Earth History

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.

Cemetery Investigation - Tombstone Weathering

A cemetery provides an ideal location for student investigative research. Cemeteries are easily accessible in all communities and provide a field location for a non-cookbook style of laboratory activity. Students can examine tombstone weathering rates, reinforcing rock identification. Students may collect cemetery demographic data, comparing the longevity and survivorship data with local environmental events and impacts.

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.

The Heat Engine - Two mini activities exploring convection currents

This is an activity that was modified from PDE's SAS resource portal.  It offers two mini activities, one student investigation and one teaching demonstration, for exploring the movement of convection currents. This lesson is set up to have students use Claim, Evidence and Reasoning to both predict and analyze the investigations.

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).