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Earth Science Education


Earth Science Classroom Lessons (Grades 4-12)

Student with a hand lens

The Wyoming State Geological Survey (WSGS) has partnered with the American Geosciences Institute (AGI) to bring Earth Science awareness to the classroom. Below are links to AGI’s Classroom Lessons and to the WSGS for a variety leaning tools, lessons and activities to better connect students to Earth science and geology. Below are some sample activities for grades 4-12, with many related to Wyoming’s geologic resources and Earth science. For all AGI classroom lessons, log on to "Classroom Activities."

Elementary School

WSGS field trip to Vedauwoo, 2014
  • Chocolate Rock Cycle—This activity will introduce your students to the rock cycle with a hands-on (and tasty) activity. They will understand how igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks are formed. To go a step further, bring in examples of the three types of rocks found in Wyoming (Sedimentary=sandstone, shale, conglomerate; Metamorphic=quartzite, marble, gneiss; Igneous=granite, basalt, rhyolite).

  • Dig Into Soil—This activity will allow your students to see how the composition of the ground below varies in layers. These layers are formed through time because of differing environmental situations and factors. On the larger scale, explain how Wyoming’s geologic past has affected the resources we derive from the land today. These resources are found by understanding and exploring the layers that comprise Wyoming. Learn about Wyoming geology.

  • Rock Art—Rock art is a medium that can connect people and cultures through time and space. Art has always been an integral part of human life. When early Indian tribes of Wyoming created the petroglyphs 1,000 to 200 years ago found at White Mountain and Legend Rock, they were using materials the Earth provided. The artwork is etched into sandstone bedrock of the Eocene Bridger formation. With this activity, students will be able to discuss ancient cultures and how the environment affected their lives. They will also have the chance to create their own art using natural materials.

  • A Paste with a Taste—Trona, a resource mined in Wyoming and processed into soda ash, is the primary source of sodium bicarbonate, one of the major ingredients in toothpaste and baking soda. In this activity, students will have the chance to create their own toothpaste. Discuss with them how many of the products we use on a daily basis come from the Earth. Learn more about Wyoming trona.

  • Geologic Time Scale Analogy—To better illustrate geologic time, this activity will allow students to create a time scale metaphor. When time is put in perspective, this will help students grasp Wyoming’s geologic past. Learn more about the geologic time scale.

Middle School

  • Connecting with Nature—It is important for people around the world to connect with nature and to appreciate our Earth’s natural systems and the importance of conserving our resources for future generations. In this activity, students will join others in a nationwide photo project. Students will seek out and photograph an image of the “Blue Goose,” the symbol of the National Wildlife Refuge System, in their favorite outdoor destination. They can then submit their photo to a page set up by the National Wildlife Refuge System. In Wyoming, nature and wildlife abound. This activity provides students with the opportunity to realize the beauty and significance of their natural surroundings.

  • Dating Popcorn—In this activity, students will gain hands-on experience on how scientists time date rocks found in Wyoming. Finding out the age of events such as mountain building occurred. Using popcorn, students can see how scientists create their models for time by comparing rocks against other rocks and the materials found in them.

  • Getting the Oil Out—Oil wells are a common site around Wyoming. This activity allows students see how the pump system works by having them create their own oil well. Let your students explore the mechanics of the oil well to create the most effective design. Compare it to the diagram provided on the website.

  • Cookie Mining—“Cookie Mining” is a game designed for your students to explore the economics of mining. The mining and drilling industries of Wyoming play a major role in the state’s economy. Discuss with your students the way these industries have affected their lives through jobs, economy, culture, etc.

  • Natural Gas Formation—Natural gas is an important resource found in Wyoming. In this examination, students will, on a small scale, create their own natural gas. Discuss with your students how dead organisms (plants in this case) can turn into natural gas and oil. Your students will better understand where Wyoming’s natural resources come from. Learn more about natural gas.

  • Map Making Basics—In this exercise, students will learn the basics of map-making and the type of decision-making geologists and GIS specialists use when making maps. An integral part of geology, the Wyoming Geological Survey has a team of Geographic Information System (GIS) specialists who use advanced programs and tools to make maps. Show your students some of the GIS work we do at the WSGS.

  • Core Sampling—Core sampling plays a large role in Wyoming’s energy industry. To assess the potential for significant oil extraction in a particular area, geologists first take a sampling (core) of the subsurface. In this investigation, students will use a hands-on model to see what it is like to choose an ideal drilling site.

High School

  • Mapping Quake Risk—Wyoming has a great deal of seismic activity due the state’s structure and geology. In this exercise, students can see what affects seismic activity in Wyoming and across the world by viewing an interactive map of the world’s seismology. Learn more about Wyoming earthquakes.

  • Exploring Energy With GIS—To find where the best energy resources exist, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) specialists use computer technology and maps. In this activity, students use GIS to complete a series of lessons that will teach them to interpret data and maps. They will learn more about the kind of work GIS specialists do in Wyoming, as well as how to think in geospatial terms for land use considerations.

  • A Model of Three Faults—Earthquakes can be very destructive to humans and infastructure, but scientists work together to better predict when an earthquake will occur. In this activity, students will create their own models of three different types of faults to explore how earthquakes work. Learn more about Wyoming earthquakes.

  • Exploring Porosity—When drilling for oil, one of the factors that can determine whether or not drilling will be successful is porosity. In this hands-on exercise, students will learn what porosity is and how it affects oil extraction.

  • Geoscience and Petroleum Careers—Geoscience and petroleum are both important to Wyoming’s economy and job industry. This activity allows students to see what kinds of occupations are available to them and their skillset. Students are encouraged to explore the variety of jobs available and write an essay on why a particular job fits them best.

  • Exploring Petroleum—Oil and natural gas play a major role in Wyoming’s economy, culture, and industry. In this investigation, students will learn how scientists discover and use oil and gas reserves with a hands-on model. Learn more about Wyoming Oil and Gas.