Monday, 23 October 2017

Modelling earthquake wave amplification

Our new Earthlearningidea is 'Jelly/biscuit modelling of how earthquake waves amplify and devastate; demonstrating how seismic shaking depends on local geology'


The model represents a place like Mexico City where the central part of the city is built on solid rock but the rest of the city is built on soft lake bed sediments. This means that different parts of the city, only a few hundred metres apart, respond very differently to earthquake shaking.
Many activities about earthquakes for all ages, can be found by searching our website.
This activity was devised and written by a colleague in the British Geological Survey.

Monday, 9 October 2017

The rock cycle - common misconceptions

The new ELI today is 'Not misunderstanding the rock cycle: addressing common misconceptions about the rock cycle'

This is a sorting exercise directly focussed on common rock cycle misconceptions. The activity takes the educational approach known as constructivism. Through constructivism, student misconceptions are identified and directly targeted by teaching.
Many more Earthlearningideas related to the rock cycle can be found on the website.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Sorting out soils

Following on from last week's 'Is there life in soil?', have you tried 'Soil doughnuts; sorting out soils'?
Sandy soils allow water through easily and clay soils do not. Gardeners usually prefer loam soils.
For a farmer or gardener, it is important to know the soil type so that it can be managed properly and crop production increased.
This activity can be used in any lesson about the environment, rocks and landscape, agriculture, gardening or investigations out of doors.
More ideas for teaching about soils can be found on the website in teaching strategies.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Is there life in this soil sample?

The new Earthlearningidea today asks questions to consolidate pupil understanding of soil-formation, 'Is there life in this soil sample?'

Soil often looks like a non-living substance that simply covers many parts of the Earth’s surface. However, pupils should be aware that if soil did not contain living material (alive and/or dead) it would no longer be soil, but would just be part of the weathered rock material found on the surface where no obvious life is present. Such non-soil debris is called regolith, as found on mountain tops and polar regions on Earth and also on the Moon or planets like Mars.
Many more activities related to soils can be found by searching the website or listed in Teaching strategies and Children's Fun activities.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Electrical ground probing

Following on from last week's post about remote sensing, this week we have 'Electrical ground probing; measuring the electrical resistance of the ground to find buried objects.'

The activity models the principles involved in surveying by electrical methods. Such techniques are frequently used in mineral exploration or in archaeological surveying. Forensic scientists also use the method to investigate disturbed ground in the search for objects buried by criminals.
Other related ideas can be found on the website.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Modelling remote sensing geophysics

The new Earthlearningidea today is 'Modelling remote sensing geophysics; using a mock gravitometer and magnetometer set up in the classroom'

This activity involves using a mock gravitometer and magnetometer to demonstrate the principles of the remote sensing of gravity and magnetism. It is an ELI+ activity. This method models how density and magnetic anomalies are identified by geophysical remote sensing. Data from such geophysical sensing is used to plot gravity and magnetic anomaly maps, like the ones shown above and explained in the activity.
Similar ideas for teaching Earth science can be found on our website.

Monday, 4 September 2017

A thought experiment to investigate carbon cycle processes

‘Tag’ a carbon atom – and explore the carbon cycle' is an Earthlearningidea thought experiment to investigate carbon cycle processes.

We can ‘mark’ genes with glowing colours to discover how they work – and so can produce mice that glow bright green. We can also tag organisms, from butterflies to whales, to find out about their lives and movement. Help your pupils to understand the carbon cycle by pretending to ‘tag’ a carbon atom so that they can ‘see’ it as it is carried around different parts of the carbon cycle.
Many more activities about Earth's natural cycles can be found on our website.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Fracking: recipe for the perfect fracking fluid

The new ELI today is 'Recipe for the perfect fracking fluid; make your own fluid to fracture hydraulically (frack) methane-bearing shale'.

This is an activity to examine the hydraulic fracturing method and the purposes of the different constituents of the fracking fluid. Pupils are encouraged to think through the purpose of the constituents of the fluid used for fracking, and the whole fracking concept.
Other activities about oil and gas can be found on our website,

Monday, 21 August 2017

Why is the fossil record incomplete?

'Shell shake – survival of the toughest; why is the fossil record incomplete?'

Many organisms are destroyed by being eaten or by being broken up into tiny fragments by moving water, or by processes of changing the sediments to rock. This activity demonstrates that a slab of apparently well-preserved fossils may not present a true record of all that lived there, so caution is needed in reconstructing the ancient environment in its entirety. A fossil assemblage may contain evidence about the environment in which the organisms lived, and what happened to them after their death.
Many more fossil-related activities can be found on the website.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Geo-literature: create your own geo-poem or story

Today's new Earthlearningidea is 'Geo-literature: poems and stories inspired by all things ‘geo’. Create your own geo-poem or story'

Much of our great literature was and is inspired by the natural world. This activity encourages pupils to write imaginatively about a topic they have studied in Earth science or geography. It creates a cross-curricular link between the sciences and arts. Send us your creations and we will publish them on our website.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Treasure hunt with a difference.

This Earthlearningidea is fun for young children especially if it can be played outside, 'Sensory treasure hunt; using senses to match objects with similar properties'.

This activity has endless potential and can be used in many ways.
Lots more ideas which can be used in the holidays can be found in the 'Children's Fun' section of our website.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Art and sculpture inspired by nature

This new activity is the first of a series of cross-curricular themes linking the arts and sciences. 'Geo-art: paintings to sculptures inspired by all things ‘geo’; create your own geo-artwork'

Much of our great art was and is inspired by the natural world. This activity encourages pupils to create some imaginative artwork based on a topic they have studied in Earth science or geography.
Please email us scans or photos of your pupils' or children's work and we will publish them.
Lots more ideas for holiday activities can be found on our website.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Rocks game for the holidays

When the children are collecting pebbles on the beach, perhaps they would like to put them into rock families? Have a look at 'Rock Explorers; putting rocks into families'.

A 5 year-old's explanation of the Black family: “Mummy and Daddy Black are wrinkled with holes in but the children are smooth; that’s because they are young and Mummy and Daddy are old.”
Many more ideas for young children can be found in ELI Early years.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Experience an earthquake in your classroom!

This week's new ELI is 'An earthquake in your classroom; a classroom earthquake intensity scale.'

This activity helps pupils to visualise what experiencing an earthquake of different intensities might be like. Dramatic re-enactment of this classroom earthquake intensity scale can make fine school drama performances or add to school open days.
It is worth repeating the old dictum, “Earthquakes don’t kill people; buildings do.”
Many more activities about earthquakes and their causes can be found on the website.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Modelling how rock cliffs and slopes collapse

'Failing slopes; modelling how rock cliffs and slopes can collapse'  Rocks with horizontal bedding tend to be fairly stable, but when they dip at an angle they are less stable, particularly if they have vertical fractures or joints. The type of collapse usually depends upon the rock type and thickness of the beds.

The activity could be used in a lesson on slope failure itself, or as an application of the physics of friction. Results obtained from an actual investigation are given in the activity.
Many more activities can be found on our website.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Rising mountains can reveal hidden secrets

The new ELI today is “Hooray and up she rises!” How a rising mountain chain can reveal its hidden secrets.

This activity is modelling how erosion of the top of a mountain range is accompanied by isostatic uplift, eventually exposing rocks, once hidden deep below. The activity is aimed at reinforcing the concept of isostasy (a state of balance in the Earth’s outer layers). It is also intended to show hat many igneous rocks become exposed at the Earth’s surface long after they have become solid rocks and are no longer flowing as magma.
Similar activities can be found on the website.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Modelling ancient and modern magnetic fields

'Human magnets! Modelling ancient and modern magnetic fields, using your pupils'. In this Earthlearningidea, pupils use their own bodies to model the magnetisation induced in magnetite mineral particles by the Earth’s field of today: also the magnetic evidence within ancient rocks for ‘continental drift’.

The activity can be used to aid the understanding of remanent magnetisation in rocks. This in turn provides evidence of past magnetic fields of the Earth and is of great value in demonstrating the former latitudes of the continents, before their plate tectonic movement.

Many more activities about magnetism can be found on the website.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Ammonites: the ups and downs

The new ELI published today is 'The ups and downs of ammonites; how did they adjust their position in the sea?
The demonstration shows how some animals which are buoyant in water can change their depth in the sea. Explain that ammonites had a coiled shell, but that the soft body only lived in part of the outermost coil. Inside the rest of the shell, the space was filled with gas, which made the animal buoyant.
Demonstrate this, using a boiling tube full of air with a bung to represent the shell of the ammonite. The air-filled tube represents the gas- filled inner coils of the ammonite. The bung represents the living parts of the animal, which can move towards the neck of the tube or retract back into it.
Many more activities about bringing fossils back to life can be found in the Evolution of Life category on our website.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Hotspots - modelling the movement of a plate over a hotspot

Have you tried this ELI? 'Hotspots; modelling the movement of a plate across the globe'
After the activity pupils can understand the motion of one object (the card) relative to another (a point source of heat – a candle) and then be able to relate the card and candle model to the movement of a plate relative to a fixed source of heat in the mantle below. They can also use evidence of volcanic activity in the Pacific Ocean to deduce the on-going motion of the Pacific plate.
Many more activities about plate tectonics can be found on our website.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Environment differences between today and when the rocks formed

The new ELI today is 'Now and then – spotting the difference; how did the conditions differ between today and when the rock was formed?'

Between now (today) and then (when the rock was formed) how have these things changed?:
- temperature
- orientation
- humidity
- altitude
- visibility
- latitude
- pressure
- age
- life, invertebrates and vertebrates
This is a thought experiment, attempting to compare various aspects of the environment when the rock was formed, with conditions today.
Many more activities about past environments can be found on our website.

Monday, 29 May 2017

What's in a smartphone?

An ELI published in December 2013 was 'Be a mineral expert 4 – Recycle your mobile phone'. 

 Although the technology has moved on since then, the question still remains - "Why should I recycle my mobile (cell) phone?".
Did you know that smartphones contain a tiny bit of half the elements on the planet? Do you know about the super element indium that is soft, melts and conducts electricity? It's believed we shall run out of these rare super elements in a decade. Will we then have to mine them in space? To answer all these questions, we recommend you watch the BBC 4 programme 'Secrets of the Super Elements' in which Professor Mark Miodownik reveals the weird materials that have built our high-tech world.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Partial melting model and real rock

New ELI+ today - 'Partial melting model and real rock; comparing a model with reality to develop understanding of the partial melting process'

This is a consolidation exercise on partial melting, to ensure that students understand how a model mirrors processes in real rocks. The partial melting process can be directly linked to the key rock-forming minerals by reference to Bowen’s Reaction Series, shown in the activity. Bowen investigated the melting and crystallisation temperatures of a series of the minerals commonly found in igneous rocks, to discover the order of melting (and therefore their order of crystallisation).
Many more activities associated with igneous processes and plate tectonics can be found either by using the search engine or the index on our website.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Is that weathering or is it erosion?

'What's the difference between weathering and erosion?’ This Earthlearningidea addresses common misconceptions about weathering and erosion.

Textbook surveys have shown that misconceptions between weathering and erosion are common, when the scientific consensus is clear.
Use the search engine on our website to find lots of activities about weathering and about erosion.

Monday, 8 May 2017

This week's new Earthlearningidea is 'Filling the gap – picturing the unconformity ‘abyss of time’? Working out what happened during unconformity time gaps'.

Ask your pupils to picture what happened in the time between the upper and lower beds of an unconformity. This exercise can be carried out for any unconformity in the field or on a photograph.
Other activities to help explain the enormity of geological time can be found here on our website.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Isostasy: State of balance in the Earth's outer layers

Earthlearningidea has two activities which explain isostasy. The first is 'Isostasy 1: modelling the state of “balance” of the Earth’s outer layers'.

This activity establishes the principle of isostasy, using wooden blocks floating in water and in a denser medium.
The second activity is 'Isostasy 2: “Bouncing back” after the ice'

This is a demonstration of the effects on a continental land mass of an ice sheet growing and then melting.
Many more innovative activities, which teach a lot but are also fun to do can be found on our website.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Modelling mighty rivers and small-scale processes

The new ELI is 'Investigating small-scale sedimentary processes AND modelling mighty rivers' This activity uses the ‘Mighty River in a small gutter’ Earthlearningidea activity at different scales.

The ‘Mighty river in a small gutter’ can be used to investigate surface processes, caused by water currents, in the classroom at two different scales.
Pupils of all ages can learn a lot from this activity and have fun at the same time!
More investigations can be found on our website.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Rocks are in the rock cycle e-i-e-i-oooooooooo

For the holidays, the ELI Team present you with 'The Rock Cycle Song'. Please sing loudly to the tune of 'Old MacDonald had a Farm'

Lots of activities about the rock cycle can be found on our website.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Modelling river pothole-formation by calculation

The new ELI continues our maths in ELIs theme: 'A bucket for a pothole: visualising past processes by calculation; modelling river pothole-formation by calculation – thinking through the assumptions'.

River potholes like the ones shown in the photos above are thought to have been formed by abrading gravel moved by eddies in the water as it flows over the bedrock. This activity seeks to mimic this mode of formation in order to provoke calculation and discussion around the processes involved.
Many more activities to do with rivers and river erosion can be found on the website.

Monday, 3 April 2017

3 million downloads / ELI translations

3 million activity downloads! 

The ELI team is delighted to announce that by the end of March 2017, there have been 3 million activity downloads. We should like to thank all the volunteers involved in this project, especially all of our translators and, of course, all of our users. Hopefully lots of pupils have enjoyed trying out the ideas in Earth science or geography lessons.

To all Educators:
One of our German translators who teaches in a University of Education recommends that other educators follow his example and ask their university students to translate one Earthlearningidea and present it to the other students as part of their course. These translations are then checked and finally added to the website.

Japanese translations
Our Japanese colleagues have added 32 translations to the site; incredible. Many, many thanks.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Ice-thickness from scratch: visualising past processes by calculation

The new ELI+ is 'Ice-thickness from scratch: visualising past processes by calculation; modelling glacial striation-formation by calculation – thinking through the assumptions'. 

A field simulation of the scratching of striations on bedrock by the debris frozen into an ice sheet, used to approximately calculate the thickness of the ice sheet and to discuss the assumptions made. The activity has been devised to enable pupils to gain a deeper understanding of the glacial processes which erode bedrock surfaces, such as the one shown in the photo.
Other activities about glacial erosion can be found on the website.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Watery world game for young children

Have you tried the ELI Early years 'Watery world game; climb through the watery world but watch out for snakes!'

The game can be played in any science or geography lesson and has cross curricular links with literacy and numeracy. It is also a useful water cycle introduction or revision exercise.
More ELI Early years activities can be found in Teaching strategies on our website.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Fieldwork strategies to make a good educational experience

Our new ELI today is for Educators and is "The ‘What makes a good educational experience’ approach to planning fieldwork; thinking through the fieldwork strategies that are most likely to inform and inspire."
Field experiences have potential to educate participants at a range of levels – but these will only be realised if leaders have awareness of the wide range of possibilities.
There are many fieldwork ideas on our website.

Monday, 6 March 2017

'All Powerful' strategy - using imagination outdoors

Have you tried the ELI 'The ‘All powerful’ strategy; discussing geological histories in imaginative ways'
The view above is of the Deccan Traps in India. Start the activity by saying, ‘If I were ‘All Powerful’ and wanted to re-create the view you see before you, I would move the land we’re standing on today over a ‘hot spot’ producing lots of fast-flowing lava that, when it cooled, recorded the latitude at which it formed
(30 degrees S) – what should I do next?’
This activity uses a ‘deep questioning’ approach to a plenary fieldwork activity, by asking what series of events would be necessary for the view before the pupils to be recreated. The activity can be used at a range of scales from a small quarry to a landscape-wide interpretation.
Many more ideas for fieldwork can be found on our website.

Monday, 27 February 2017

New ELI+ today - 'From folds to crustal shortening: visualising past processes by calculation. Modelling folding by calculation – thinking through the assumptions'

This activity involves a method of calculating approximate crustal shortening in the field (or from a diagram or photograph). Students then discuss the assumptions involved.
Many more activities about fold mountains, aimed at different age groups, can be found on our website.

Monday, 20 February 2017

A Game about Fossils for Early Years

Have you tried the Earthlearningidea 'Fossilise! A game showing how fossils form and survive'? 

The game, for 5 to 8 year-olds, can be played in any science or geography lesson and has cross curricular links with literacy and numeracy. The chances of an organism becoming a fossil and then that fossil surviving for us to see are very small indeed.
Many activities about fossils for all age groups can be found on our website.

Monday, 13 February 2017

What was it like to be on top of a mountain-building collision?

Today's new ELI is 'The view from above: living tectonism. What was it like to be there – on top of a mountain-building collision?'

A thought experiment asking pupils to imagine what it would have been like on top of a mountain range as it was being formed. This activity helps pupils to visualise the intensity of the Earth processes that cause folding and uplift, and of the intense surface processes that are likely to result – on the high exposed surfaces so formed.
Many more activities about fold mountains and mountain building can be found on the ELI website.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Tsunami alert !

The new ELI today is 'Tsunami alert! Run for the hills or stay by the sea? Why does one type of earthquake produce a tsunami, whilst another does not?'
The activity may be used in the context of a science or a geography lesson, where wave motion is being considered, together with its impact on the nearby community.
This is one of three Earthlearningideas about Tsunamis - please refer to the website for these and other activities about natural hazards. 

Monday, 23 January 2017

Investigating evolution by adaptation and natural selection

'How many Beany Beetles? - the evolution game'. In this Earthlearningidea, pupils investigate evolution by adaptation and natural selection.
The game results usually show that the number of surviving purple Beany Beetles decreases and the number of surviving green Beany Beetles increases even though the ratio at the  beginning was 5:1. Pupils quickly understand that being camouflaged gives the green Beany Beetles an advantage over the purple. Chance sometimes plays a part and then fewer than expected green Beany Beetles survive.
This game provides an introduction to the theory of evolution and is a useful activity for cross-curricular work covering science, geography, literacy, numeracy and art.
Many more activities about the Evolution of Life can be found on our website.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Sort out the rock cycle products - then add the processes

The new ELI today is 'Laying out the rock cycle: product and process'.

Pupils are asked to place a series of rock cycle products in the correct places on a diagram of the rock cycle, then to consider how all these are linked by rock cycle processes.
On the website you can find activities associated with each of the processes identified in the rock cycle.

Monday, 9 January 2017

NEW - Earth Learning Idea translations into Japanese!

We are delighted to announce that ELI activities are now being translated into Japanese. There are 60 plus activities already on the site with 100 planned by Easter. We are extremely grateful to our colleagues in Japan for doing this for us, especially as all their work is on a voluntary basis.
This image shows a sample from the new Japanese web page:-

You can also access the new Japanese translations from the home page of our website - ELI translations.

Monday, 2 January 2017

Metamorphic aureole in a tin

The first new ELI of 2017 is 'Metamorphic aureole in a tin; investigate what controls the changes in temperature around an igneous intrusion'

This is an investigation modelling the factors affecting changes in temperature around an igneous intrusion, using a container of hot water embedded in sand.
Other activities related to metamorphism can be found on our website.