Teachers

Classroom Activities For Teachers

If you teach Earth science, these activities may be used in your classroom to convey the interdisciplinary requirements of finding solutions to real problems, and to have your class engage in the type of work conducted at the IESO.

Earth Systems

The work of the IESO using international teams of students is framed in terms of Earth Systems. The students are asked to evaluate Earth Science issues as how the Solar System, Atmosphere, Hydrosphere, Geosphere, Biosphere and Human-sphere interact. The challenges are open ended. There is no one correct answer. Some of the challenges require field work, and all of them require research on line. Each of your classroom students can choose to represent a country, and community that is impacted by the Earth science issue. They will need access to computers to be able to research the Earth science issues in their “country”.

These activities can be used to cover the following standards, depending on how they are taught.

Next Generation Science Standards

ESS2C – The Role of Water in Earth’s Surface Processes
ESS2D – Weather and Climate
ESS3B – Natural Hazards
ESS3C – Human Impacts on Earth Systems
ESS3D – Global Climate Change
ETS1B – Developing Possible Solutions

IESO Brazil 2015 – El Niño Phenomena. Conduct an Earth Systems Analysis of the El Niño.

Background. The El Niño of 2015 was quite strong. It impacted weather patterns in both North, South and Central America. It  caused drought, flooding, soil erosion and changes in marine ecosystems. When we were in San Palo, Brazil, for the IESO there we were aware that the city of 15,000,000 people was facing possible evacuations due to water shortages. The lowest income communities were the hardest impacted by the shortages.

First day activities. Break the students up into teams. In the IESO we like to use teams of four to eight students. Each student should have a country that they wish to represent. Each team, should have only one representative from any “country”. The science of the phenomena should be taught as is appropriate to your students. Some differentiation will allow for some students to conduct further research on line.

Second day activities. Have the groups create a diagram showing the how the different Earth Science systems interact to create water shortages. They should be able to give specific examples of each interaction.

Possible examples:

The sun spot cycle is at an eleven year energy high. This increases the energy in the sunlight causes further warming the oceans. (Solar system > Hydrosphere.)

The warm ocean temperature increases evaporation putting more moisture into the atmosphere. (Hydrosphere > Atmosphere.)

The increased moisture in the atmosphere is precipitated out when the air rises over the mountains along the east coast of the Pacific ocean, creating record flooding, erosion, soil loss and human suffering. (Atmosphere > Hydrosphere > Geosphere + Human sphere.)

Conclusion: The groups will need to use their diagram to show how the El Niño impacts each country they represent. Maps may be helpful. Then discuss what can be done to mitigate the negative impacts. What proposals are culturally appropriate? What can local communities afford? How can counties and communities work together? (Note. In 2015 Brazil promised Guatemala food aid even though both countries were hard hit by drought caused by the El Niño.)

Culminating activity:

The student groups should present their diagrams, maps, and their ideas on positive action in each country of the group to the rest of the class.

IESO Philliphines 2008 – Mt. Mayon Volcano

Background. Mt. Mayon is the most active volcano in the Philippines. It has erupted on average every eight years for the last four centuries. It is a classic strato-volcano with a regular ejections of lava and pyroclastic flows. In 1814 a pyroclastic eruption buried a community under up to nine meters of ash. The IESO students visited the Cagsawa church ruins. When the eruption started the community rushed to the church. 2,200 were buried by the burning hot ash. Today only the top of the church tower sticks up above the ground. This eruption contributed to the atmospheric ash that led to the year with out a summer in 1816 and global famine and freezing. The volcano is steep and the typhoon rains wash volcanic ash and boulders down the mountain. These volcanic mud flows are called lahars, and continually destroy villages near the mountain.

The IESO students climbed up the flank of the Mt. Mayon to the top of the July, 2006 lava flow. 40,000 people were evacuated when the eruption started. The lava was slow moving and did not harm to humans. Then on November 30th, a typhoon hit the Philippines dropping over two meters of rain on the steep slopes of the volcano. We visited some villages that had been hit by lahars that day. Millions of cubic meters of lahar came down the mountain at speeds of over sixty miles an hour. Villages were buried under meters of rocks and debris. We visited concrete barriers that had been erected to deflect the flow of the lahars. The lahar destroyed the twenty foot high structure before destroying the village. One man we met had woken that night to the sound of many freight trains rushing towards him. He awoke his wife and child. Just as they stood to get out of bed the lahar broke through the wall on her side of the bed. He had time to grab her night shirt but it ripped. He watched as she was swept away with their child into the sea of mud and boulders. ~30,000 people were killed that day. Most of the bodes were never recovered.

First day activities. Break the students into groups and have each student choose to represent a country that has destructive, active volcanoes. The science of volcanoes should be taught as is appropriate for your students.

Second day activities. Have the groups create a diagram showing the how the different Earth Science systems interact. They should have examples of each interaction.

Possible examples:

A Typhoon hits the volcano. As the air moves up and over the volcano it cools causing an increase in precipitation. The water runs down the steep sides of the mountain picking up volcanic ash and moving bounders the size of large houses. These lahar flows destroy everything in their paths. (Atmosphere > Hydrosphere > Geosphere > Human-sphere.)

A pyroclastic flow erupts. It is super heated and rises until it becomes denser than the air around it because of its rock fragment load. It rushes down the sides of the mountain at speeds of over two hundred miles and hour destroying and cooking everything in its path. (Geosphere > Atmosphere > Human-sphere.)

Over cultivation and deforestation damage the root systems holding the soil on the volcano together. This both increases runoff and erosion. This in turn increases the intensity of the lahars. (Human-sphere > Biosphere > Hydrosphere > Geosphere > Human-sphere.)

Conclusion: The groups will need to show how volcanoes impact each country they represent. Then discuss what can be done to mitigate the negative impacts. What proposals are culturally appropriate? What can local communities afford? How can counties and communities work together? (Note that volcanic soil is very fertile and that the people who live near Mt Mayon are well aware of this.)

Culminating activity:

The student groups should present their diagrams, and their ideas on positive action in each country of the group to the rest of the class.

In the Philippines the IESO students presented to the local political leaders. Two evacuation zones were discussed at both 4 and 8 km. radii. Forced evacuations were recommended using the local military to assist. Some of their ideas for saving lives were later used in the 2009-2010 eruption.

IESO Taiwan 2009 – The 921 Earth Quake

Background. On September 21, 1999 “the 921” earth quake hit central Taiwan killing thousands and leaving 100,000 homeless. The governments response to the event was criticized and was partially responsible for the ouster of the ruling party in the 2000 election cycle. The magnitude 7.3 quake caused up to 3m/s of ground motion with some areas experiencing 7 meters of elevation increase. The economic damage was estimated to be 10% of the entire gross domestic product of the country for 1999.

The IESO international teams visited several locations on the tenth anniversary of the quake that were damaged and intentionally left destroyed, so that visitors could understand what had happened. One was a rail road embankment. The quake buckled the tracks and caused them to bend at 90 degrees to the direction of motion of the trains. This caused some horrible accidents. Another was a high voltage power line that was toppled over at 32 degrees from the vertical snapping the electricity lines and causing a black out. The third location was a three story high school. It was crushed to a pile of rubble only two feet tall. The track and field area was left with ripples three meters tall running through it like waves in the ocean. The quake occurred at night so no students were killed in the collapse.

The IESO students were asked to map the fault displacement in the middle of a town, and then calculate the energy released in the event. Taiwan sits on the boundary between three plates with two active subduction zones.

First day activities. Break the students into groups and have each student choose to represent a country that has destructive earth quakes. The science of quakes and plate tectonics should be taught as is appropriate for your students.

Second day activities. Have the groups create a diagram showing the how the different Earth Science systems interact in a quake. They should have examples of each interaction.

Possible examples:

The quake causes uplift across a river. What was smooth flowing water is now a water dangerous seven meter water fall. Else where the river is dammed by a rock slide. The water slowly builds up behind the blockage until it breaks the dam and causes a catastrophic flood. (Geosphere > Hydrosphere > Human-sphere.)

The government is slow to respond to the quake damage and come to the aid of people in need. (Geosphere > Human-sphere.)

Conclusion: The groups will need to show how Earth Quakes impact each country they represent. Then discuss what can be done to mitigate the negative impacts. What proposals are culturally appropriate? What can local communities afford? How can counties and communities work together? What are the advantages and disadvantages of partially developed earth quake prediction tools? (Note that some indigenous housing in the Philippines is safer during quakes.)

Culminating activity:

The student groups should present their diagrams, and their ideas on positive action in each country of the group to the rest of the class.

IESO Italy 2002 – Deglaciation of Mt. Blanc

Background: We visited the Valle d’Aosta in North Western Italy. The IESO student went part way up Mt. Blanc to document the loss of glacial ice. The problem is that when the ice is all melted, there will be significantly less water running in rivers during the summer and fall in the valley. The rivers are fed by the melting glaciers, and the air is warm and dry, As the air rises over the Alps, it expands and cools precipitating out moisture. Then as it enters the valley it becomes compressed with increased air pressure and warms. This makes it very dry. With out the glacial melt, what is now lush farm land in the valley will become a desert. Also the skiing will not be so good.

The students took photos of the current ice pack, and then looked at historic images of the glaciers so as to be able to predict when all the glaciers in the valley will be gone.

First day activities. Break the students into groups and have each student choose to represent a country that has melting glaciers. (Be sure to include Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, and some countries that are fed water from the Himalayas.) The science of glaciers and ice ages should be taught as is appropriate for your students.

Second day activities. Have the groups create a diagram showing the how the different Earth Science systems interact in a quake. They should have examples of each interaction.

Possible examples:

The Earths orbit around the sun changes over time impacting the amount of glaciation. These “Milankovitch cycles” correlate well with ice ages. Based on these cycles what should be happening to glaciers on Earth now? (Solar System > Atmosphere > Hydrosphere)

The loss of glaciers will cause some rivers to stop flowing each summer and fall in some countries. This will destroy some existing habitat for endangered species, and humans.

(Hydrosphere > Biosphere + Human-sphere.)

The glacial melt will increase the volume of water in the oceans. This will lead to sea level rise and flooding of low lying cities and farm land. (Hydrosphere > Human-sphere.)

Conclusion: The groups will need to show how deglaciation will impact each country they represent. Then discuss what can be done to mitigate the negative impacts. What proposals are culturally appropriate? What can local communities afford? How can counties and communities work together? What are the advantages and disadvantages of deglaciation?

Culminating activity:

The student groups should present their diagrams, and their ideas on positive action in each country of the group to the rest of the class. (Note that snow making and storage technologies done near the top of mountains, painting rocks silver, or even covering the snow pack with giant blankets may be cost effective.)