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From Lecture to Labs:
Transforming an Earth Science Curriculum
John Gonzalez
Adolfo Camarillo High School
My Research Project
Synthesized a high
Created a track of rare
earth magnets
My Research Project
Craft a vehicle that could house the superconductors,
levitate, and move down the track in a controlled
The end product:
A tool of education outreach for Professor Ram Seshadri
and the MRL Educational Outreach Program.
Curriculum Project Evolution
• Kept a blog about the process to chronicle my
thoughts and experiences.
• Working in a lab reinforced two ideas:
1. Real science is done hands-on or minds-on.
2. Doing science is engaging, challenging, and fun.
• I wanted to incorporate these lessons into my
earth science curriculum.
Curriculum Project Evolution (continued)
• Earth Science was a new course at ACHS.
• Without prior experience, we were creating the
course on the fly.
• Little time for in-depth lesson design and creativity.
• Although effective, the course lacked a consistent
hands-on component.
• My RET II project:
– Develop a standards-based lab curriculum that
can be integrated into my earth science course.
The Project
• At ACHS, we have ten units of study.
• There are 17 labs developed for specific units
• The labs designed are NOT a parallel curriculum.
– The intention is to integrate them within the normal course
of the year.
• The labs are standards-based and are designed with a
few goals in mind.
– Promote higher-level thinking.
– Provide more access opportunities for lower level students
– Build data analysis and lab techniques
• NOTE: Not all labs are independently created. I have
borrowed from many educators and websites.
Summary: Lab Titles by Unit
Introduction to Earth
Lab Title(s)
• Measuring Volume
• Density of Solid Objects
Earth’s Interior &
Plate Tectonics
• Sea-Floor Spreading
• Plate Tectonics
Earthquakes &
• Virtual Earthquake (CL)
•eField Trip to Hawaiian Isls. (CL)
Rocks & Minerals
• This Planet Really Rocks (CL)
•Classifying Rocks
California Geology &
• Rock’n Roller Coaster
• Household Water Use
Summary: Lab Titles by Unit
Lab Title(s)
•Properties of Ocean Water
Cycles & Atmosphere
•The Carbon Cycle Game (CL)
•Hot Air Extraordinaire (CL)
Energy in Earth’s
•Heating Land & Water
Climate & Climate
The Global Warming Debate
(CL or paper)
•Terrestrial vs. Jovian Planets
•Life Cycle of Stars (CL)
Each Lab Includes…
• Student Handouts
• Additional versions with scaffolding for learning
• Any applicable resources necessary for completion
(except raw materials)
• Teacher Page
– CA Content standards (ES & I/E)
– Learning objectives
– Content Area Vocabulary & Pre-Requisite Concepts
– Academic Language (forms, functions and/or fluency)
– Possible ideas for extension
– Tips & Suggestions regarding successful implementation
Examples: Writing in Science
Google Maps
R.J. Henchy (Rio Mesa HS)
Examples: Writing in Science
• The Global Warming Debate
“The President has appointed YOU to be on his Global
Warming Planning Committee.
Your task will be to
1) inform him about the basic science of global
2) read and review articles relating to global warming,
3) and finally, your opinion matters, the President will
be relying on the GWPC to inform him of its findings
so that he can develop proper policies that are in
the best interests of the nation and the world.”
Examples: Computer Lab Activities
• Virtual Earthquake (click here)
• eField Trip to the Hawaiian Islands (click here)
• Hot Air Extraordinaire (click here)
• The Carbon Cycle Game (click here)
• Life Cycles of Stars (click here)
Examples: Labs & Data Analysis
• Sea-Floor Spreading & Paleo-magnetism
• Properties of Ocean Water
F. Kinnaman (citation on the way)
Examples: Labs & Data Analysis
• Terrestrial vs. Jovian Planets
– Sort nine generic planets into two groups based on given
• Classifying Rocks
– Evaluate the crystal size of two igneous rocks and
determine which is intrusive & which is extrusive.
– Given three rocks, evaluate their physical appearances to
determine which is igneous, sedimentary &
Scaffolding Handouts:
• Acquiring content proficiency is more important
than how it gets acquired.
• Remove linguistic and processing difficulties as
barriers to engaging with the content.
What I Did:
• Provide sentence frames, graphic organizers, premade graphs & data tables.
Scaffolding Handouts:
• Heating the Land and Water
– General (here)
– Scaffolded (here)
• eField Trip to the Hawaiian Islands
– General (here)
– Scaffolded (here)
• Density of Solid Objects
– General (here)
– Scaffolded (here)
Extension Ideas:
• Provide opportunities for accelerated learners to
extend their engagement with the material.
• Try to remove the reward for “getting done”.
• Rock’n Roller Coaster
– Research ways to mitigate some of the hazard risks at a
given site and incorporate those findings into their
• Classifying Rocks
– Provide students with a chart for specifically identifying
rocks (e.g. granite vs. basalt)
Assessment of Student Work:
Two forms:
1. Each lab has accompanying analysis questions or
outcomes for which students are responsible.
2. Labs were designed to be integrated into normal
Regular unit assessments will help to determine
how well students acquired proficiency with the
given concepts of the lab.
Assessment of Project
• Take notes during lab execution
• Modify labs as needed for greater effectiveness
• Expand tips & suggestions
Student Outcomes
• At ACHS, the ES team has a set of common
formative assessments.
• Use Edusoft to grade tests & evaluate data.
• Compare test data from a “lab-less” course in 08-09
to this year’s data with an integral lab curriculum.
Thank You!
Dr. Martina Michenfelder
Dr. Frank Kinnaman
Dr. Ram Seshadri
The entire MRL & Education
Outreach staff
National Science Foundation
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