Earth and space

As the editor notes this month, for many students, their experiences in elementary and middle school are the end of any formal classes in the earth sciences. In high schools, earth science is often an elective (if it’s in the schedule at all). But it’s interesting how the earth sciences seem to bring out the lifelong learner in people. We spend time stargazing at night, watching the weather channels, downloading apps, visiting museums, learning about geologic features at national and state parks, reading about topics such as climate change and prehistoric events, and wondering when (and where) the next earthquake, tsunami, or volcanic eruption will occur. The featured articles this month

Dating the Moon has suggestions for guiding students through an analysis and interpretation of photographic data of the moon’s surface. The “On the Web” links would have many more photographs and resources for the study. Even if you don’t know much about the topic, the suggestions will help you learn along with the students. [SciLinks: Earth’s Moon, Origin of the Moon, Law of Superposition]

Do your students realize that in addition to the planets in our solar system, more than 800 planets beyond our solar system have been identified? What do we know about them? The authors of Deep Space Detectives describe the High-Adventure Science Curriculum, which uses online tools, real data, and simulations to explore whether extraterrestrial life could exist. The article includes snapshots of the simulations.  [SciLinks: Space, Search for Extraterrestrial Life, Life on Other Planets]


Reading the Ice* includes two 5e lessons that guide students through learning how to interpret echograms of glaciers (real ones from the CReSIS project) and then using echograms to calculate the thickness of an ice sheet and whether the thickness is changing over time. [SciLinks: Earth Science, Changes in Glaciers, Glaciers]

Stromatolites* may be a new topic for your students. The authors of this article include some background on these formations, created by microbial activity. These formations provide a glimpse into Earth’s early times. The authors also note where living stromatolites and fossil ones can be found (in addition to ones available commercially) and how they can be used to help students learn about prokaryotic life, evolution, and geologic time. [SciLinks: Prokaryotic Cells, Geologic Time]

On the Shoulders of Sir Isaac Newton and Arthur Storer begins with some biographical information about the younger days of these two friends/collaborators. (I didn’t know that Storer was “colonial America’s first internationally recognized astronomer”). The authors compare communications in the 17th century (hand-written documents and drawings sent back and forth on ships) with the instant communications today. [SciLinks: Newton’s Laws, Isaac Newton]

*Don’t forget to look at the Connections for this issue (February 2013), which includes links to the resources mentioned in the articles. These Connections also have ideas you could adapt for handouts, background information sheets, data sheets, rubrics, etc.

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