Monday 27 December 2010

Cracking the clues

Your pupils may have noticed that, when a pool dries up, it often leaves a muddy bed, which cracks into regular shapes (polygons) as the wet mud shrinks. Therefore, ancient mudcracks show us that the area where they are found must have been mud that dried out in the past. It must have been surface mud rather than mud laid down under deep water. So the cracks are key clues to the conditions in which the mud was laid down.
Polygonal cracking in natural materials is caused by shrinkage and the shrinkage is caused either by drying out or by contraction on cooling. By trying the Earth Learning Idea, ´Cracking the clues´, we can simulate shrinkage conditions that cause mud cracks in the classroom, and see the stages as they develop. The photo shows polygonal cracking which has occurred by contraction on cooling.
This is one of many Earth Learning Ideas in the Earth Energy category.

Monday 20 December 2010

Is Geothermal power renewable or not?

Carry out three simple geothermal power simulations and from what you discover, discuss whether any geothermal power sources are renewable or not?
This is our latest Earth Learning Idea but have you tried ´Power through the window´ which investigates most power sources?
These are two of many activities in the Earth Learning Idea Resources and Environment category

Monday 13 December 2010

Three Earth science teachers + no money + internet = amazing success!

As the graph shows, in the past two years, there has been a steady increase in the use of Earth Learning Ideas and more than 295,000 free activities have been downloaded from our website so far, (data only from November 2008, when Earth Learning Idea was moved to its current web host). Earth Learning Idea has reached 162 countries across the world. When the three team members had their first meeting in April 2007, they had no idea that, within three years, they would have spread the ideas across the world and have reached millions of children. Such is the power of good science and the internet!
There are more than 200 entries in the Keyword index and most Earth-related topics can be found. Please let us know if you cannot find an activity to help you teach topics listed on your science or geography curriculum; the ELI team will try to help - please contact us.

Saturday 4 December 2010

Igneous rocks and different crystal sizes

The latest Earth Learning Idea ´Why do igneous rocks have different crystal sizes?´simulates crystallisation from a melt at different rates of cooling. This activity can be included in lessons on the rock cycle to model the cooling and crystallisation of magma to form igneous rocks.
This is one of many activities to try when teaching the rock cycle. Search the ELI Keyword Index for more.

Monday 29 November 2010

Search for Gold

We have added an extension idea to our 'Riches in the river´. It is an excellent website which consists of an interactive game where students see how “rich” they can become by mining a gold placer deposit in the Yukon, Canada. The game itself will suit older students, but even without playing the game, the pictures on the background sheet are brilliant. The site is freely available and is described in Teaching Earth Sciences Vol. 35, No. 2, 2010.
All the key elements of mining are illustrated in this photograph above of a large mine on the lower Indian River, Yukon.

Monday 22 November 2010

Meet Mr. Rock Cycle

Our latest ELI+ activity is ´James Hutton - or ´Mr. Rock Cycle´? This Earthlearningidea encourages pupils to think towards the rock cycle the Hutton way. It gives a series of questions and answers that attempt to outline the possible thoughts of James Hutton as he developed his ideas in the context of what we now call the rock cycle. Your pupils will not only understand how science works but also clarify their understanding of the processes and products of the rock cycle.
This is one of many innovative ideas offered by Earthlearningidea. Please do let us have your thoughts and suggestions.

Monday 15 November 2010

Playground planets

Following last week´s publication of ´Playground planets´, we have added some reader´s extension ideas - click here to view.
Please send us any further suggestions you may have. Does this activity work well for you?
Have you got any ideas for more Earth in space activities?

Monday 8 November 2010

Playground planets

Our latest Earthlearningidea is ´Playground planets´. The activity models the relative sizes of the planets and their distances from the Sun. By doing this activity, pupils can:
• list the correct order of the planets from the Sun;
• identify the relative sizes of the planets and the Sun using scaled models;
• place the planets at the correct scaled distances from the Sun;
• appreciate the enormous distances involved and the enormous size of the Sun relative to the planets.
This is one of only three activities in our ´Earth in Space´ category. Can you contribute others? Post a comment on this blog or email us.

Saturday 6 November 2010

Scale of the Universe

Click here to view these amazing images showing the scale of the Universe. Move the blue block at the bottom of the screen to the right for impossibly large and to the left for impossibly small. The image above is showing the ´galaxy´ scale.
This is produced by Cary and Michael Huang.

Monday 1 November 2010

Have you tried the Earthlearningidea about weathering, i.e. the breakdown of rocks in situ. The activity ´Weathering - rocks breaking up and breaking down´ encourages pupils to match the pictures and descriptions of weathered rocks with the processes of weathering that formed them. It is a task enjoyed by pupils and gives them understanding of the processes and encourages them to look at rocks and buildings around them for signs of weathering.
This activity in one of many simple ideas to teach Earth science, all of which are listed on our website in the Keywords Index.

Sunday 24 October 2010

Finding the evidence

Wegener's 'Continental drift' meets Wilson's 'Plate tectonics: how Wegener's continental drift evidence matches up with evidence for plate tectonics'.
This new Earthlearningidea asks pupils to sort out which parts of the evidence we now have for plate tectonics that Alfred Wegener knew about in the 1920s.
By doing this activity, pupils will be able to describe the evidence we have for plate tectonic theory today; describe the evidence that Wegener used for his 'Continental drift' theory and discuss why Wegener's evidence might not have been believed at the time.
This is one of many plate tectonic activities on our website.

Thursday 21 October 2010

Those sedimentary features

I have now heard that the three photos, shown in the previous post, were taken in the Blue Mountains in Australia, if that helps. The tubular structures are still causing confusion - are we sure they are sedimentary?

Tuesday 19 October 2010

Sedimentary features query

Can anyone identify these please?
Let us know what you think either on 'comments' on this blog or by email.
Please ask if you would like a better image of any of them.

Monday 18 October 2010


Following on from last week's Earthlearningidea about the difficulty of predicting volcanic eruption, have you tried 'Earthquake prediction - when will the Earthquake strike?' This activity models the build up of stress and sudden release in the Earth that creates earthquakes. This is one of many activities in our Natural Hazards category.

Monday 11 October 2010

It's party time in your classroom!

'Party time for volcanoes!' is our new Earthlearningidea; it is great fun and will be enjoyed by pupils and staff. The activity demonstrates how difficult it is to predict when sudden Earth events will be triggered. It can be used to demonstrate the uncertainty of predicting earthquakes and landslides as well as for volcanic eruptions.
Please let us know how you get on by writing a comment on this post or by emailing us.

Monday 4 October 2010

Teaching Natural Hazards?

Need some ideas for teaching natural hazards? Try Earthlearningidea's Natural Hazards category. There are teaching activities from earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, tsunamis, floods to dam bursts. Let us know how you get on or send us some extension ideas.

Monday 27 September 2010

New ELI+ - Volcano in the lab

Try modelling igneous processes using wax and sand with our latest Earthlearningidea - 'Volcano in the lab'
This activity models the rise of magma through the 'crust'. Some of it erupts on the surface representing a lava flow whilst some sets within the water mass representing igneous intrusions. Now you really can see what the plumbing system of a volcano looks like!
This is one of many Earthlearningideas relating to volcanic eruptions - click on the Keyword Index on our website to find more.

Monday 20 September 2010

More landslides

We have added Dave's Landslide blog to our extension ideas for the Earthlearningidea 'Landslide through the window - what would you see,what would you feel?' This is a blog which gives you all the latest information about worldwide landslides. There are many photos and video clips.
This is one of many activities in our Natural Hazards category.

Monday 13 September 2010

Plate tectonics through the window

If you were at a plate margin that was very active, what might you see? What might you hear? What might you sense? What might you feel? Our latest Earthlearningidea 'Plate tectonics through the window' considers what you might see, feel and sense at all types of plate margins. After completing this activity, pupils will be able to describe and explain geographical and geological features at different types of plate margins and imagine and describe the feelings of people living in these areas, particularly when these are active.
This is one of many plate tectonics activities in our ELI+ series. To find more, go to the Keyword Index on our website.

Wednesday 8 September 2010

Update - ELI around the world

The Earthlearningidea team is very pleased to report that, as you can see from the map, we are doing very well in spreading our Earth-related activities around the world; we have now reached 6564 cities! Our 'top ten' countries are USA, UK, Canada, India, Spain, Australia, Italy, Germany, Philippines, Taiwan. The maps of the countries and cities are published at the end of each month on our website.
We hope you enjoyed last week's plate-surfing activity!

Monday 30 August 2010

Role-play plate- surfing

'Plate riding' is our latest ELI+ activity. Stand on the floor facing in the direction the plate that you live on is moving (you might have to find out this direction beforehand, using the plate map provided in the activity and a magnetic compass).
Pretend you are balancing on a surfboard and ask the students a series of questions e.g. Which plate am I standing on? How fast am I going? In which direction am I travelling?
This is one of many plate tectonics activities now on our website.

Monday 23 August 2010

Two plates (biscuits) move away from each other

Try our latest Earthlearningidea and watch two halves of biscuit move away from each other. This activity investigates what happens when a viscous material (the syrup) is heated and rises, with the resultant moving apart of floating objects (broken biscuit) above it. This can be related to a rising plume of hot material beneath a constructive plate margin.
Try this yourselves and let us know how you get on. There are now lots of Earthlearningideas to help pupils to understand plate tectonic theory - just visit our website.

Monday 16 August 2010

A plate tectonic constructive (divergent) margin is marked by a ridge with a rift valley running down the middle of it. It is also associated with shallow focus earthquakes, high heat flow and vulcanicity. Where a constructive plate margin occurs on land, the land masses on either side of it are moving apart at a rate which can be measured directly, as in Iceland (usually at a rate of a few centimetres per year). Try our latest Earthlearningidea, 'A 'mantle plume' in a beaker'. Ask your students to try to visualise what might be happening out of sight, below the plate margin. Then explain that this activity tries to model some of the processes. Remind them that the mantle is essentially solid, but that we shall be using a viscous liquid, in order to speed things up to fit the time scale of the lesson!
There are many other plate tectonics activities on our website - just search the Keyword Index.

Monday 9 August 2010

Another supercontinent

Have you tried to reassemble this supercontinent? Try our latest Earthlearningidea 'The continental jigsaw puzzle'. What evidence is there that these continents were once joined together? Pupils might suggest fossils of comparable land animals that could not have swum across an ocean, rocks of the same type and age that match, fold belts which seem to stop at the coast only to reappear on the other side of the ocean, evidence of ancient climates such as red desert beds or rocks formed in tropical forest environments.
Visit our website for other free, practical teaching ideas.

Monday 2 August 2010

Supercontinent from a jigsaw puzzle?

Can you reassemble a supercontinent from a jigsaw puzzle? Try our latest ELI+ Earthlearningidea - 'The continental jigsaw puzzle'. This activity allows discussion of 'continental drift' theory, which is now regarded as part of the overarching theory of plate tectonics. The activity provides a useful introduction to more technical aspects of the theory and can be used at all levels of pupils' attainment.
This is one of many Earthlearningideas about plate tectonic theory.

Monday 26 July 2010

Transform Faults model - video

Have you tried to make last week's model of spreading ocean ridges offset by transform faults? This video will show you what the model should look like.
This is one of many video clips produced to demonstrate activities in the Earth Energy category.

Monday 19 July 2010

Make a model to demonstrate transform faults

Transform faults are difficult for pupils to understand. Making this model will help them to see how these faults offset spreading ocean ridges and also offset the magnetic 'stripes'. Click here 'Model a spreading ocean floor offset by transform faults' for this latest free ELI+ activity. Transform faults are one of the three types of plate boundaries and are also called 'conservative plate margins'. The other two types are the constructive/divergent plate margin that form oceanic ridges and destructive/convergent plate margins where plates are subducted. Just look in the Earthlearningidea Keyword Index to find activities about all of these plate margins.

Monday 12 July 2010

What makes mountains?

To answer this question, try our latest Earthlearningidea 'Continents in collision'
This is one of many simple activities for your pupils to try - click here to find more.

Monday 5 July 2010

NEW - Continents in collision

How did the Himalayan mountains form? Why can you find marine fossils in the rocks at the top of these mountains? Try making this simple model to find out and to explain continents in collision. This latest ELI+ activity models the processes which occur at destructive (convergent) plate margins.
There are many other simple demonstrations to model Earth processes on our website.

Monday 28 June 2010

Can your pupils explain what this image shows? If not try the latest Earthlearningidea. 'Magnetic stripes; modelling the symmetrical magnetic pattern of the rocks of the sea floor'
There are now a number of activities related to Earth's magnetism on the website. Go to the Keyword Index and search for 'magnetic'.

Monday 21 June 2010

Magnetic stripes in the oceans?

Our latest Earthlearningidea is 'Magnetic stripes; modelling the symmetrical magnetic pattern of the rocks of the sea floor' This activity demonstrates the origin of the symmetrical magnetic anomalies which occur at oceanic spreading centres. It can be used to aid the understanding of remanent magnetisation in rocks. Periodic reversals of the Earth’s magnetic field are shown by the remanent magnetisation of rocks of the sea bed, which have been used to demonstrate sea floor spreading. It is an excellent way to clarify a difficult concept for your pupils, especially if they are involved in setting up the materials needed.
This is one of many really good ideas from Earthlearningidea - all activities are free to download.

Monday 14 June 2010

Survival for a year in a dome?

This Earthlearningidea is 'Space survival: how could we survive for a year in a dome?' Tell the pupils that they are to imagine that they will be sealed up for a year in a vast plastic dome, rather like a huge poly tunnel. Remind them that the composition of the modern atmosphere is 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and 1% for the rest, including CO2 (0.03%) with variable amounts of water vapour. The dome is sealed so unless we do something, we shall all die inside; the oxygen content will decrease, CO2 will increase at a similar rate and the sides will steam up due to the water vapour that is breathed out. It is, therefore important to understand the water and carbon cycles. Copies of these could be given to the pupils. They will also need a copy of the nitrogen cycle.
Please send us your pupils' accounts and we will publish the best on the website.
Have you tried the other Earthlearningideas in this category 'Earth as a system'?

Monday 7 June 2010

Partial melting and plate tectonics

Our latest ELI+ is 'Partial melting - simple process, huge global impact' This simple demonstration leads into an explanation of how partial melting has affected the chemistry of the planet, and the characteristics of igneous rocks and volcanic eruptions. Do try this one - it will answer lots of those puzzling questions!
There are many more Earth-related activities on our website - all free to download.

Tuesday 1 June 2010

An eruption through the window?

This image shows the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland. Have you tried 'An eruption through the window; how could an eruption transform your view? - lava, ash, lahar or something worse'
Picture a large volcano to the left of the window - how would your view be affected by an eruption of the volcano?
- What would you see — and how would this change as the eruption continued?
- What else might you sense — by hearing, smelling, tasting or in other ways?
- How might you be feeling?
- Would you be safe? Would your friends and family be safe?
- What might the view be like after the end of the eruption?
This is one of many 'through the window' activities you can find on our website. Do please send us your pupils' accounts.

Saturday 22 May 2010

Frozen magnetism - ELI+

This latest Earthlearningidea 'Frozen magnetism; preserving evidence of a past magnetic field in wax' is our latest ELI+ activity. It is a demonstration of how the evidence for the magnetic field around a bar magnet may be preserved, even after the magnet has been removed. This gives an analogy for the three-dimensional magnetic field of the Earth, with a North and a South Pole, but not for the origin of the Earth's magnetic field.
There are lots more free activities for you to download on our website.

Sunday 16 May 2010

Earthlearningidea in Mandarin

This is to let you know that the link to Earthlearningidea translations into Mandarin in now up and running again. Many thanks to all who have worked so hard to make this happen.

Monday 10 May 2010


Do earthquakes and volcanoes coincide? Try our latest Earthlearningidea 'Geobattleships' to find out. This activity uses a children's game to match the distribution of volcanoes and earthquakes on the Earth's surface.
There are lots of activities about earthquakes and volcanoes on our website. Use the Keyword Index to find them.

Monday 3 May 2010

Is the mantle solid or liquid?

Mantle - solid or liquid? Some text books say it is liquid but seismic transverse (S) body waves pass through it so - - - - -
Click here to find out.

Tuesday 27 April 2010

3-D Model of Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano

Make your own 3D model of Iceland's most famous recent volcano. Click here to read all about the eruption and the subsequent volcanic ash plume - see satellite images and an explanatory video clip.
For more ideas on activities about volcanoes for your pupils, visit the Earthlearningidea website and look up 'volcanoes' in the keyword index.

Monday 26 April 2010

Modelling the properties of the Mantle

What are the photos of people playing with silicone putty demonstrating? Click on our latest Earthlearningidea to find out - 'Bouncing, bending, breaking; modelling the properties of the mantle'
Understanding how the rocks of the mantle can behave in a brittle way is not difficult – pupils will know that when a rock is hit with a hammer, it will break! Seismic evidence shows that the Earth’s mantle may also transmit earthquake waves, by the elastic deformation of the mantle rocks, showing they must be solid. However, mantle rocks may also “flow” or creep, given enough time and under the conditions of higher temperatures and pressures existing within the Earth. Some textbook writers assume that pupils will not be able to understand that flow can happen in a solid material and therefore state that the mantle is largely liquid, even though seismic evidence contradicts this.
Visit our website for lots more Earth-related activities for you to use with your pupils.

Friday 23 April 2010

Name that Sample

A few weeks ago we published information about 'Send us your sample' where you can receive free images from a scanning electron microsope of any sample you send. The company has now launched Name that Sample, in which a sample is shown (example above) and the person who guesses what it is wins a brand new netbook computer.

Monday 19 April 2010

Can you work out the geological history?

Can your pupils work out the geological history of the sequence of rocks shown above? The answers are given in the Earthlearningidea 'What is the geological history? - sequencing events to reveal a history using simple stratigraphic principles'.
This is one of many Earth-related activities, all of which are free to download from our website.

Saturday 10 April 2010

Waves in the Earth Part 2 - Human molecules

In this activity, 'Waves in the Earth Part 2 - Human molecules' pupils are pushed around to demonstrate the properties of seismic waves. This is most effective when the slinky demonstration has been carried out first.
These two activities are more of our ELI+ Earthlearningideas and are both very popular in the UK. Please do let us know what your pupils think; doing these activities often helps the learning process - do your pupils agree?

Friday 9 April 2010

Want to see a specimen with a Scanning Electron Microscope?

'Send us your sample' - you can send your sample and have it scanned by a powerful desktop Scanning Electron Microscope. This service is FREE and the organisers think it is a good way for teachers to take a proactive approach to teaching science. You can send anything - - soil (as in photo), fossil, dead insect, broken iPhone - - - . You can view reports of work the organisers have done here.
Since this campaign was started there has been a lot of interest from professionals, educators and students all around the world.
Recently a video has been posted on YouTube.

Monday 5 April 2010

Extension - 'Craters on the Moon'

A reader has sent some extension ideas for 'Craters on the Moon'. Click here to view the activity and here to view the extension.
The Earthlearningidea team was very pleased to receive these suggestions. We hope that many more of our activities will have extension ideas sent to us by teachers from around the world.

ELI around the world now shows the countries and the 'cities' of the world that our activities have reached since the project began in May 2007. We have reached 160 countries and 5903 cities.

Monday 29 March 2010

Waves in the Earth Part 1- the slinky simulation

The latest ELI+ activity is 'Waves in the Earth 1 - the slinky simulation' The slinky spring is a well known aid in teaching the physics of wave motion but in this Earthlearningidea, it is applied to the transmission of earthquake waves through the Earth. Longitudinal (P) and transverse (S) waves can be demonstrated very easily with the spring. As always, with Earthlearningideas, the science behind the activity is explained clearly and concisely in the 'Back-up'.
Please visit our website for other innovative Earth-related teaching ideas.

Monday 22 March 2010

Carbon goes round and round and round

Can your pupils place these pictures in the carbon cycle? Can they explain what is happening? If not, try this Earthlearningidea - 'Carbon goes round and round and round; make your own carbon cycle'? The carbon cycle is happening everywhere all the time. Carbon is 'fixed' by certain processes and 'released' by others.
This is one of many activities to be found on our website.

Monday 15 March 2010

New ELI+ - Magnetic Earth

Try out latest Earthlearningidea with your pupils - 'Magnetic Earth - modelling the magnetic field of the Earth' At the end of the activity pupils should be able to:-
- locate the North and South poles of a hidden bar magnet;
- identify which pole is North and which is South;
- plot the three dimensional field of the magnet;
- relate the model to the bipolar magnetic field of the Earth;
- describe how, when rocks retain the direction of the magnetic field at the time they formed, this information can be used to work out the latitude of the region at that time.
This is one of many Earth-related activities you can find on our website.

Saturday 6 March 2010

Extension ideas for 'Clay balls and the structure of the Earth'

Have you tried our latest activity 'From clay balls to the structure of the Earth'? We have now published Extension details (19MB) about this Earthlearningidea. Class discussion is likely to conclude that, firstly, the main evidence for the structure of the Earth, including the depths of the boundaries and the state and composition of the materials involved, comes from seismic waves. Secondly, extra evidence comes from the Earth's magnetic field, its mass (and density) and its rotational inertia.
Do try this activity with your students and send us their findings.
Visit our website for lots of Earth-related activities.

Monday 1 March 2010

How can physics be used to probe the Earth's structure?

The latest ELI+ activity is 'From clay balls to the structure of the Earth; a discussion of how physics can be used to probe Earth's structure.'
This activity consolidates understanding of many physical processes and characteristics including, density, inertia, magnetism, electromagnetism, sound (ultrasound and seismic) and radiation (X-rays and ionising) The best evidence we have for the core‘s position and character is seismic waves, but density-measurements, inertia and magnetism each contribute useful information.
We should be pleased to publish any extension ideas you have for this activity.
Scroll through the Keyword Index of Earthlearningideas to find an activity for your pupils.

Monday 22 February 2010

'Landslide through the window'

On 15th February 2010, a huge landslide occurred in Maierato, Calabria, Italy. It seems that the landslide was triggered by heavy rainfall in the region. Two hundred people were evacuated and it caused power failures.
Have you tried Earthlearningidea 'Landslide through the window - what would you see, what would you feel?'
This is one of many 'through the window' Earthlearningideas. They make an excellent start to your lesson or perhaps you can use them for some creative writing.

Monday 15 February 2010

NEW - Changing Coastlines

Try our latest Earthlearningidea- 'Changing coastlines; investigating how coastal erosion, transportation and deposition can change the shape of coastlines'.
Coastlines, with their cliffs, beaches, headlands and bays, are constantly changing shape. It is important to understand the processes because if you prevent erosion in one place this may lead to reduced deposition in another. There is usually a knock-on effect somewhere else when people try to control the shape of a coastline.
This is a very popular activity in the UK. Please let us know how your pupils get on in other countries.
Visit our website for many more ideas to enliven your science or geography lessons.

Monday 8 February 2010

Why do some lavas flow easily and others do not?

Have you tried 'See how they run; an investigation into why some lavas flow further and more quickly than others' The fluid in the three containers has been heated to different temperatures. The results of which containers best describe the eruptions in the two photos? What are the factors affecting the viscosity of lavas? Find out the answers by trying this activity.
There are lots of other Earthlearningideas for your pupils to try. Click on Keywords Index for a comprehensive topic list or on Categories for the groupings of activities.