Monday, 29 December 2014

Make your own soil

Investigate the type and origin of the ingredients of soil with this Earthlearningidea, 'Make your own soil'. Using a little water, pupils mix together the organic and inorganic components of a typical soil. What is missing?

This activity can be used in any lesson about the environment, rocks and landscape, agriculture, gardening or investigations out of doors. More soil activities can be found on our website.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Why is the Dead Sea dead?

The new Earthlearningidea, published today is 'Why is the Dead Sea dead? - measuting salinity'. This involves a simple activity to measure the density of water of different salinities. Pupils can visualise how the measurement of the density of a liquid equates to the commercial measurement of density in situations like that of the Dead Sea and the Great Salt Lake.
This is one of many activities involving resources; all can be found on our website.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Major upgrade to Earthlearningidea website

Because we now have so many activities, teachers' ideas and video clips on the website, we have been developing better ways of searching for what you want.
The Search engine has been re-written and is now fast and accurate.
We have also re-written the alphabetical index. All activities are now 'clickable' from here and any teachers' ideas (extensions) and video clips are included.
A sample is shown below; please try it out on the website.

Please report any problems to us at

Monday, 8 December 2014

Continental split - the opening of the Atlantic Ocean

New ELI today 'Continental split - the opening of the Atlantic Ocean; modelling how continents moved, from Pangaea to today'

Click here for the video clip, created by Cristina Ginés
This activity could be used in any science or geography lesson about sea floor spreading and Wegener's concept of continental drift.
It is one of many activities listed on our website associated with constructive or divergent plate margins in the plate tectonics topic.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Become a fossil hunter and 'Dig up the dinosaur'

'Dig up the dinosaur' was one of our most popular ELIs in November. Pupils dig up buried 'bones' in a systematic manner and reconstruct the skeleton.
The bones can be arranged in the positions in which the creature 'died', and pupils can be encouraged to say how it might have become fossilised. Or, the bones can be jumbled up, to simulate erosion of the remains before burial. Some bones can be cut or broken, and pupils asked to think about the cause of death, such as predation.
This is one of many Earthlearningideas for young children. More can be found on our website.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Magnetic field of the Earth

New ELI today 'Why won't my compass work on the other side of the Equator? - understanding the three dimensional magnetic field of the Earth'. People who take their magnetic compass from one hemisphere to the other are often surprised that it doesn't work in both. The activity uses this finding as a prompt to explain the three-dimensional nature of the Earth's magnetic field.
Visit our website for more ideas about teaching Earth's magnetism.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Testing the strength of rocks

Have you tried the ELI 'Testing rocks - 1 bouncing back testing the strength of rocks'? When engineers build structures such as dams, roads and tunnels, they need to investigate the properties of the rocks beneath and around them. One of the key properties is the strength of the rocks. This normally requires expensive equipment, but we can get quite a good idea by simply dropping a ball bearing onto a flat, cut sample of the rock. The height to which the ball bearing bounces back allows us to compare the relative strength of different rocks.
There are lots more ideas on our website.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Journey to the centre of the Earth - on a toilet roll

Today's new ELI is 'Journey to the centre of the Earth - on a toilet roll; just how thin is the crust we live on?' We seldom stop to consider the true scale of many features of the Earth. This activity aims to enable pupils to visualise the thickness of the crust in relation to the rest of the Earth. It also helps them to appreciate the difference in depth between the oceanic crust and the continental crust. It introduces the terms 'lithosphere' and 'asthenosphere' to help in understanding plate tectonic theory.
Other related activities about the structure of the Earth can be found on the  website.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Sorting out Earth events according to the time they take

A very popular ELI in October was 'How long does it take? - quick to very, very, very slow'. Some Earth processes are dangerously quick – but some are extremely slow. Help your pupils to understand how the rates of Earth processes differ by cutting out the cards provided and fitting them in the best places on the scale, also provided.

This is one of many ELI activities which help pupils to understand the enormity of geological time, all free to download from our website.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Cross bedding and ancient currents

Today's new ELI is the last in our current series of sedimentary structures. It is 'Cross bedding and ancient currents; using cross-bedding to find the directions of ancient currents' Cross-bedding is a common feature of sedimentary rocks. The formation of cross-bedding can be seen in modern depositional environments and then related to similar structures in sedimentary rocks – an example of using the present to help us to understand the past. Cross-bedding can be used as part of prospecting in the minerals or hydrocarbon industries.
View other activities in the series on our website.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Identifying minerals in the dark!

Have you tried 'Identifying minerals – use your sense(s)! Minerals in the dark: identifying minerals when the lights fail'  In this activity, pupils use their senses other than sight to enable them to identify a range of different minerals.
Lots more ideas on our website.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Cross-bedding and way-up structures

Today's new ELI is another in our series about sedimentary structures. This one 'Cross-bedding' uses cross bedding to determine the way-up of a bed of sedimentary rock. It gives an introduction to the types of evidence which can be obtained from cross-bedding in sediments and in sedimentary rocks.

Other activities to show sedimentary structures can be found in the link to Teaching strategies on our website.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Interactive hydrothermal mineralisation

Interactive hydrothermal mineralisation; 'the rock with the hole' hydrothermal mineralisation demo. This ELI+ activity demonstrates how hydrothermal minerals form. It could be used as a simple illustration of the processes with minimal pupil involvement. But it can also be used as an interactive demonstration, to engage pupils in the thinking behind a scientific enquiry.

There are many more mineral teaching ideas on our website under Teaching strategies.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Seasons: the effect of our tilted Earth

The new ELI, published today, 'Seasons: the effect of our tilted Earth' is the last in this 'Earth in space' series. It involves an indoor demonstration which explains the changing seasons very clearly.

After watching the activity pupils will be able to:-
  • explain how the half of the Earth bathed in sunlight at any one time is experiencing day, whilst the other half is experiencing night;
  • point out and explain the day/night dividing lines of dawn and dusk;
  • explain why night and day are of equal length at the equinoxes;
  • point out and explain how polar regions are lit in the summer but are in darkness in the winter;
  • explain why winter and summer are at the opposite ends of the year in the other hemisphere, compared to their own;
  • explain why equatorial regions have no seasons.
Visit the website for more 'Earth in space' teaching ideas.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

ELI workshop in Brazil

During the recent "IV Regional Meeting of Geography Teaching " carried out at UNICAMP (State University of Campinas), Brazil by the Geoscience Institute, an ELI workshop took place.

The workshop was carried on by geography undergraduate students Bruna Campagnucci, Erica Rodrigues Soares and July Vilela under the supervision of Prof. Roberto Greco.

Geoscience in secondary schools in Brazil is taught within the geography discipline. The participants were all teachers from different Brazilian regions. In the 4 hours workshop the partcipants were able to experience many activities, interact among themselves and discuss which activities they could use in their geography classes. Exciting positive feedback was collected from the participants.

All the photos can be seen in the ELI Photo gallery  
The ELI translations into Portuguese are based in Unicamp

Monday, 22 September 2014

Take it or leave it? - the geoconservation debate

'Take it or leave it? – the geoconservation debate; when is collecting wrong, and when is it right? – try to decide for yourself'
Should you take geological specimens away from the site where they are found? This is a difficult question and it depends on where you are and who you are. Sometimes, removing a good specimen from a site is like removing a piece of evidence from a crime scene - it loses its context and vital clues can be lost; it may be best to leave it where you found it. Many sites also have legal protection; you would need to check their legal status before removing specimens. In this ELI, pupils are encouraged to ‘think like geoconservationists’ by cutting out the cards provided and discussing them with their group. They should then put them in the best place on the scale, also provided.
One of many interesting teaching ideas, all free to download, from our website.

Monday, 15 September 2014

How do day/night and the seasons work?

New ELI today - 'Earth on Earth; using a globe in the sunshine to show how day/night and the seasons work'. 

Pupils can use the ‘globe in the sunshine’ to:
  • explain how the half of the Earth bathed in sunlight at any one time is experiencing day, whilst the other half is experiencing night; 
  • point out and explain the day/night dividing lines of dawn and dusk; 
  • show how equatorial regions are warmer (and feel warmer) than polar regions because the Sun is nearer to being overhead and so the rays are more concentrated
  • point out and explain how polar regions are lit in the summer but are in darkness in the winter.
Click here for other activities in the 'Earth in Space' category.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Clues to magma viscosity and eruptions

'Bubble-mania; the bubbling clues to magma viscosity and eruptions' is this week's Earthlearningidea. After trying the activity, ask the pupils:-
• How were the ‘eruptions’ different?
• How were the bubbles different?
• What caused the differences?
• Some volcanoes have magmas that are ‘runny’ (like the soft drink) and some have much more viscous magmas (like the other liquid) – how might these volcanoes erupt differently?
• Which sort of eruption would you most like to see – one with low viscosity (runny) magma, like the soft drink, or one with high viscosity (thick) magma like the viscous liquid?
This is one of many ELIs about volcanoes and volcanic eruptions - click here to find them all.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Latitude and its affect on solar radiation

The latest ELI is 'Hot or not? - investigating how latitude affects the amount of solar radiation received'. After doing the activity, pupils will be able to:-
• explain that the rays of the Sun will be most intense and so the surface of the Earth will be hottest when the Sun’s rays apparently come from directly overhead;
• explain that as the Sun’s rays move away from overhead, they become less intense because they are spread over a larger area;
• realise that as the tilted Earth moves around the Sun, only twice is the Sun overhead at the Equator, i.e. on March 21st and September 21st;
• realise that the Northern Hemisphere summer occurs when the Sun is overhead at the Tropic of Cancer on June 21st and that the Northern Hemisphere winter when the Sun is overhead at the Tropic of Capricorn on December 21st.
This activity could be used in science or geography lessons dealing with the seasons. As a lead-in activity, try 'Screaming roller coaster'. This ELI will be followed soon by 'The seasons: an indoor demonstration of the seasons' and' Earth on Earth: using a globe in the sunshine to show how day/night and the seasons work'. If you need these activities before they are published on our website, then please contact us.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Modelling how the energy of seismic waves is transmitted

The ELI 'Merry waves - all year round' models how the energy of seismic waves is transmitted. It demonstrates how the vibration of particles by the propagation of pressure waves does not cause noticeable displacement of mass.
 Pupils can find it difficult to visualise how energy can be transferred through a material as a wave without noticeable displacement of mass. Many people also think that all waves involve movement of mass – thinking, for example, that the movement of a tsunami wave across the ocean involves movement of masses of water sideways, in the same way as they have seen waves moving across a beach.
Such misconceptions may be related to some models used to show propagation of seismic waves. For example, models using ropes and springs clearly show backwards and forwards movement (for P-waves) or sideways movement (for S-waves) of the mass of material, whereas they are actually modelling the movement of molecules, not the whole mass of the material. This distinction is often not stressed to pupils.
Many more ideas can be found on our website.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Water pressure - underground

The new ELI published today is 'Water pressure underground; demonstrating how hydrostatic pressure increases with depth'. Pupils will be able to describe how the pressure of water increases with depth and also to explain how flow rates can be measured and compared.
Visit our website for more Earth science teaching ideas.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Banana benders - simulate geological structures

Next time you eat a banana, try this first, 'Banana benders; using a banana to simulate geological structures'.
Bananas are commonly available, linear bars of material which deform readily and repeatedly to produce a whole series of natural fold and fault structures. They can be deformed at room temperature and will yield varying responses depending upon age and ripeness, but consistent results will be obtained.
Visit our website for lots more innovative ideas for teaching Earth science.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Calculating the intense pressures underground

The new Earthlearningidea published today is an ELI+ 'Under pressure; calculating the intense pressures underground'. This activity uses lab measurements of the force applied by different depths of sand and water to calculate their downward pressure and then uses these figures to extrapolate to likely pressures at crustal depths.
Try our website for lots more innovative ways of teaching Earth science.

Monday, 28 July 2014


Earthlearningidea is moving to a new and more powerful server.
The content is identical.
The main entry point remains
Some users are accessing the old site with direct links to the pdf downloads.
Please will these users update their links and bookmarks as the old server will be turned off in about one week's time.

How do we know how extinct animals lived?

The ELI 'Curious creatures' uses fossil and modern evidence to work out the lifestyles of extinct animals. Pupils try to compare the features of animals today with
those of fossils. All of the creatures in the drawing above, lived in the sea about 515
million years ago before there were any plants or animals on land.
This is one of many activities to be found in the Evolution of Life category on our website.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Margarine mountain-building

Have you tried making mountains every time you make a sandwich? Try this ELI 'Margarine mountain-building'  The activity uses materials that pupils use every day to remind them how folds and mountain belts are formed, as surface and near surface materials are scraped up during plate subduction.
Many more free-to-download activities can be found on our website.

Monday, 14 July 2014

New ELI today - Environmental evaluation

We continue our Fieldwork series with 'Environmental evaluation; developing a strategy for evaluating the environment'.  This activity helps your pupils to appreciate and evaluate the outdoor environment by carrying out an environmental evaluation at different sites and comparing their results. They are given a scale to use in environmental evaluation, and then asked to apply this scale to different environmental circumstances, that can range from a local small environment to a panoramic view. If you are successful, your pupils may return from holiday and tell you they’ve been to a ‘9’ holiday destination!
Lots more ideas for out of the classroom work can be found on our website.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Teaching about fossils?

The Earthlearningidea team has introduced a new 'Fossils' category in our Teaching strategies so it is now very easy for everyone to find all the activities we have published so far about fossils. There is a separate 'dinosaur' section too!

A new group of ELIs is being written now called ELI (Early years) and that too will have some activities about fossils. We will keep you informed!
Please contact us with any requests.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Fieldwork: Applying 'the present is the key to the past'

The new ELI today is 'Fieldwork: Applying 'the present is the key to the past'.
This five-phase outdoor activity is used to explain how Earth scientists use the Principle of Uniformitarianism, often simply stated as ‘the present is the key to the past’, by considering the present environment and thinking how it might be preserved geologically.
It is one of many outdoor ELIs - all listed on the website in activities related to the new ELI and in 'Teaching strategies' under 'Fieldwork'.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Danger - quicksands!

'Danger - quicksands! Why do some rocks give way when it rains hard?' This ELI investigates pore water pressure in a sediment and demonstrates how raised pore water pressure can weaken apparently strong rocks/sediments, causing subsidence in buildings or landslides.
Many more such activities can be found on our website; all are FREE to download.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Trace fossils - burrows or borings

Our latest Earthlearningidea, published today, is 'Trace fossils - burrows or borings; what evidence do living organisms leave behind in rocks?' This activity is best used immediately after pupils have worked though the ELI activity 'Sea shell survival - how are common sea shells adapted to their habitats?' Adaptations to different habitats are reflected in the shell structure of bivalves. This understanding is applied to working out what ancient environments were like from the trace fossils left behind by similar organisms. Can you distinguish between a burrow and a boring?
This is one of many ELIs about fossils; all can be found in the Evolution of Life category on our website.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Eruption of Krakatoa

This is a very popular ELI but it can make a watery mess! 'The balloon goes up at Krakatoa' The activity uses a tank and a balloon to simulate the huge tsunamis caused by the eruption of this volcano.

 The eruption of Krakatoa (or Krakatau to use its Indonesian name) was the first major volcanic eruption that was investigated and recorded scientifically. It is described as ‘colossal’ on the Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI), having ejected more than 10 cubic km of material. (The eruption of Tambora in 1815, also in Indonesia, is described as ‘super-colossal’ on the VEI, having ejected more than 100 cubic km of material, whilst the eruption of Taupo, New Zealand about 28,000 years ago, was ‘mega-colossal’, ejecting more than 1000 cubic km of material – but both of these erupted before scientific records). Thus we have reasonably good scientific evidence for the effects of the Krakatoan eruption, even if we still don’t understand the exact mechanisms of eruption and tsunami-generation.
This is one of many innovative Earthlearningideas on our website

Monday, 9 June 2014

Sink hole

New ELI published today is 'Sink hole!' You can demonstrate sink hole processes in action by using materials that are easy to obtain. By watching this process happen in front of them, pupils can explain how sink holes can develop by the dissolving of underground materials and they can also describe the potential impacts of sink holes.
This is one of many practical activities in the Earthlearningidea Natural hazards category.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

ELI now in Polish!


We are very pleased indeed to announce that Earthlearningideas are now being translated into Polish.
Click on the link on the home page of our website. All the activities in the Natural Hazards category have now been translated.
Many thanks to our friends in Poland.

Me - a fossil? Popular Earthlearningidea in May

A very popular activity in May 2014 was 'How could I become fossilised?' Pupils are asked to think through the process of fossilisation. What should you do if you want to be fossilised? What should you do if you do not want to be fossilised?
You can find many more activities about fossils by searching our website.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Load casts - sedimentary structures

The latest ELI continues the sedimentary structures series with 'Load casts; interpreting odd bumps on the bases of beds'. This activity is based on photographs and diagrams of load casts. Pupils are asked to interpret how the structures formed and therefore to infer past environments. They can model load casts with sand and water as shown in the photo above.
The other activities in the sedimentary structures series can be found in 'related activities' on our website.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Geological mapwork series

Do you know about the ELI geological mapwork series? On the website, there are three 'Mapwork from scratch' activities and also eight 'Mapwork from models'.
All are listed on our Teaching strategies page on the website. One example of Mapwork from models is shown below.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Adaptations of sea shells to their habitats

Our new Earthlearningidea, published today is 'Sea shell survival; how are common sea shells adapted to their habitats?'

Other related activities to do with fossils and adaptations to environment are listed on the right-hand side of our home page.
All these are free to download from our website.

Monday, 5 May 2014

How do earthquakes affect buildings?

Try the ELI 'Shaken but not stirred?' to find out how earthquakes affect buildings. This activity can be used to help students to explore the effects of earthquakes in densely populated areas, and to dispel misconceptions about the relative safety of high rise buildings in seismically active regions.
It is one of many, free activities available on our website.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Model the stages of the rock cycle - with your pupils!

The latest ELI is the rock cycle game - 'Rockery 2'
In this activity your pupils model the various stages of the rock cycle. Perhaps they can write a poem, song or rap to accompany the 'dance'? Please send these to us together with any video clips; we will publish the best on the website.
This idea was developed from 'Rockery 1 - the rock game' by pupils from Box Primary School in Wiltshire.
There are lots of related rock cycle activities listed on the home page of our website.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Volcanic eruptions are unpredictable

One of our very popular Earthlearningideas is "Take a 'Chance' on the volcano erupting" This activity uses measuring the force required to burst a party popper as an analogy for the prediction of volcanic eruptions. A series of possible events in the build up of a volcanic eruption is given on ‘Chance’ cards. These are selected at random and the instructions given on the card are followed until the party popper ‘erupts’. Through this activity, students will discover many of the factors which are associated with the build up to a volcanic eruption. These include seismic activity, changes in gas emissions, swelling of the volcano’s surface, and minor eruptions of tephra (solid particles of congealed lava, in the form of ash or larger fragments).
The graph below shows some of the results:-
This is one of many activities about volcanoes - all free to download from our website

Monday, 14 April 2014

Working out the direction of flow of ancient rivers - imbrication

The new ELI today continues our series on sedimentary structures 'Imbrication - which way did the river flow?' This activity can be used in any lesson dealing with the origin of sediments and the interpretation of past environments.
There are many related Earthlearningideas listed on the home page of the website.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Make your own rock - and then test it!

How many masses do you think a 20 minutes-old rock pellet will hold? This young scientist managed to add another kilo, making 4 kilos. Sadly, we had no more masses so we don't know the answer!

Try this yourselves - 'Make your own rock; investigating how loose sediment may be stuck together to make a "rock"'

There are many more exciting Earth science activities on our website - all free to download.

Young WANHS taking part in a children's fun session at Devizes Museum

Monday, 31 March 2014

Ice power

ELI website is back!

The new ELI, published today, is 'Ice power; freezing water in a syringe to measure the expansion'. This activity may be used in either science or geography lessons on weathering. It can also be used in discussions of molecular theory and changes of state.
All activities on the ELI website are free to download and we are always pleased to hear your views. Can anyone send us more photos for our photo gallery?

Monday, 24 March 2014

Dust bowl extension

Children add their own extension to the Earthlearningidea 'Dust bowl'.

This activity was part of a children's session looking at the ways in which the landscape is eroded and shaped. The children investigated erosion and transportation
- by rivers  'Mighty river in a small gutter'
- by the sea 'Changing coastlines'
- by ice 'Grinding and gouging'
- by the wind 'Dust bowl'
All these activities, and lots more, are free to download from the website.

ELI website down

We are very sorry; the ELI website is down at the moment.
Hopefully, it will be up and running again very soon.
Please contact us and we will forward any pdfs that you require.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Sole marks - sedimentary structures

The new ELI today continues our sedimentary structures series with 'Sole marks - evidence from the base of a sedimentary bed'. This activity is based on diagrams and photographs of sole marks, where pupils are asked to look for evidence of past environments and the orientation of the samples.
Many more exciting and stimulating ideas for teaching Earth science or geography can be found on our website.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

William Smith - 'The Father of English Geology'

Next year we shall be celebrating the bi-centenary of the publication of William Smith's first geological map. This Earthlearningidea encourages pupils to try to think like William Smith. The pupil learning outcomes from this activity are as follows:-
Pupils can:
• explain that fossils are the remains of living organisms;
• describe how sedimentary rocks occur in layers or strata which may be horizontal or dipping;
• realise that the layers of rock may be broken by faults;
• explain that, if they are fossiliferous, each rock layer contains a specific set of fossils;
• realise that these rock layers with their particular fossils can be correlated (linked together in time) from one place to another;
• realise that scientific thinking in the 18th century was greatly influenced by religious beliefs;
• realise that in the 18th century it was very difficult for a clever man from a poor background with little education to join the world of the rich and educated.
This is one of a series of activities about great scientists. The rest are listed in Teaching strategies on the ELI website.