Earth Science

Foundational Level General Science Laboratory Descriptions

Earth Science

Solar System Scale Model

Scale Model of Solar System

In this activity, students see how the orbits of comets compare to the orbits of the planets. They use a loop of string to learn the difference between an ellipse in general and a circle in particular. Students then go outside to make a true-scale chalk drawing of the orbits of the planets in our solar system, including a few comets.

Solar Measurement and Sun Spots

Gitas New Sun Spot Exercise
How Big is the Sun

Students construct a simple apparatus and use a simple method for calculating the sun's diameter.  Students observe, track, and analyze sunspots from real-time imagery found on NASA's website.

Earthquake Slip and Liquefaction

Landslide Mapping

Students create a simple hands-on model to simulate earthquakes and then experiment with different variables in their model.

El Nino

El Nino

Students create a model El Nino simulation.  Using modeling programs, they make graphical representations of sea surface pressures and sea surface temperatures. Further, they examine data on changes in sea surface height and seasonal fluctuations in precipitation, looking for correlations.

CO2

CO2 Lab

Simulation of the greenhouse effect utilizes two fish tanks, heat lamps, and either laboratory thermome­ters or laptop-driven temperature probes. Experiments are run by creating a CO2-enriched environment and mea­suring the differential heating of that experimental appa­ratus compared to an identical control. This experiment can be run as a hands-on student project or by the instruc­tor as a demonstration for larger lecture classes. This greenhouse experiment and the broader curriculum have been developed around the central theme of teaching stu­dents to distinguish (1) solid scientific mechanisms from (2) actively debated hypothesis from (3) the broader genre of misperception and misinformation. This process pro­vides students the opportunity to gain a much deeper un­derstanding of the climate system, the nature of scientific uncertainty, the burden of proof in ongoing research, and the difficulties in transferring scientific results to the public-policy realm.

Differential Heating of Ambient Air and CO2

Differential Heating of Ambient Air and CO2

In this experiment, students examine/demonstrate the warming of air when the CO2 concentration is increased. This is an update to the CO2 Lab, redesigned for middle school, using easy to find materials and increased student interaction.

Albedo

Albedo

Students experiment  with a model system to better understand the effect of color on albedo and relate the results of this activity to various surfaces on the Earth such as water, snow, and ice.

Land/Water Heating

Land-Water Heating

Students conduct an experiment that illustrates the different heating capacities of water and sand. They connect the observed differences to real-life phenomena.

Water Masses

Water Masses

Students model the stratification of seawater by combining water of different temperatures and densities.