Genome - Sept/Oct


Forums / Earth and Space Science / BestGeologyLabActivities

Earth and Space Science


Author Post
LeRoy Attles LeRoy Attles 56530 Points

Hello Everyone Do you have some great Geology Lab Activities? If so, please share with us. Thanks

Alyce Dalzell Alyce Dalzell 64075 Points

Hi Leroy, I have a powerpoint I use during a STEM Engineering Unit or family science night and two geology labs that are easy to "tweak" and differentiate to engage learners! These labs also allow me to assess the depth of their knowledge and understanding, a key component on successful projects. I'm also including a powerpoint that is shown during our "Family Engineering Fun" evening. After viewing the slides students and their families design and construct a bridge utilizing the engineering process. The materials I have available are very inexpensive. ie marshmallows, toothpicks, straws. Families test the load on their bridges using pennies or ceramic tiles. This celebration always proves to be a great bonding experience that you can draw on throughout the year when requesting materials or recyclables to use in other projects. I look forward to reading and sharing the variety of lessons and activities that will be posted. Alyce

LeRoy Attles LeRoy Attles 56530 Points

Alyce Thanks for contributing. I found a great activity online using crayons. I tried it in my class and my 6th graders really enjoyed it. Below is a link if you are interested

Pamela Auburn Pamela Auburn 68625 Points

LeRoy have you checked out the resources at the Geological Society?

Alyce Dalzell Alyce Dalzell 64075 Points

Thanks LeRoy, I have seen the crayola rock cycle activity but have never tried it with my students, with your recommendation I'm going to give it a try.

I also have found several NASA External Resources on NSTA's site that are high quality and very engaging.

NASA's Rock and the Rock Cycle is an interactive site that allows students to investigate the rock cycle over millions of years.

Let me know what you think, Alyce

LeRoy Attles LeRoy Attles 56530 Points

Hi Tina

Thanks for the Pet Rock Idea. I did a search on the pet rock project and found a
fun template for that project.

LeRoy Attles LeRoy Attles 56530 Points

Hi Alyce Thanks for your suggestion! I looked at your web site suggestion but I really did not see specific activities for kids. The site looked like a science research site so I am thinking I may have missed something. Did I miss something? If so, please give me a few suggestions of specific things to see. Could you share some ideas of how I might use this site with my students? Thanks Again for the suggestion.

LeRoy Attles LeRoy Attles 56530 Points

Hello A I found a great website that we can use for real world lesson on Earthquakes.

Alyce Dalzell Alyce Dalzell 64075 Points

Tina - Well constructed webquests take a lot of planning and research. I also believe that webquests can be constructed to potentially become one the best technology based learning opportunities for our students. Thank you for sharing yours!

Please share the strategies you utilize in developing webquests. I often start with state standards...but other than that I don't have any identified strategies.
Enjoy your week!

Elizabeth Dalzell-Wagers Elizabeth Dalzell 9945 Points

Hey Group, I am excited to try the Rock Cycle activity with the crayons next week. I was able to secure several bags of donated ones! Are they any tricks or changes that you made to the lab or noticed throughout the day that would be helpful? Thanks Liz

Kendra Young Kendra Young 17180 Points

'I reviewed the science journals and discovered that no one has written about my favorite geology lesson for 4-8, but there was an article that was similar with a similar name, 'My Pet Rock' (I guess I had better get writing!). It all began when I was thinking about why my students don't like rocks as well as I do and I got to thinking, I started rock collecting by looking for pretty rocks - maybe they would be more interested in pretty/interesting rocks than small dull samples from a bag.'


I just wanted to thank you for sharing this interesting activity. What a great way to get students learning about rocks, the rock cycle, and rock composition! If you have any handouts or other materials, directions, etc. for this lesson I hope you'll share with the rest of us.


Susan Phillips Susan Phillips 2410 Points

I have two activities that I use when we study the formation of sedimentary and metamorphic rocks. The first requires substantial preparation the first year, but it is fun.

Lisa Coughlin Lisa Coughlin 1070 Points

There is a good activity that I use with my students called Musical Plates: The students use real time data to plot the location of earthquakes and volcanoes to discover the location of plate boundaries. I've used it for a couple of years now and the students seem to really enjoy it.

Jessica Weedon Jessica Fagan 3795 Points

Thanks for sharing. These are great! As a bio/chem teacher, I really appreciate help with teaching Earth Science concepts.

Chris Rupert Chris Rupert 3530 Points

Some good websites for resources

Steve Werner Steve Werner 1055 Points

Playing Geology Jeopardy today caused me to get out my rock collection and have students find the rocks mentioned in the game. Basalt, gneiss ...... Next time we will give them a streak test before moving on to the next question. Thanks for the link. Keep posting Steve

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 91048 Points

Hi Steve and thread readers,
I get a lot of great ideas from reading the NSTA journals. I did a search of middle school geology lab activities and these 3 articles 'came up'. I know you teach middle school, Steve, so I hope there may be some interesting ideas embedded in these selections. Let me know if you find anything you plan to try.
Science Sampler: School yard geology (I saw that you reviewed this article.)
Science Sampler: Beyond Yellowstone(Students use distance learning with a real life location)
Digging into Inquiry-based Earth Science
The last article includes a complex soil study that sounded intriguing and very ambitious.

Dorian Janney Dorian Janney 10465 Points

I am always amazed by the wealth of ideas and practical teaching suggestions and solutions I find in the forums here in the Learning Center! Our next unit is on geology, with an emphasis on plate tectonics, earthquakes, and volcanoes. As I looked over the ideas in this forum, I have already bookmarked and saved many of the ideas and websites. I am excited about the NASA Windows to the Universe site that Alyce shared as it has tiered reading levels and offers a Spanish version as well. The webquest that Tina gave us looks fabulous, and I am looking forward to trying out the lab ideas that others offered. Thank all of you for making teaching what it should be- a cooperative venture rather than a competition sport! I will share what worked well with my 8th grade students, and perhaps add some things that we tried that were not mentioned in this thread.

Dorian Janney Dorian Janney 10465 Points

I was looking through the posts on this forum last night, and was delvinginto some of the links. I went into one that Roy had posted ( that took me to a site that monitors earthquakes in real time, and learned that one had taken place off Honshu. When I awoke this morning and heard that another had rocked Japan, I decided to use this event as a teachable moment and break from chemistry for a bit to present information that we will cover in our next unit. So when I got in this morning, I came straight to this site, bookmarked the links- and I have a great lesson with real-world data and a scientific explanation behind what occured! There is a great PowerPoint that can be accessed through the link above that is ready to go and contains detailed scientific information about this earthquake. Yet again, thanks so much to all of you for helping make teaching a cooperative venture!


Sue Garcia Sue Garcia 42675 Points

Do you and your students like to make volcanoes in the classroom? If so-here is a volcano lab that I have used for years. My students love it and I have done it at workshops before and had other teachers really like it. It was originally from a NASA lab of the same name, however-I changed it to match the needs of my grade and district.


Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 91048 Points

Hi LeRoy and thread readers, I just had to share one of my student's great, creative ideas for a hands-on inquiry lesson on erosion. He scavenged 3 cardboard boxes (about 18" by 18" by 18") and cut windows out of two opposing sides to create huge views (the windows were about 16" by 16"). He covered the openings with clear plastic wrap. Next he made three drinking straw-sized holes evenly spaced across the bottom of one of the sides (about 1" from the bottom of the box) - on a side that did not have any of the "windows". Inside the box (near each straw-sized hole) he placed mounds of flour, oatmeal, and sugar. A sugar mound was in front of one of the holes, a flour mound in front of a second hole, and an oatmeal mound in front of the third hole. Students then took turns blowing through the box openings with their own straws while watching the wind erosion effects on the different sizes of particles. Students were also able to experiment with various materials (cotton, toothpicks, etc.) to see if they could limit the amount of erosion for each of the 3 kinds of "soil". It is important to keep the lids on the boxes during the "blowing". The flour can create a wind fog! This turned out to be an effective way to see the results of wind erosion based on soil particle size. I wish there were a way to show you a picture of his set up. Anyone interested in trying to duplicate my student's inquiry box is welcome to send me a private message. I will take a photo of it for you. Carolyn

Dorian Janney Dorian Janney 10465 Points

I just reviewed a lab activity that seems excellent for middle school students! It focuses on volcanoes and predicting mudflows that occur with stratovolcanoes which are located near glaciers. Apparently "lahars", which are mudflows that are caused by hot ash falling onto glaciers, are responsible for tremendous devastation. I think that students would be highly engaged with this lesson, which offers some video clips that show these types of mudflows as well as giving precise directions for students and teachers to follow to create some simulations for various possible mudflows. Then students transfer this knowledge to real-world settings as they learn about Mt. Rainier. I am attaching this journal article from NSTA's "Science Scope" magazine from June, 2007.

Dorothy Ginnett Dorothy Ginnett 28235 Points

Thanks Everyone for sharing so many amazing Geology teaching resources! I'm preparing to teach a new geology class this fall (high school. These resources are a life-saver! I will add geology resources to this discussion forum as I discover them. The National Association of GeoScience Teachers is presenting a webinar on the new Science Educaiton Conceptual Standards Webinar: Earth and Space Science in the NRC Conceptual Framework for New Science Education Standards July 25 at 1:00 Pacific Time, 2:00 Mountain Time, 3:00 Central Time, 4:00 Eastern Time. Link for more information is: Dorothy

Ruth Hutson Ruth Hutson 64080 Points

[i]Dorothy wrote, "Webinar: Earth and Space Science in the NRC Conceptual Framework for New Science Education Standards July 25 at 1:00 Pacific Time, 2:00 Mountain Time, 3:00 Central Time, 4:00 Eastern Time. Link for more information is: '' target="_blank"> ' target="_blank"> "[/i] Hi Dorothy, Can anyone attend or do you have to be a NAGT member? Do you have to preregister?

Dorothy Ginnett Dorothy Ginnett 28235 Points

Hi Ruth -

I really don't know the answer to that question, as I've never attended one of their webinars.

There was just the webinar link posted, and information on where to find archived webinar after the session. No clarification regarding pre-registration or if it was free and open to the public.

I searched their website for webinar information. I see that some of their webinars are co-sponsored with NSTA and require preregistration.

This one on Earth Science and the Science Framework seems to be a stand-alone webinar just from the GeoScience Teachers Association, so it may run differently.


Ruth Hutson Ruth Hutson 64080 Points

Thanks for the information, Dorothy. I ended up being very busy today and didn't get to attend the webinar. Was anyone else able to attend? Would you like to give the forum a synopsis of the web seminar?

Also, FYI, tomorrow, Tuesday, July 26, 2011 from 6:30P.M. - 8:00P.M. Eastern Time, there will be a web seminar sponsored by NSTA and NRC about the New Conceptual Framework. It is called a Framework for K-12 Science Education. The program is free, but you do have to pre-register at this link.

Dorothy Ginnett Dorothy Ginnett 28235 Points

Webinar Update:

The webinar archive: Earth and Space Science in the NRC Conceptual Framework for New Science Education Standardsis now posted at the National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT):

Link to PDF of Powerpoint file:

I've just glanced at it, but it looks very helpful and informative.


Alayna Maldonado Alayna Maldonado 1750 Points

One culminating activity that ties into Language Arts I do with my third graders after studying the rock cycle is to have them write a rock story. They choose a type of rock to research, give it a name (like Carla Calcite) and write a narrative story of how that rock came to be that type of rock. They have to describe the processes that occurred in order for the rock to form. I usually have them write/draw each step on an index card and tape them in order of when each process happens so they can fold the book up like an accordion when they are done. I really like the crayon rock cycle lab everyone is talking about, but I’m concerned about using an open flame in front of a bunch of third graders. Does anyone have any other ideas that are similar, but not as risky?

Sue Garcia Sue Garcia 42675 Points

Alayna, I use a more complex "Rock Cycle Story" with my 6th graders. Before we write our stories, we model several different ways rocks can change. I use an iron to simulate "heat & pressure" and a hot plate for just "heat". I have never had an accident with any of my students (they do the simulation, it is not a demonstration), but I do supervise my students very carefully-only 2 irons & hot plates on at one time (classes range in size from 22-32) and I am within a few feet of all four heat devises.

Cheska Robinson Cheska Lorena 5075 Points

Alyce, I think this link on web-quest design might help: Came across it from one of my Twitter feeds :) Cheska

Brenda Ontiveros Brenda Ontiveros 2430 Points

Hello, I am working on developing a lesson on glaciers, in particular how glaciers help shape the Earth's surface. Does anyone have suggestions for activities I can use? Thanks

Post Reply

Forum content is subject to the same rules as NSTA List Serves. Rules and disclaimers