Monday 26 September 2011

Mary Anning - Mother of Palaeontology

Our new ELI is all about Mary Anning and her exciting fossil discoveries on the Dorset coast in the early 19th century. 'Mary Anning- Mother of Palaeontology; a woman in a man's world' is an activity which has a series of questions to help pupils to think about Mary Anning and her times. It emphasises the historical difficulties of a woman working in a man's world and shows that social history can play an important part in scientific development and advancement. Gender has been a critical factor in scientific discovery, and may still be so today. Let us have your views?
Other activities related to this one are shown on the home page of the ELI website.

Saturday 24 September 2011

Geocamp - field activities

GEOCAMP is a website devoted to field activities in Geology. It is a free-access website available for both teachers and students who carry out field exercises as part of their teaching or learning. It is an hypermedia resource in Catalan, Spanish and English, containing original teaching materials and several links with all kinds of topics related to field exercises in the Earth Sciences.
The website includes a desktop publishing tool - the GEOCAMP-EDITOR  - a software application that permits the user to load, from anywhere in the world, the text and figures that build up the description of a point or route of geological interest. Once information is loaded, a document is automatically generated. This document can be accessed as HTML format or downloaded as a PDF to be used as a field guide.

Monday 19 September 2011

Be an environmental detective

Have you tried 'Environmental detective'? This is an exercise in thinking about where different environments might occur on a tropical desert coast and how the evidence might become preserved in a sequence of rocks. After completing the activity pupils can use their imagination to visualise what may be going on seen and unseen in a coastal desert environment and relate modern processes to the record of rocks and fossils. Able pupils may realise that a modern lateral sequence of environments may become preserved in a vertical succession.
Other activities in the 'Geological time' category may be found on our website.

Sunday 11 September 2011

Krakatoa - volcanic eruption and tsunamis

'The balloon goes up at Krakatoa' is our new ELI activity. You require a tank and a balloon to simulate the huge tsunamis caused by the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883. While the eruption itself was awesome, it was the tsunamis that caused all the deaths, so how
were these tsunamis formed? Nobody really knows the exact mechanism, since no-one was there at the time. One theory is that, after the caldera had been formed, a side of the volcano slumped into the sea, causing the tsunamis. A second theory is that, when the magma chamber collapsed, huge volumes of sea water poured into the space and then slopped out again, causing the tsunamis. If this last theory is correct, you can recreate your own Krakatoan tsunamis using this ELI.
There are many free-to-download activities about volcanic eruptions and tsunamis on our website. To find them you can either 'Search topics' or 'Search activities.'

Monday 5 September 2011

More evaluations of ELIs

The following are more evaluations from workshops held in New Mexico. 
Rock, rattle and roll
We set up a ‘competition’ by asking for a prediction of which rock would erode most easily.  The two students made different choices.  As one of the students noted: It opened the door for a quick mention of experimentor bias.
Suggestion:  Begin with the rocks that are not going to erode easily and work your way to the ones that do.
Make your own rock
- We had a difficult time getting the sugar and salt cemented sediments to dry out.  We did heat them slightly but they were still damp at the end of the week.  It did open a discussion of why they did not work and how to improve the activity.
- The salt and sugar used for the other rocks did not really keep the sand together so we were not able to test them by dropping a ball bearing on them.
Suggestions: Be very specific on the amount of ‘cement’ to put into a cup.
… have other materials to make rocks out of.  Make one with white glue (Elmer’s glue is the common brand here in the States) and another with candle wax.
What was it like to be there – in the rocky world?
I liked being able to visualize the environment by looking at the rock.
Suggestion:  Students could write a story or essay about the environment that rock was in.
From an orange to the whole Earth
- realized that one object can be made up of layers with different density.
- the model also helped to visualize the Earth is made up of layers of different density.
From clay balls to the structure of the Earth
- The models built by the class did not work as well as expected.
Need to have a larger variation in weight between the two balls.
- Thinner layer of clay over a larger weighted center in order to be able to test with a magnet.
Magnetic Earth
We used a magnetized needle instead of a “magnaprobe.” The group struggled to understand the instructions.  I believe that part of the problem is because they truly do not understand the magnetic field; they could not adjust or adapt and did not understand the instructions. With guidance the students did locate the poles and the equator.  We then lightly marked those on the clay ball.  We had less success trying to measure the angles between the equator and poles.
- Directions were very confusing and took the entire class to figure out how things should look.
Better directions, more visual pictures and diagrams.
Use the diagram from activity Frozen magnetism.
Frozen magnetism
- The way the iron filings stuck out of the wax really showed the effects of the magnet.
- Magnetic field is seen 3 dimensionally.
- Was very well written and easy to understand.
Partial melting
The wax was a neat way to show how solid rocks when heated can become liquid and then cool and separate from the rocks that did not melt.
Learned a lot about the melting points of different rocks and how that affects what we find on the surface of the Earth today.
The continental jigsaw puzzle
Hands-on activity that really allows the students to learn by trial and error.
Magnetic stripes
When doing this activity referred back to Frozen magnetism.  This was when students had more questions and were trying to put it together and began to understand why magnetic stripes are important.
- Learned how rocks retain their magnetism long after they are formed and even after the poles have changed.
- During this activity we were able to see that as the magnetic fields arise they also change polarity from north to south.  Still some misconceptions….
- I learned more about magnetic alignments in rocks of the ocean floor.  The magnetic field has been reversed in Earth history and rocks still bear the magnetism from when they first formed. 
Suggestion: A step-by-step instruction for the construction of the model.  The illustration or diagram is not adequate.
If you have comments and suggestions about Earth Learning Idea activities, then please let us know.