Earth History

Exploration for Petroleum and Natural Gas in the Nittany Valley

This exercise was developed as a collaborative effort by the faculty in the Department of Geoscience.

The major source of power for industrial use, the home, and transportation comes from burning fossil fuels including petroleum, natural gas and coal.  To a lesser extent, wood and peat are also burned as a source of power but these two sources are less commonly used and neither accounts for a major fraction of the fuel used world wide.

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.

An Instructional Unit on the Marcellus Shale for Middle School Students

Central Pennsylvania is an area rich in natural energy resources with a complex geologic history. Classroom investigations often focus on how the modern regional topography developed following formation of the Appalachian Mountains. The last ten years have seen tremendous interest in utilizing natural gas, especially from the Marcellus Shale, as an alternative to coal and petroleum for providing electricity and transportation fuel.

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.

Google Earth Exercise: Mountains, Their Environments, and Human Activity

Students are directed to open specific pre-existing layers under "Global Awareness" in Google Earth - Appalachian Mountaintop Removal, and UNEP: Atlas of Our Changing Environment.  No additional Google Earth files are required, as students can complete the exercise using the available Layers in the Google Earth program (available as a free download from

Comparing Seasons in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres

This lesson was used as an inquiry activity to allow students to analyze recorded Near Surface Average Temperature data in order to make claims about the differences between seasons in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres of the Earth. Students were additionally asked to construct a Temperature vs. Month line graph from a set of recorded data to determine if there was an observable difference between average temperatures in the Northern Hemispere and the Southern Hemisphere.

Weather and Climate Unit Big Idea

(School District of Philadelphia)

Latitude and Longitude Scavenger Hunt

This lesson can be used to engage students in the study of the world's climate zones by helping them identify places on the world globe.

The Latitude and Longitude Scavenger Hunt activity provides students with a review of reading lines of latitude and longitude on a globe. This activity can also be used to pre-assess student understanding of how lines of latitude and longitude help locate and identify specific places on Earth.

The Physical and Biological Characteristics of the World's Biomes

This web-based lesson is a culminating activity to the Weather and Climate unit taught in 7th grade. I used the resources on the Teacher's Domain website to construct a booklet for students as a webquest. The website provides students with information about the world location (longitude and latitude),  average temperature, and average precipitation of different biomes. Students had to conduct additonal research to identify  the specific animals and plants native to each biomes and the organism's adaptations necessary for survival.