Friday, October 26, 2012

Ring of Fire - Middle School Geology Research Class

I organized a small group of middle schoolers this fall to cover various current topics in the field of geology, researching an area of interest each week and presenting it in class.  Everyone brings their laptops to class for use in their presentations.

Here's a look at the topics we've been covering each week:

Preparation for first class, August 22:

Please read, from Oregon State's Volcano World, this information on the layers of the earth (9 short pages) and answer the four questions at the end of the reading, on the tenth page (and please bring your work to class):
You may want to sketch or print out some of the diagrams for reference if the information is very unfamiliar to you. It will help you in remembering it!

For your research this week, I'd like you to begin to delve into how humans are attempting to explore the inner layers of our earth and the consequences of our actions, what we're finding there, etc. I would like each of you to choose a different topic to talk about, so whoever emails me first with their topic will get first choice and the others will have to choose again, okay?

Ideas I have include:

Exploring the world's deepest mines (where; problems; life forms found, etc.)
Drilling into earth's mantle
Kola Peninsula drilling
Project Mohole
Deepest ocean trenches (where formed; length and depth; life forms; new exploration technology, etc.)
Polar drilling (Andrill, etc.)

If you have other ideas, then please do share them with me! I really want your reports to focus on areas where we're reaching furthest into the crust of the earth....

Please either bring links that you can share and speak from for about 10 minutes and/or write up notes you can use to share information with everyone on your topic. If you don't have a computer you can bring, you can email your links to me and we'll use one of mine to pull up your info.

If you need help in finding information on your topic, or don't know what sorts of info you should include about your topic, then please do email me about it beforehand and we'll talk....
If you'd like to read more about layers of the earth, here are a couple of library books you might take a look at:
The Lithosphere, Gregory Vogt
Earth's Core and Mantle, Gregory Vogt
Or, you can explore any of the other topics I listed for this week. You should be able to find Internet info on all of them!
For August 29:
Here is the article I told you about today regarding digging a hole through the center of the earth. Near the bottom of the page, there is a short video about the earth. After it runs, there are 2 others that will also be of interest to you. They will load and play automatically after the first one; you don't have to do anything. The last is about the man who discovered the core and a woman geologist who discovered that there are actually two core levels:

Please read this page from the Oregon State site and answer the two questions at the end:

This details the primary accomplishments of Gutenberg and Mohorovicic.
Here's more info on Mohorovicic:
And Gutenberg:
Also, I'd like you to read info on Alfred Wegener and his work (6 pages in total):
And here are some good diagrams regarding continental drift to look at after reading about Wegener:
And since I've already loaded you down with reading, I'll leave Harry Hess and J. Tuzo Wilson for next time, when we're looking at plate tectonics....

I think that in preparation for talking about plate tectonics, it also behooves us to look at what science currently thinks about movement of the plates of the earth over time. I know that many homeschoolers are young earth in their beliefs, so it certainly is not my intent to attempt to indoctrinate anyone into a different set of beliefs. I present this material because it is currently accepted as the most plausible explanation for earth's geology over time - that could certainly change in future as we continue to learn. So if you do not have objection to the material, I would like them to read the short 9 pages at the Oregon State site regarding Pangaea to Present and answer the three questions at the end of that:
The four short pages of the site "Earth Like a Puzzle" should help them put together the whole idea:
And here's a short You Tube video about the placement of the continents past, present and future:

I gave them a little book today that is for them to use to make sketches of the diagrams they encounter in their reading. We will test over some of those diagrams as we move along through the course.
I won't always give them so much reading, but we're really covering a big topic next week and I'm only taking 30 minutes of class time to actually lecture, so that I can give each of them some time to introduce their research topic and we can talk about each of those.... Because I'm lecturing less, I'm counting on them to already be well aware of each topic as we cover it, hence the extra reading at times....
For reports next week, I'd like everyone to look at some of the geologists who helped promote this area of science, as well as looking at some of the varied sorts of geology jobs available in the marketplace today. Geology is one field that is currently projected to continue to grow for the next 50 years or so. Because of that, I think it might be a good idea to at least have some knowledge of what's available within the world of geology for those who will be moving into the workplace during the next decade or so.

I enjoyed seeing all the information everyone had gathered for today. As we move forward, I'll try to make adjustments to my requests from what I'm seeing in class each week. I love that you all did quite a bit of research into your selected areas of study. Because I was already somewhat familiar with what you were pulling up, it enabled me to add tidbits of information for the others so that they would understand your research, too.

What I think I'd like to see you try for next week is to set up a number of questions to answer so that you can actually sort of do a little presentation to the others. I'd like you to be able to give them enough information about your subject so that even though they may know nothing about it, they will come away being able to say that they learned x, y, and z about that topic, ok?

Toward that end, I will set up a few questions for you to answer and you can add 3 or 4 more of your own. Jot down or type yourself an email you can save (or send to me) with the information, and you can either read that to everyone or refer to it as you speak about the subject. If you wish to do a write-up for these projects, I am happy for you to do that and you may certainly turn those in to me and I will even grade them if you like. I'm not requiring this, however.

Here are my thoughts for some potential questions:

1) What area of geology study did you choose to learn about? (I am going to provide a few suggestions and you can pursue those or choose another area that you might already have heard about or that you find out about as you do your research - you can change topics if you find something more interesting along the way during your studies.)

2) Why is this area of geology important today and how will it be used in the future?

3) What sorts of jobs are available in this field of study and where are those jobs located?

4) What do geologists in this field of study do every day - what does their job look like?

5) Is this job one that would be classed as a "green" job (I ask because some of them are now)?

6) What is the pay scale for geologists working in this field; what are the dangers they face?

Here are a few areas of geology that you might like to investigate. As always, please let me know what area you choose so that I can try to insure that everyone has a different presentation. In that way we cover a wider range of topics:

Engineering geologist
Mining geologist
Environmental geologist
Planetary geologist
Soil scientist
Petroleum scientist

Hopefully that's enough to get you started (there are more)!

If you will act quickly and contact the UK geology department, or the Kentucky Geological Survey, you might possibly be able to ask a real geologist some questions about your area of interest and get a reply from them (you could try other universities in the area, as well).

_______________ (a local geologist) is a great place to start in asking if you might contact someone with some questions. He heads up the open house they do at UK every year in October and seems to love helping with educational needs! Tell him your taking a class and your teacher has asked you to research jobs in geology. Tell him the area you are interested in and ask if he knows of someone working in that area who might be able to answer a few questions for you. Have your questions ready to email if he is able to provide you with a name! Remember to thank everyone profusely!
For September 5:
A) For next week, please read the 10 short pages on plate tectonics found at the Volcano World site and please answer the 3 questions at the end:

B) Please also read a short bit about Harry Hess and J. Tuzo Wilson:

C) Topics for research (please tell me which one you choose so that I can make sure you each do a separate topic):

convergent boundaries (oceanic crust vs. oceanic crust, OR oceanic vs. continental, OR continental vs. continental - please tell me which you will do if choosing this topic)
divergent boundaries
transform boundaries
dip slip faults
strike slip faults

1) I would like at least one specific example of whichever type of fault or boundary you choose.

2) I would like you to tell us about the characteristics of that type of fault or boundary such that the other students will understand it when you are finished. What happens at this particular type of boundary zone or with the particular type of faulting you chose? Give some examples of how this impacts (changes) the area around that fault or boundary zone.

The USGS website is a great source for you to use and I would prefer something like that over Wikipedia, which is virtually never used as source material in high school or college because it cannot be verified as accurate.

Here is an example for you:

I am choosing the Arabian Plate. There are numerous major tectonic plates on earth (numbers vary) and many dozens of smaller plates. All of them are, of course surrounded by a boundary zone that will be convergent, divergent, transform, or some combination of those on different sides of it. Here is one website I quickly found when I typed in "Arabian tectonic plate."

As you can see from the site (which also shows most of the other major plates on earth, in case you're interested in using this approach), the west side of this plate is a transform fault zone, with the Dead Sea and East Anatolian plates grinding past each other. I would look up "transform faults" and talk about what a transform fault is, and what this particular fault does in the region of the Dead Sea when it is on the move. The USGS site can give me a general definition of what a transform fault is....

To find out what the Dead Sea transform fault actually does to that region when it moves, I might type in a search such as "dead sea transform fault zone" and get results such as these:

...and while I'm not sure how my machine managed to switch me to a Babylon search engine that I don't want, that's a matter for another discussion.... As you see, the first "hit," after where it says "133,000 results," is a Wikipedia article. I don't want to use that. The second article is too technical for our purposes, so I toss that, too. The third hit looks like it might work, but look at the title of that fourth one "Geological Significance of the Dead Sea" and look at the site where it's from: deadseageo.webs. That looks like it might be a good site, so let's look at it:

The very first section on this page tells me about the Dead Sea transform fault and what it does. It even shows a picture of a wall with a portion of it moved out to the left, which is the direction in which this particular fault moves. It only moves 1-10 mm annually, however, so that's not too significant. It says that it last caused an earthquake in the region in 1995, and that it was a 7.3 (which is sizable). Geologists predict that it will cause about a 7 magnitude earthquake every 200 years.

So to finish up, I would save the page with the general information on what a transform fault is, or write up a brief summary of details I want from that page, and then I'd save the last page I linked that gives specifics about what this particular transform fault does, so that I could show the picture (although I might still add the details I want to my summary to make my report flow easier when I give it)....

That's just one way to approach this, but I wanted to give you some ideas to use....
For September 12:
Ready for next week? I think we've all been waiting for this moment: please choose one of the main types of volcanoes: shield, composite, or cinder cone (Henry is doing super-volcanoes) and research it.

1) Here is some of the info I'd like to see you gather and present:

What is your chosen volcano type? What are the characteristics of this type of volcano and the lava, pyroclasts, ash, etc. it produces?

How does it differ from other volcanoes in terms of the severity of its eruptions, in general?

Choose one or two specific, known, named volcanoes of this type to talk about.

When was the last time your volcano(s) erupted? For how long did it/they erupt? What were the effects of this eruption in terms of loss to humans? Were there long-term effects, and if so what were they?

What is projected for your volcano(s) in future?

I'd like to see you gather enough info for a two page, double-spaced paper. That's about the amount of time that I'd like you to talk about your volcano. I'd really like to see you present in your own words, rather than just reading to me from a page. I'd like to see pictures, too, of course, but would like to see each of you actually putting together information from different sources into one cohesive report of your own that you can present in your own words, okay? I'm not trying to force you to hand write a paper for me, and I don't expect you to memorize your report in order to present it, but I'd like to see that you've actually written your own notes by typing them into your computer, making note cards, etc. to use in your presentation. I'm just not sure that finding a page that's relevant to your topic and reading it to me is equating with understanding of the subject on your part.

2) How about a little quiz next week? I don't want to take up all our short class time with it, but we'll make a start and spend about 10 minutes on it. Do you want to know what to study? All the printed info I've given you thus far. If you'd like more details, I will oblige....

For next week, please read:


Please answer the total of 5 questions (3 + 2) following these two readings.

and also:

...and please label the parts of a volcano after you finish your reading.
I'll break this up into more than one post so that it won't be so long....  to be continued....

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