Friday, December 30, 2011

Cool Paleogeography Site

Dr. Ron Blakey of Northern Arizona University has provided an amazing collection of maps depicting the Earth at various times in the past. CLICK HERE to read about the terms of use, etc. and then select "Gallery of Products" or "Enter the Library" to gain access to the maps. The colorful maps can be used to enhance presentations related to plate tectonics or Earth's history. The map at the right shows the Earth 340 million years ago, during the Mississippian Period.

Reminder: Watch "NOVA: Deadliest Volcanoes" Wednesday, Jan. 4 on PBS.

Friday, December 23, 2011

NOVA Shows Students How Science Works

It looks like NOVA will be featuring some really interesting Earth Science topics over the next couple months. CLICK HERE to see the schedule. Scroll down and select "More Upcoming Posts" to see programing through February 1st. NOVA comes on Wednesday evenings on PBS (check your local listings). Although I watch NOVA for my own education and enjoyment, I do show some episodes to my students throughout the year. Typically I make up a worksheet with 10 questions for them to answer as they watch. The programs are especially effective at showing students how real scientists do research. Here are the titles of upcoming shows related to Earth Science.

December 28: Extreme Ice and Secrets Beneath the Ice (both re-runs)

January 4: Deadliest Volcanoes (new)

February 1: Ice Age Death Trap (new)

Here are some downloadable worksheets from some of the NOVA programs that I use in class.

Magnetic Storm

Mystery of the Megavolcano (Toba)

The Last Extinction

Friday, December 9, 2011

Animate these Global Maps from NASA's Earth Observatory

NASA satellites provide a global view of what’s happening on our planet. To explore how key parts of Earth’s climate system change from month to month, CLICK HERE. There are 16 different maps that you can animate to watch how different aspects of the Earth change over several years. One of my favorites is "snow cover".

Friday, December 2, 2011

A Little Culture for You

As I was looking for a way to make Chinook winds more interesting to my students, I found a great music video on YouTube called, "The Bear Who Stole the Chinook", by Jack Gladstone. Gladstone's song is based on a Native American story about the Chinook winds, which deliver heat to the east slopes of the Rockies in Montana and Alberta. A search led me to maps that revealed a remarkable correlation between the part of Montana-Alberta where Chinook winds are most common, and the homeland of the Blackfoot Confederacy.

CLICK HERE to find out how to use the video, learn more about these warm winds, and download a PowerPoint presentation (includes the maps and many more images).

Friday, November 25, 2011

Amazing BBC Video Segment Shows Formation of Brinicles (brine icicles)

BBC cameramen captured the formation of a "brinicle" (brine icicle) for the first time ever. Brinciles are columns of ice that form under very calm ocean conditions, when there's a big difference between the water temperature (-1.9C) and the air temperature (-20C). CLICK HERE to watch a video of this amazing process. This phenomenon is related to several concepts, including salinity, density, freezing points, etc. To learn more CLICK HERE to go to "Nature News".

Friday, November 18, 2011

Rock Cycle Pencast and Student Handout

Rock Cycle
brought to you by Livescribe
When it comes to teaching geology, I think that the two most important concepts are plate tectonics and the rock cycle. If students understand those two concepts AND develop an interest in geology, they are ready for a lifetime of learning more. This week's resource is a Pencast that demonstrates how I explain the rock cycle to my freshmen Earth Science students at Helena High. Here's how to view the Pencast:

1. Make sure your volume is on so you can listen.
2. Select the Full Screen option to see a larger view of the page.
3. In the lower right, select Hide Preview and then the play arrow. Pause the Pencast at any time.
4. To Print a copy of the Pencast (pdf file), go back to reduced screen and select Download as PDF from menu to left.

The Pencast is great for students who missed class, or simply want a review. Students fill in the handout as I explain the rock cycle, and then do the rest on their own. CLICK HERE to print a copy. The handout is designed for Montana students, but you can easily write a set of statements that features specific rocks in your state or region. CLICK HERE to view the Pencast on the actual Pencast site.

To view a convenient list of all the resources that have been posted on this "Earth Science Guy" blog site, CLICK HERE.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Let students crush some cans!

Meteorologists make a really big deal out of pressure . . . and rightfully so. But atmospheric pressure is a tough concept for students wrap their minds around. I like to use a couple really fun demonstrations/activities to introduce the topic. Near the end of a class period, I show them the can-crush as a demonstration, and then the next day I let each student crush 2 cans. Also on that second day (our classes are 50 minutes), after they are finished crushing cans (15 minutes), I set them down and show them the spoutin' fountain demonstration . . . and then we discuss the science behind both activities. CLICK HERE to print out a copy of the teacher guide, which includes suggestions as well as questions to guide your discussion. CLICK HERE to watch the YouTube video of the spoutin' fountain demonstration. NOTE: As I do the "Spoutin' Fountain Demo", instead of using a clamp to hold the flask, I recommend handling it with heat-resistant gloves.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Science Daily for the Latest Science News ScienceDaily is one of the Internet’s most popular science news web sites. Since starting in 1995, the award-winning site has earned the loyalty of students, researchers, healthcare professionals, government agencies, educators and the general public around the world. Now with more than 3 million monthly visitors, ScienceDaily generates nearly 15 million page views a month and is steadily growing in its global audience. Check the "Earth and Climate" option and be sure to try the "search" feature.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Now is a great time to see Jupiter!

Even if you're not currently teaching astronomy topics, this is something you need to tell your students about. . . On October 29, Jupiter will be at opposition to the Sun, providing earthlings (including your students) a great opportunity to see the gas giant over the next few weeks. With good eyes, a decent pair of binoculars, and a wall to steady yourself against, you should be able to see some of its large moons. CLICK HERE to learn more. The site provides links to other sites that help students understand why Jupiter is in a favorable position for us to see it. CLICK HERE to see the recent "Astronomy Picture of the Day", which also highlights this event.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Colorful Real-Time Weather Maps

Here is on of my favorite sources for real-time weather maps. The site is provided by the University of Illinois (WW2010). When a storm is moving through, I like to start class by showing some of the colorful maps. CLICK HERE to see what the site has to offer. The site allows you to animate the images to watch how different aspects of the weather have changed. Play with it to see how it works.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Impressive Collection of Aerial Images of the West

Dr. William Bowen has provided this collection of "photorealistic images". They can be used in presentations to show what the land looks like from above, providing a new perspective for looking at the geology of a region. The image to the right is of the Rocky Mountain Front west of Great Falls, MT. These mountains provide a dramatic look at the impact of thrust faulting on the landscape. To see what's available, CLICK HERE, select the state you want to view, and then the select the county. Enjoy!

Friday, October 7, 2011

What's the Recipe for a Cloud?

Here is my version of the "cloud in a bottle activity". To obtain a student handout and answer key for this activity, CLICK HERE.

Juice bottles are also suitable for this activity.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Montana Ice Caves are Natural Deep Freezes

"Ice caves" are caves that have ice in them year-round. They are a fun way to help students understand that colder air is more dense than warmer air. Watch my video of a trip into one of Montana's ice caves, and then CLICK HERE to read an explanation.

Friday, September 23, 2011

What's up in the night sky!

CLICK HERE to find out what's in the sky right now, or at any time. To change the settings (times, dates), select "manual", make the changes, and then hit return on your keyboard. The site is provided by

Friday, September 16, 2011

El Nino Explained on a "Pencast"

El Nino
brought to you by Livescribe

This is a way that students can listen to the teacher explain concepts online. Pencasts are especially helpful for students who have missed class, or just want another chance to have a concept explained. Pencasta are easily produced using a Livescribe "smart pen". To view a pencast, such as the El Nino Pencast (above), turn your volume on, select "full screen", then "hide preview" in the lower right, and then "play".

Friday, September 9, 2011

Simple, Effective Gas Density Demonstration

This demonstration fits nicely into a unit on volcanism or density. It will help students realize that there are differences in the densities of gases, and help them understand how this can affect the behavior of gases.

In August of 1986 a lethal cloud of carbon dioxide gas erupted from the depths of Lake Nyos in Africa, killing over 1,700 people in a valley below. Tremendous amounts of the gas, dissolved in the cold, deep waters of the lake, were released as the water came to the surface. As the water rose, decreasing pressure caused bubbles to form just as they do when a bottle of cola is opened. Since carbon dioxide is more dense than air, the invisible gas descended into the populated valley, causing the deaths.

To view a convenient list of all the resources that have been posted on this "Earth Science Guy" blog site, CLICK HERE.

Friday, September 2, 2011

What if the Sun were the size of a golf ball?

Here is a fun scale model calculator for the solar system. Input a diameter for the Sun and then find out how big, and how far away the planets would be. Use a golf ball for an example (1.6 inches). CLICK HERE to try it out. Here are some other diameters to play with: soccer ball=8.65", volleyball=8.5", softball=3.8", baseball=2.9", mens' basketball=9.4", womens' basketball=9.07". . . The calculator will even tell you how far it is to certain stars and how big other stars are. For example, if the Sun were the size of a golf ball, Alph Centauri would be 732.8 miles away from the Sun, and Betelgeuse would have a diameter of 50 ft.

To view a convenient list of all the resources that have been posted on this "Earth Science Guy" blog site, CLICK HERE.

Check out WARD's Exploring Convection Activity.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Collection of Earth Science Diagrams

Here is a great collection of Earth Science illustrations and diagrams. The images were produced by Dr. Bruce Railsback for basic geology classes at the University of Georgia. Educators are welcome to use them in their teaching, so long as they are not reproduced in publications and are not used for financial gain. The images make nice additions to PowerPoint presentations. CLICK HERE to see what's available.

To view a convenient list of all the resources that have been posted on this "Earth Science Guy" blog site, CLICK HERE.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Earth Science Share-A-Thon Web Site

Here is a smorgasbord of useful Earth Science stuff, including activities, movie handouts, presentations, puzzles, worksheets, etc. The huge collection of files has been contributed by teachers from all over the USA. New York Earth Science teacher, Christopher Sheehan, created and manages the site. CLICK HERE to check it out. You're sure to find something you can use. Everything on the site can be downloaded and used in your classroom free of charge!

Friday, August 12, 2011

This is a great site when it comes to finding the latest news and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, sunspots, and near-Earth asteroids. CLICK HERE to check it out. The Perseid meteor shower reaches its peak on August 12-13. Observers are reporting about a dozen meteors per hour. Unfortunately a full moon will reduce visibility on peak night.

Friday, August 5, 2011

What do rhinos in Nebraska and geysers in Billings have to do with the Yellowstone Hot Spot?

Here's a place that will help make "hot spots" (volcanism) more interesting to students. Its the most fascinating Earth Science place I've ever visited. . . The Ashfall Fossil Site in north-central Nebraska. Over 100 rhinos, as well as many other prehistoric animals, have been unearthed there since its discovery in the 1970s. They were buried beneath 8 feet of volcanic ash! To find out what this has to do with the hot spot beneath Yellowstone Park and learn much more about the site, CLICK HERE.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Where Electricity Comes From

"Energy for society" should be an important part of any introductory Earth Science course. Students should understand what our energy sources are,as well as how they are formed, used, and distributed. They should have a basic knowledge of how society produces the energy used for transportation, heating, and electricity. This week's "resource of the week" will help promote an understanding of electricity. CLICK HERE to see an interactive web page provided by National Public Radio. Select "Sources of Power", "Power Plants", "Solar Energy", or "Wind Energy" to show different aspects of electricity. Move your cursor over the states to bring up interesting details.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Ice Wedging Activity

This is a fun activity to do as students are learning about weathering. Students put water in a test tube, freeze it, and then determine how much the water expanded as it froze. To print a student handout and see more detailed instructions, CLICK HERE.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Radiometric Dating: A Christian Perspective

Here is an interesting article, written by a Christian who also happens to be a scientist that works with radiometric dating. CLICK HERE to read the article. As you probably know, some students from Christian families are confused when it comes to topics related to geology and astronomy because of the way their church or family interprets the book of Genesis. This article may help some Christians to be more open-minded . . . and help some teachers realize that not all Christians are against radiometric dating.

Also, here are a couple books that address the age of the Earth issue: "A New Look at an Old Earth" by Don Stoner, and "A Matter of Days" by Hugh Ross. Both men are Christians, and both make a strong case for an Earth that is as old as science texts suggest. Stoner's book is a fairly easy read, whereas Ross' book requires that readers have a somewhat stronger background in science. Ross also has a web site called "Reasons to Believe" at CLICK HERE to see the page that I provide for my students and their parents . . . in case they are interested.

To view a convenient list of all the resources that have been posted on this "Earth Science Guy" blog site, CLICK HERE.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Strange (but true) Intro to Jet Streams

Yes . . . Balloon bombs. Earth Science topics are more interesting to students when you show them real-world connections. WWII balloon bombs provide a connection to jet streams that is not only real-world, but also very unusual, which helps to get students' attention. Evidently, Japanese knew more about these high-altitude winds than we did in the 1940's. They released 9,300 balloon bombs, counting on the jet stream to carry them to the USA. Fortunately, less than 400 of the bombs are known to have made the 6,000-mile journey. At least 35 of these bombs are known to have landed in Montana. To learn more CLICK HERE.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Help Students Understand the H-R Diagram

The Hertzprung-Russell diagram, created in the early 1900s by Ejnar Hertzsprung and Henry Norris Russell, was a major step towards understanding "the life cycles of stars". Unfortunately, many students think that the H-R diagram is some sort picture or map that shows the locations of stars. They don't seem to understand that it is a way to CLASSIFY stars based on two criteria; brightness and temperature. To help them understand how it works, try using something that they do understand (food).

Draw a grid on the board like the one shown here, and then explain that they are going to classify various foods, based on two criteria; taste and nutritional value. Call on students to name foods that would (based on their opinion) be placed in various locations within the rectangle. CLICK HERE to see a more detailed description as well as an example that shows how I would classify certain foods.

To view a convenient list of all the resources that have been posted on this "Earth Science Guy" blog site, CLICK HERE.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Carbon Footprint Discussion

Click on the photo to enlarge and project onto screen.

Listed below are several questions that you could put on a handout (pick the ones you like). Have students look at the diagram as homework (or at the start of class as a bell-ringer). Then use the questions to guide a classroom discussion, randomly calling on students for their responses. It is an effective way to get students to think about how their lifestyles are related to carbon dioxide emissions. The diagram (called a "Mind Map") was provided by

Take a careful and thoughtful look at the diagram. On your handout (or on your own sheet of paper) complete the following tasks. You will hand your paper in and you will be expected to discuss the diagram in class.

1. New Title: If it were up to you, what title would you give to the diagram?

2. Questions:Write out three good questions that you have about parts of the diagram. The answers to your questions should not be found on the diagram, and the answers cannot be a simple fact.

3. Reaction: What is your reaction to specific things shown on the diagram, or what do you think would be the reaction of others to specific things on the diagram? List three reactions to specific things on the diagram.

4. Conservation: Education, laws, innovations, and incentives are some of the ways that we can get people to do the things on the diagram. List one of the things on the diagram that would go in the "innovations" category.

5. Laws (or taxes) can also cause conservation. Pick an item on the diagram and write a law that would make people adopt this practice.

6. Pick an item on the diagram and write a government (city, county, state, federal) incentive that would make people want to do it.

7. Pick an item that education might help to promote.

8. What is it about the diagram most surprised you?

9. Generally speaking, what are some reasons people don't do more of the things on the diagram? Be prepared to discuss these in class!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Show the True Shape of Earth's Orbit

CLICK HERE to view the Eccentricity Demonstrator. The shape of Earth's orbit around the Sun is not a perfect circle . . . BUT, it is pretty close. Unfortunately, textbooks often exaggerate the eccentricity of Earth's orbit. Use this online demonstration to let students see the true shape of our orbit, AND allow them to compare it to some of the more elliptical orbits of other objects.

Simply input the eccentricities to see the true orbital shapes. Earth is .02 (rounded), Mercury is .21, Pluto is .25, Halley's Comet is .97 (off the scale).

Because Earth's orbit is not a perfect circle, the Earth is actually about 3 million miles closer to the Sun around January 2 than it is on July 4. Keep in mind that 3 million miles is not that much, considering the average distance between the Earth and Sun is about 93 million miles.

To view another interactive related to eccentricity, CLICK HERE.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Chinook Winds Explained on this 10-minute Pencast

To watch (and listen) to this Pencast, turn your volume on and then select full screen. Once the full screen appears, select Hide Preview in the lower right . . . and then play. Pencasts serve as a great review for students, and are especially helpful for students who missed class.

Click here to view the Chinook Wind Pencast (10 minutes)

To view a convenient list of all the resources that have been posted on this "Earth Science Guy" blog site, CLICK HERE.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Refraction Demonstration

I do this demonstration as I explain how the refraction of earthquake waves cause a "shadow zone". Much of what we know about the interior of the Earth has been learned from the analysis refracted earthquake waves.

To view a convenient list of all the resources that have been posted on this "Earth Science Guy" blog site, CLICK HERE.

Friday, May 27, 2011

See where the planets are right now (or in years past).

Solar System Live
Click on the link above (Solar System Live). Set the "size" at "900" and then select "update". Also, I like to show students where the planets were last year compared to this year. EXAMPLE BELOW: This small image shows where the planets (and Pluto) were in May 1983. For the fun of it, set the date to show the famous planet alignment of March 10, 1982. Click on the image to make it bigger. You can save the images and insert them into PowerPoint presentations. See if students can figure out which ones are visible in the night sky based on where the planets are in their orbits. Then show them this site: Planet finder

CLICK HERE to view a convenient list of other Earth Science Guy posts.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Varves from Ancient Glacial Lake Great Falls

Check out these varves located in a road-cut between Helena and Great Falls (Montana). Click on the photo for a better view. To learn more, go to this web site:

To view a convenient list of all the resources that have been posted on this "Earth Science Guy" blog site, CLICK HERE.

Friday, May 13, 2011

One of the Keys to Understanding Oceanic Circulation

This is a fun demonstration to do as you begin to teach about the connection between salinity and density (of ocean water). This concept plays a big roll in oceanic circulation.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Rocket Activity

My students will be making rockets this week.   Here is a 5-minute video I show as I explain how to pack the chute, etc.  Does anyone have an activity/handout that I can use to have my students make measurements and calculations on launch day?  In the past we have just watched them go up and come down (which they enjoy), but I would like to make the experience more educational.