. Different (and unpredictable) results can be achieved by varying the size, density, and shape of the grains and therefore their angle of stability or repose.

Monday 13 April 2009

Imagine yourself there when the rock formed

Have you tried 'What was it like to be there - in the rocky world?' This activity brings the formation of solid rock to life. Your pupils have to imagine that they were there when the rock formed. Ask them these trigger questions -
- could you stand up?
- what would you need to survive?
- what might you see?
- what might you hear?
- what might you taste, smell?
- what might you sense?
- what might you be feeling - scared? - happy? - amazed?
We have received a reader's comments and suggestions about this activity - click here to read what she says. Do send us some of your pupils' work. They will never find rocks boring again!
We should appreciate teachers' suggestions about any of our activities. The list of activities published so far can be seen under 'Keywords' on our website.

Monday 6 April 2009

New Earthlearningidea - Dust bowl

We have just published our latest Earthlearningidea - 'Dust bowl: investigating wind erosion'. What will happen if pupils blow through a straw, or similar tube, at a pile of dry sediment? Which of the particles is most likely to move first? What would they have to do to make all the sediment move? How far will the particles travel? Which will go furthest? How does this activity relate to the real world?
This activity could lead to an understanding of the effects of wind erosion in flat, exposed areas and dry climates. Wind erosion can have devastating effects on a region's soil, if measures are not taken to protect it.
Try this Earthlearningidea with your pupils and let us know how they get on. Please send us some photos or written descriptions of their ideas. We will publish the best in our 'Extension' ideas.

Monday 30 March 2009

Tsunami through the window

Have you tried this activity? You only need a good imagination to do it - 'A tsunami through the window - what would you see, what would you feel?' The class is asked a series of questions about what a tsunami is like, as they look through a window or doorway (having looked at a photo or photos first). They are asked to discuss the answers in groups to provide a better 'feel' for what it might actually be like to be there. Some possible responses, for discussion, are provided in the activity.

Monday 23 March 2009

Dangerous swelling of a volcano

This activity demonstrates how tiltmeters on volcanoes work. If the volcano 'bulges', changing shape because the magma beneath is rising, the liquid in the tiltmeter will move - sending an electric signal 'back to base'.
This an easy activity to set up and carry out. It could form part of a lesson about volcanic eruptions and their effects. Is it better to use one source or several in trying to predict an eruption? How do you prepare a response to an eruption in a volcanic area? Please let us know what your pupils think.

Earthlearningidea is being translated into Mandarin

We are delighted to announce that our Earthlearningideas are gradually being translated into Mandarin. The translations are being organised by the webmaster of GeoIdea. This website is devoted to teaching Geoscience in China.

Monday 16 March 2009

Extension idea for A Valley in 30 seconds

Last year we published an Earthlearningidea called 'A valley in 30 seconds - pulling rocks apart'. We have now added an extension idea which makes the tension fault even more clear and more precise.
It is important to know about these faults as they explain why a rock layer like a coal seam in a mine, may suddenly stop only to be discovered higher or lower on the other side of the fracture in the strata.

Thursday 12 March 2009

From Bologna, Italy

Thank you very much for your innovative teaching ideas.
In January, I tried the sediment transport investigation "Mighty river in a small gutter; sediments on the move", using some planks covered in a plastic sheet to set up the "stream table". You only need washed sand, some small pebbles of gravel and a bottle of water. You can see erosion, transportation and deposition very clearly.
I also tried the thought experiment "Flood through a window: what would you see, how would you feel?", looking through the window of the classroom. Some answers were very curious!
The students were 15 years old and enjoyed both activities very much. I shall use them again in the future.
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