Investigating Streamflow in the Schuylkill River

This exercise is presented in a jigsaw format but can be easily scaled to lower grade levels, where students prepare and/or are presented just one graph from one location for one period of time.  Note that once the data is accessed on the USGS website, the data can be downloaded to work with in Excel, or (as this exercise suggests) a data table can be printed off for students to create graphs from.  To help students visualize the units in which streamflow is measured, cubic feet per second (cfs), I bring to class a 1 ft x 1 ft x 1 ft box to show them what a cubic foot looks like.

Creating Geological Time Scale Models with CER

In this activity students will make claims prior to seeing any data and complete a mapping activity that creates a geological time scale to help them use evidence to support or refute their claims. 

This classroom exercise is intended to be an introductory Earth Science activity to prepare students to look at time on the large scale and to discuss plate tectonics and rock records.

Reading the Rock Record of Ancient Environments: A Grand Canyon Example

Sedimentary rocks provide insight into the changing environments of the past. Students should already know how to identify several key sedimentary rock types, and have an understanding of the conditions under which they formed. In this exercise students will look at sedimentary sequences that record the history of the western United States from the PreCambrian through the age of the dinosaurs. Students will evaluate data on two different spatial scales: (a) variations within Grand Canyon, and (b) differences between rocks at the western and eastern ends of Grand Canyon.

Mountain Building: Exploring Topography Along Plate Boundaries with GeoMapApp

GeoMapApp is a free, map-based data exploration and visualization tool (see  Using this tool, we can explore how comparison of topography along different boundaries, both ancient and active, can provide a means for students to grasp the immense spatial scales involved in earth processes.

Discovering Plate Boundaries

Discovering Plate Boundaries (DPB) is a data rich exercise to help students discover the processes that occur at plate tectonic boundaries.  DPB has been used with students from 5th grade to university level.  It works well over this wide range because it requires the students to observe and classify data.  It does not require prior knowledge of plate tectonics.  The exercise is built around global data maps.

Hawaii and Indonesia – Activity and Information for Students

Part I: Overarching Question: What is the relationship between the motion of the Pacific plate and that of the Hawaiian hot spot over the last 70 million years?

See also: Teaching About Volcanoes in a Plate Tectonic Context

Begin by examining a map of Hawaii that shows the entire volcanic chain including the Emperor Seamounts ( is one nice example).

Exploring Regional Climate Patterns and Generalizing the Results to Enhance Deep Conceptualization

An understanding of climate science and the processes that control Earth’s past, present and future climate is increasingly important for students both as potential scientists and as future decision-makers in our society. Before students can begin grappling with the concept of anthropogenic climate change, they must build the necessary vocabulary and background knowledge for participating in meaningful discussion about the natural climate system.

The Power of a Hurricane: Using Memorable Storms to Teach Inference and Graphing Skills

Using real-time or near-real-time data in the classroom can form the basis for exciting guided inquiry lessons that build necessary scientific thinking skills. Choosing data from recent newsworthy events also motivates students to learn because they feel personally connected to the observations surrounding such events.

Subduction Zone Geometry in Three Dimensions: Using authentic data to explore relationships between earthquakes, volcanoes, and plates at convergent margins

The ability to visualize features of the Earth in three-dimensional space, and to conceptualize how these features change over long timescales, is a crucial skill for geoscientists. Here I present an exercise that is specifically designed to build geometrical visualization skills while exposing students to authentic real-time data.