Monday 29 August 2011

Make your own sloping ridge and valley

The fourth in our series of mapwork from models has been published on our website today - 'Sloping ridge and valley'. Pupils are shown this photo of a ridge/valley area in the Arrochar Alps in the SW Highlands of Scotland, and are asked to cut out the 3D paper model of the landform. The geology of the area is described and they are asked to draw it accurately on to the model. There are two different versions of the geology so pupils either turn the first model inside out or use another model. Pupil are often so pleased with all their mapwork models that they keep them for later revision.
There are over 100 practical, hands-on activities on our website!

Monday 22 August 2011

Evaluations of some ELI activities

Following Earth science workshops held in New Mexico, students were asked to complete a short evaluation of every ELI conducted in the class.  The evaluations were done at the end of each ‘unit’ and students sat and discussed the activities as they wrote up the evaluations.  They were asked to answer 4 questions:
(1) In a sentence or two – what did you learn from this ELI?
(2) What worked for you?
(3) What did not work?
(4) Any suggestions for changes or improvements?
The comments below are taken directly from student’s written comments.
Permeability of soils – The great soil race (Instructor presented)
- Teachers liked the ease of set up. 
- We only did two samples and teachers suggested additional samples or compacting one of the soils, so that students could see a direct comparison of compacted and uncompacted.
Maps from models – Cuesta (Instructor presented)
- Doing the model allowed me to visualize what a cuesta is supposed to look like.  A cuesta is steep on one side and has a gentle slope on the other.
- …clearly showed the characteristics of a cuesta.  It was easy to identify them during the next activity (Geological postcards) and imagine how cross sections would work.
Geological postcards 1 - Granite and Chalk (Instructor presented)
- We went in the field to look at rocks and structures in the area around the university.  Lots of cuestas here to observe.
- Teachers liked the field aspect and felt they learned more from being in the field than from pictures in a book or using hand specimens.
- We reviewed geologic maps of the areas we visited before the field trip and one suggestion was more map work before going in the field, so students understand the maps.
Rock Detective (Instructor presented)
- … having a rock that I really had to think about.  It was not really like the other rocks where a simple scratch or look through a magnifying glass could show you where it went.
Rock cycle through the window
Teachers decided to actually go outside and not just look through the window. 
- Going outside worked really well it got us out and really looking around explaining the vocabulary words and the examples worked really well, too.
The rock cycle in wax
- I learned the basic processes of the rock cycle and how to demonstrate it to students using common items.
Suggestion:  Add questions or ask students to make predictions.
Why do igneous rocks have different crystal sizes?
- … were really amazed at how you can actually see the crystals forming on the slide.
- We were able to predict that the longer time it took the crystals to grow, the larger the crystals
Suggestion:  Have students draw the crystals from the room temperature and cold slides while they wait for the warm slide to cool enough for the crystals to form.
The unfair ‘build your own crystal’ race
- Students are able to see when the model is cooled quickly the crystals are smaller and when the crystals are cooled with time the crystals tend to be a bit larger.
Suggestion:  could easily modify to use mini-marshmallows or gum drops and toothpicks
Metamorphism – that’s Greek for ‘change of shape’ isn’t it?
- We used marshmallows instead of foam balls.
- I used too many marshmallows for the initial presentations
- Some rocks can be squeezed and shaped into layers or squeezed and change shape completely.
Squeezed out of shape
- …we learned that fossils can be distorted in many ways.  Making the mold and then distorting it helps to realize that if the fossil is between two things that cause pressure it will more than likely be distorted.
- Fun to make and get to keep the end product.  Students would really like that.
Suggestion:  Make a plaster of paris cast of the undeformed fossil for comparison of the casts.
These are just some of the 44 evaluations sent to us - more later! 
If you have comments and suggestions about Earth Learning Idea ctivities, then please let us know. 

Monday 15 August 2011

Shaken but not stirred?

Our latest Earth Learning Idea activity is 'Shaken but not stirred?' This is a teacher-led demonstration of the relationship between the frequency of the shaking of the 'ground' and the movement of model 'buildings' of various heights. The activity can be used to help students to explore the effects of earthquakes in densely populated areas, and to dispel misconceptions about the relative safety of high rise buildings in seismically active regions.
There are lots of other exciting activities in our Natural Hazards category on the website. If you have any personal experiences of being in buildings when an earthquake strikes, please do let us know.

Monday 8 August 2011

River erosion as seen in Uganda

Have you tried Earth Learning Ideas 'Mighty river in a small gutter' which investigates how flowing water erodes soft sediment, or 'Rock, rattle and roll' which demonstrates that some rocks are more resistant to erosion than others?
Pupils at St Paul Junior School, Luyanzi, Uganda were lucky enough to study river erosion closely by visiting the Kalagala Falls on the River Nile. Here there are spectacular waterfalls and rapids in the river. The following photo shows the river being constrained by resistant rocks on either side.
Here you can see the start of the waterfalls:-
If you want to run some fieldwork outside, do try 'Earth science out of doors'.
If you have some photos of pupils doing fieldwork, we shall be pleased to display them.

Monday 1 August 2011

Sixth activity in our Mapwork series

Our latest Earth Learning Idea is 'Geological mapwork from models 3: valley with horizontal floor'. This is the sixth in our series of simple introductory geological map exercises. Pupils are shown a photograph of a flat-bottomed valley and then are asked to cut out a 3D paper model of the landform. They then plot the geology on to the model from the description given. This exercise challenges three dimensional/spatial thinking, since the map can only be completed by students realising that the limestone/mudstone boundary appears horizontal on the southern cross section and so cuts the valley sides. The boundaries can then be joined by a straight line on the surface of the model.
This is one of many activities in our Investigating the Earth category.