Digital Library for Earth System Education (DLESE)
The Digital Library for Earth System Education (DLESE) is a grassroots, community-based effort involving teachers, students, and scientists working together to create a library of educational resources and services to support Earth system science education. DLESE supports Earth system science education by providing access to high-quality collections of educational resources; access to Earth data sets and imagery; support services to help educators and learners effectively create, use, and share educational resources; and communication networks to facilitate interactions and collaborations across all dimensions of Earth system education.
Environmental Science Activities (ESA 21)
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Human Propulsion - John Pratte
This lesson points out that the motion of objects (velocity or acceleration) is almost never constant, and applies this idea to the motion of a person walking. The discussion covers the energy transfers involved in walking and in some other forms of human-powered transportation (crutches, bicycle, wheelchair), and the velocity and acceleration of an object that is moving in one dimension. The lesson includes an activity in which students use an accelerometer attached to a student volunteer to measure instantaneous acceleration in three dimensions, and calculate the total work which is done. Educational levels: Undergraduate lower division, High school
Ballistic Pendulum - John Pratte
This lesson builds upon the previous two (Newton's Second Law and the First Law of Thermodynamics) by explaining that conservation of energy is not perfectly observed, in that energy is lost as it is transferred from kinetic to potential, and vice-versa. Likewise, momentum is not conserved during collisions, as they are neither perfectly elastic or perfectly inelastic. The discussion covers the Second Law of Thermodynamics and Efficiency, citing various examples of efficiency as energy is transferred. Students will perform an activity in which they use a ballistic pendulum to measure theoretical efficiency as kinetic energy is converted to potential energy...
The First Law of Thermodynamics (title provided or enhanced by cataloger) - John Pratte
This lesson builds upon the previous one (Newton's Second Law) by introducing students to kinetic and potential energy. Topics include a brief description of these two forms of energy, a discussion of gravity as a form of potential energy, and a discussion of the First Law of Thermodynamics in the context of energy transfer. The lesson includes an activity in which students test the First Law of Thermodynamics by measuring the energy of a system consisting of a cart being pulled by a suspended mass. Educational levels: Undergraduate lower division, High school
Newton's Second Law - John Pratte
This lesson introduces students to Sir Isaac Newton's Second Law of Motion. Topics include the two ways to study the dynamics of a system in which there is motion, a brief description of Newton's work in studying and measuring the motion of objects, and a summary of his three laws of motion. The lesson includes an activity in which students test Newton's Second Law by measuring the acceleration of a cart which is being pulled by increasingly larger masses. Educational levels: Undergraduate lower division, High school
Drinking Water Treatment - Matt Laposata
This lesson provides an introduction to the treatment of drinking water to remove harmful or distasteful substances. Topics include the history of treatment and a brief listing of treatment processes. Students can examine a selection of online resources for more detailed information on modern treatment methods and potential contaminants. The lesson includes an activity in which they construct a model treatment plant and treat water that they have 'contaminated' themselves in order to observe firsthand the steps involved in purifying water for human consumption. Educational levels: Undergraduate lower division, High school
Wastewater Treatment - Mark Laposata
This lesson introduces students to the basics of wastewater treatment. Topics include the variety of materials that enter the wastewater system, septic tanks, and municpal treatment systems. Students can review online resources that describe the processes of wastewater treatment and septic tank operation in detail, and listen to a National Publc Radio (NPR) show that discusses the use of treated wastewater to make snow at a ski resort in Maine. The lesson includes an activity in which students participate in virtual tours of wastewater treatment facilities and answer questions about what they see. Educational levels: Undergraduate lower division, High school
Home Water Use - Matt Laposata
This lesson provides an overview of water use in the industrialized world, including a discussion of the increasing need for conservation as populations grow and water supplies stay roughly constant. Users can listen to a National Public Radio (NPR) show that discusses water-use restrictions that have been enacted in Las Vegas in response to persistent drought conditions, and review online resources on overall and domestic water use in the United States. The lesson includes a two-part activity in which students use an online calculator and other resources to examine water use in their homes and read some ideas for reducing...
Renewable Energy: Capstone - John Pratte
This is the culminating activity in the series of lessons on renewable energy. It serves to reinforce the idea that renewable sources of energy are necessary for a sustainable fuure, and to discuss some of the present impacts and potential drawbacks to renewable energy. In the activity, sudents will use online resources to research their present energy consumption and investigate whether it could economically be replaced by renewable sources. Educational levels: Undergraduate lower division, High school
Renewable Energy: Wind - John Pratte
This lesson introduces students to the uses of wind energy. Topics include a history of wind usage (grinding grain, pumping water, transportation), including the development of wind power in the United States and its more recent adaptations for producing electricity. There is also discussion of the physics behind the operation of a windmill and what drives the wind patterns in Earth's atmosphere. The lesson includes an activity in which students use online resources to study the relationship between barometric pressure and wind speed and direction. They will collect data on barometric pressure, wind speed, and wind direction for several days,...
Alternative Energy: Solar Energy - John Pratte
This lesson provides an introduction to the use of the sun's energy. Topics include the history of solar energy usage and its more recent adaptations. There is also discussion of how the sun produces and radiates energy, what happens when it reaches Earth, types of solar systems, and the most common use of solar energy (heating). The lesson includes an activity in which students investigate the effects of color and collection area on the amount of solar energy absorbed by a system. They will use aluminum pie pans of different sizes and colors and compare the relative effect by their...
Renewable Energy: Hydropower - John Pratte
This lesson introduces students to the use of flowing or falling water (hydropower) to perform work, particularly electric power generation. Topics include the history of hydropower development, the invention of turbines and electric generators, and the history of hydroelectric power development in the United States. There is also discussion of the environmental issues associated with the construction of large dams and flooding large tracts of land, as well as some of the physics involved in the transfer of energy from moving water to a mechanical device such as a turbine. The lesson includes an activity in which students use a...
The Nature of Tectonic Plates - Ken Rhinehart
This lesson provides an overview of the various types of interactions between tectonic plates. The discussion uses the analogy of a cracked egg to describe the tectonic plates composing Earth's crust. Other topics include the concentrated earthquake and volcanic activity associated with plate boundaries, types of interactions at the boundaries, and how plate motions are affecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The lesson includes an activity in which students will use online references to locate a hypothetical nuclear power plant in a geologically safe area, investigate the history of large earthquakes in South Carolina, provide a likely location for a...
Tectonic Plate Movements and Hotspots - Ken Rhinehart
This lesson introduces the idea that rates and directions of plate movements can be measured. The discussion centers on the use of mantle 'hotspots' to determine plate motions. Examples include the Hawaiian Islands, the Galapagos Islands, and the Yellowstone hotspot. The lesson includes an activity in which students use online resources to answer questions about the Galapagos Islands and measure plate movement rates using online data for the Hawaiian Islands hotspot. Educational levels: Undergraduate lower division, High school
Plate Tectonics: Earthquake Epicenter - John Pratte
This lesson provides an overview of destructive earthquakes and their connection to tectonic movements of the Earth's crust. It includes a discussion of some especially destructive historic earthquakes, and a brief introduction to contintental drift and the theory of plate tectonics. There is also discussion of basic seismology (types of waves) and measures of the magnitude of an earthquake (the Richter Scale). The lesson inlcudes an activity in which students use an online simulator to locate the epicenter of an earthquake using readings from three different seismograph stations. After they have completed the simulation, they attempt to locate the epicenter...
Total Ozone Emission (title provided or enhanced by cataloger) - John Pratte
In this activity, students will analyze their nitrogen oxide emissions from all sources (including coal-fired power plants, natural gas combustion, gas-powered lawnmowers, etc.) and combine them with vehicle emissions calculated in the previous activity (Ground-level Ozone: Your Vehicle) to derive an estimate of total emissions of smog-forming NOx. They will use an online nitrogen calculator and enter values for private transportation, public transportation, heat and power, and number of people living the household to receive the total emissions figure. Educational levels: Undergraduate lower division, High school
Ground-level Ozone: Your Vehicle - Matt Laposata
In this activity, students quantify and analyze their personal contributions of smog-forming compounds due to driving. The activity builds upon the previous lesson (Ground-Level Ozone). The students will review online materials on vehicle emissions and use an environmental calculator produced by Environmental Defense to examine their individual emissions of ozone-forming compounds. They will enter year, model, and make of vehicle, along with annual mileage, and receive an estimate of output of smog-forming nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons (VOC's). To conclude the activity, they will review some online resources on the connection between asthma and air pollution. Educational levels: Undergraduate lower division,...
Ground-Level Ozone: Smog City - Matt Laposata
This lesson provides an introduction to the problems associated with ground-level ozone ('smog'). It reinforces the idea that ozone at ground level is harmful while that in the upper atmosphere has a beneficial effect. There is also discussion about how ozone is formed and some of its effects on air quality and human health. Students can listen to two National Publc Radio (NPR) shows that discuss air pollution in Los Angeles and Houston, and perform an activity in which they use an online simulation to change various parameters (weather conditions, population, emission levels from various sources) and observe the changes...
Nuclear Energy: France vs. the U.S. (title provided or enhanced by cataloger) - John Pratte
This lesson presents a comparison of the outlook for energy independence between the United States and France. Topics include the average per capita energy usage between the two countries, differences in types of energy usage, and the strong reliance by the French on nuclear generation of electricity. There is also a discussion of the future of nuclear power in France, as environmental and economic considerations preclude the construction of any new nuclear power plants. The lesson includes an activity in which students monitor the electrical usage of key appliances in their homes, and compare how their actions affect the amount...
Nuclear Energy: Radiation Exposure - John Pratte
This lesson provides an overview of the sources and potential effects of radiation exposure. Topics include the history of the United States' domestic nuclear power program, the concept of ionizing radiation, and how radiation dosage is measured. There is also discussion of what constitutes a lethal dose of radiation and potential sources of exposure. The lesson includes an activity in which students measure their individual yearly exposures to radiation by making an inventory of lifestyle factors that affect their potential dosage and using an online calculator to sum up the contributions from the various sources. Educational levels: Undergraduate lower division,...
Nuclear Power Plant - John Pratte
This lesson introduces students to the basics of nuclear energy production. Topics include radioisotope thermoelectric generators, natural decay of radioactive isotopes, and chain reactions. There is also a discussion of how to control a chain reaction and some concepts of reactor design. The lesson includes an activity in which students operate an online simulation of a nuclear power plant, attempting to keep power output as high as possible without losing control of the reaction. Educational levels: Undergraduate lower division, High school