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Labs for Earth Science?

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I need some help. At the last minute, 9th grade dd and I opted to hold off on biology for a year and study earth science instead. We're using Prentice Hall Earth Science by Tarbuck, and we're supplementing with The Nature of Earth lectures from the Teaching Company. VA requires 3 lab sciences for a standard diploma, so I'm hoping to turn this into a lab course. What's the easiest way to do this?


I searched the web for earth science labs, and I'm baffled as to how to turn most of them into lab reports. They seem more like demonstrations than labs. Any ideas?


One last thing...this course is for dd with a learning disability. I'd love a simple lab book so that she would only need to fill in short answers, but I know we will probably not find that. Is it possible to actually follow a standard lab report form if we use something like Rocks and Minerals from TOPS? I'm worried that these are going to be more like simple demonstrations than actual labs.


Thanks for any advice!

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This may be more work to put together than you want, but here is an idea:

GEMS science teachers' guides have a series of earth science units, all activity and experiment-based. They are meant for junior high, but most can be bumped up or down a level based on your child's capabilities. The Plate Tectonics unit has:

--erupting a model volcano using three different formulas for "lava," timing their flow, and comparing the results to a demonstration of the viscosity of fluids.

--erupting the volcano with a stopper in the top, to model a strato volcano.

--looking at, and organizing by elevation, print-out data (included) of what kinds of fossils were found at what layers and levels in the Himalayas and coming up with a theory as to how seashells got to the top elevation.


Another unit is called River Cutters. This requires the set-up of a small-scale model river system; we used a big plastic box from a container/storage center, sand from the playground, and plastic tubing from the aquarium store (directions included, but you have to find the materials). All the experiments are timed "river runs" where the kids have various variables to put into the container and see what happens.


There are usually data collection sheets and the like in the guides; I used to have my dd fill them out and then I'd paste them in her lab notebook along with any other data she collected and photos of what she had built or done.


There are even more activities in each book than I have described, each with detailed lesson plans, instructions, materials lists, and lists of books if you want to link literature or other reading to the activities. These were the ones I remember as being most likely to satisfy a requirement for an "experiment" proper, with data collection and variables. Be warned you do have to collect the materials; other than that, the guides are well-written, easy to follow, and wonderful for engaging student interest.


As far as using internet or any science activity books: you can turn them into labs by including some kind of open-ended question to explore, teaching your daughter how to isolate a variable to investigate with each activity, doing multiple runs to see whether your data are consistent, and/or collecting data and graphing it or otherwise demonstrating what it shows.


You could also do field trips with activities in your local area that tie in. Are there any guided geology walks? How about fossil digs? Collecting fossils "in the field" (that is, outdoors), cleaning them, and learning to identify and date them is definitely lab-worthy. Or you could take pictures of exposed geological layers and try to figure out how to date them -- usually you can find local geology books with this kind of information in libraries or at a natural history museum near you.


A lot of so-called labs in science books the public schools use are pretty lame; at least that's been my experience looking through books to use at home. Many of them seem to equate hands-on tinkering, even with paper or pipe cleaners, with labs. Unless your state requirements are incredibly demanding, you should do fine with these sorts of projects. Hope this helps.


GEMS science: http://www.lawrencehallofscience.org/GEMS

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Guest Boysandoggies

We used PH Earth Science last year (ds's 13 & 14), loved the book. We mostly used the Prentice Hall lab manual for the text, but I had to find all the rocks, minerals, . . . myself - took a lot of time. Many of the labs are actually in the student text, answers in the teacher's edition - at the end of each chapter. We used several of them. They reprint those same labs in the lab manual (along with others that aren't in the text.) Also, many of the "Teacher Demo's" in the margin of the TE can be done by the student with a short write-up. They just couldn't be done by every student in a classroom, so they call them teacher demo's.


The only kit I found for geology (besides TOPS) was this one: http://www.labpaq.com/kd-GeoKit-1.htm By the time I found it I had already collected most of what's in the kit, so we didn't get it. Their write-ups look like they're college level, though. But you could maybe tone them down?


We did some TOPS labs - many were more elementary level, but some were interesting. If you wanted toned-down labs they might fit well. They were definitely hands-on, not demonstrations. And they asked the student to think, not just fill in a bunch of blanks. They required less writing than the text labs did.


If you decide to find your own materials, the best place I found for rock specimens was here: http://www.rocksandminerals.com/specimens/list.htm Their specimens were larger than any of the others we got for the same price; their collections had more useful, better variety of rocks and minerals. If you did the TOPS labs I'd recommend you get some rock collections (igneous, metamorphic, & sedimentary) & mineral collections (TOPS doesn't have many) to help with understanding.


If you have the same version of the book we have, only 2/3 of the book was geology. The rest was meteorology, oceanography (we mostly skipped), and astronomy. Home Science Tools has a set of weather instruments (inexpensive) that we used. We mostly fizzled by the time we got to astronomy - found some online stuff to look at & recorded that.


I found the Teaching Company's lessons on geology and meteorology extremely helpful - so I could understand the topics a little better when we hit some more complicated parts in the book. Ds's enjoyed some of the lectures, too.

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There is a series of books called Roadside Geology of ** (state). These are great- although we live in a state where the "bones" of geology are easily seen because we have so little vegetation. My kids can recognize landforms, rock types, etc from a moving car.


We also collected rocks and looked at soil samples.


We also used the Prentice Hall books, and we all got bored with the question and answer stuff at the end of chapters. We did short, one-page reports for each chapter and they retained much more of the information. I also supplemented with lots of Netflix movies.

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Wow. Thank you all for such great ideas, and fast, too! I'd forgotten about GEMS, and I will take another look at that. DD would probably really enjoy some kind of dig, so I will ask around to see if there is someone who could give us some guidance with this.


Hmm, I didn't see any labs in our books. It is the Tarbuck 10th edition. I'm glad to hear the TC lectures were helpful. DD liked the first two.


Thanks again!


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There is a series of books called Roadside Geology of ** (state). These are great- although we live in a state where the "bones" of geology are easily seen because we have so little vegetation. My kids can recognize landforms, rock types, etc from a moving car.


Thanks for this recommendation! I hadn't heard of these books before and the Florida guide looks great. I'm going to get it for my dh for Christmas and then we can use it for our geology studies next year. :D Florida geology is something my dh really enjoys studying with the kids.

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We did Earth Science for half a credit and added field work (instead of labs). I don't know where you are in VA but there is a really great book available for Geology of the Skyline Drive and it has descriptions by mileage numbers. We did the walks for that plus used a lighted magnifying scope and then we also went on vacation to the Northern Rockies and discussed geology there (glaciers, mountain formation, volcanic activity, earthquakes, geysers, etc).

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