Using Earthscope data in the science classroom—meeting national science standards with real world plate tectonic applications Abstract


  • EarthScope is a collaboration between NSF, USGS, NASA, UNAVCO, IRIS, scientists, and educators to better understand the structure and evolution of the North American continent. The EarthScope project includes PBO, SAFOD and US Array and their data is available on the EarthScope data portal

    Teachers On The Leading Edge (TOTLE) master teachers have designed inquiry based lessons using a variety of EarthScope data products to meet national science standards as well as to demonstrate research based methods in science education. Because they are using “real data” students are more motivated to understand the processes behind the patterns that they observe. By layering inquiry, direct instruction models and animations students are encouraged to form explanations and then test them to build a deep understanding of the changing earth system.

    In “Gum Drop GPS” students are introduced to GPS data; followed by interpretation of time series data to determine the speed and direction of plate motion.

    In “Locked and Loading” students use their previously acquired knowledge to interpret GPS data in transects across the Pacific Northwest to observe crustal deformation due to subduction. Students identify patterns and relate deformation to energy available for release during an earthquake.

    In “Episodic Tremor and Slip (ETS)” students learn about “slow” quakes by observing GPS data and modeling plate motion using wood blocks. Students will discover the relationship between technology and science as they solve the mystery of the unexplained tremor.

    In “Will it Blow?” students use a problem-based scenario to investigate Yellowstone Volcano by interpreting a variety of monitoring data. Students act as geologic consultants as they document their findings and then construct a “report” advising a developer of the safest place to build a golf resort.

    Finally, using “Teachable Moments” educators can take advantage of current seismic events to introduce, support or review earth processes. “Teachable Moments” include animations and pdf. files that provide educators nation-wide with information within twenty-four hours of an earthquake. All teaching resources are available on the EarthScope educator website


publication date

  • 2010