Teach the Earth

The Teach the Earth collection from the Science Education Resource Center (SERC) contains a broad range of resources supporting effective geoscience education. The collection spans middle school through graduate level with a special emphasis on undergraduate education. It includes thematic foci such as teaching quantitative skills, integrating current geoscience research into education, preparing K-12 earth science teachers, and teaching with data.

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Active Learning and Lasting Impacts: Reflective Writing in a Field-Based Geobotany Course for Teachers
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In this upper-division, week-long, residential field geobotany course for K-12 in-service and pre-service teachers, participants make observations and interpretations in both the field and lab every day. At the end of each day, participants write about their experiences, self-confidence, and perceived competence as an amateur scientist during a reflective writing exercise, for which instructors provide feedback each evening.

Subject:
Education
Life Science
Geoscience
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College
Provider Set:
Teach the Earth
Author:
Amy Ellwein
Date Added:
08/01/2012
Ages of Rocks and the Earth
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This activity introduces students to the mathematics of radiometric dating. Students first apply the rubidium-strontium isotopic system to date rock samples from the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado, and then to date a meteorite and estimate the absolute age of the Earth.

Subject:
Geoscience
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College
Provider Set:
Teach the Earth
Author:
Steven Semken
Tracy Perkins
Date Added:
08/01/2012
Air-sea Interactions: Activities in Oceanography
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This online set of activities help students learn properties of ocean waves, wind-wave relationships and properties of tsunamis.

Subject:
Geoscience
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Assessment
Diagram/Illustration
Provider:
Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College
Provider Set:
Teach the Earth
Author:
Steve LaDochy
Date Added:
08/01/2012
Albian fossils of the Anglo-Parisien basin
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This illustrated guide to Albian (Cretaceous) fossils provides an extensive photo collection of fossils from the Anglo-Parisian basin. Additional information, high resolution photos and illustrations can be accessed by clicking the fossil icons located on the globe, the time scale or along the top of the page. Although the site is written in French, a non-French-speaking visitor will find this page easy to navigate and the photos well worth the visit. Fauna featured on this site include ammonites, nautiloids, belemnites, gastropods, crusteceans, echinoderms, marine vertebrates and corals.

Subject:
Life Science
Geoscience
Material Type:
Diagram/Illustration
Provider:
Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College
Provider Set:
Teach the Earth
Author:
Jolly David
Date Added:
11/07/2014
Analog and Numerical Models of Hillslope Diffusion
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This problem illustrates how numerical theories are developed, how we might test this theory with an analog model, and how numerical models are constructed and the limitations of numerical modeling.

Subject:
Geoscience
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College
Provider Set:
Teach the Earth
Author:
Gregory Hancock
Date Added:
08/01/2012
Applications of Vector Operators for Surface Atmospheric/Oceanic Processes
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This lab exercise provides students with activities utilizing vector operations within the context of the atmospheric and oceanic environments.

Subject:
Life Science
Geoscience
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College
Provider Set:
Teach the Earth
Author:
David R Smith
Date Added:
08/01/2012
Are You in a Hotspot?
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This activity is a PowerPoint module designed to help students differentiate hotspot island chains from volcanic island arc systems. Using map images, students are asked to describe and differentiate the topography and geologic features of the two tectonic settings.

Subject:
Geoscience
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Data Set
Provider:
Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College
Provider Set:
Teach the Earth
Date Added:
08/01/2012
Assessing the Error of Linear and Planar Field Data Using Fisher Statistics
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Instruction on use of Fisher statistics to determine the mean and 95% confidence interval of geological vectors, lines or planes, with examples, problems and an Excel spreadsheet for computation.

Subject:
Geoscience
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Data Set
Lecture Notes
Provider:
Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College
Provider Set:
Teach the Earth
Author:
Vincent S. Cronin
Date Added:
08/01/2012
An Assessment of Hill Slope Stability Using the Factor of Safety
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In this homework assignment students are asked to consider the balance of forces on a hill slope using the Factor of Safety.

Subject:
Geoscience
Material Type:
Lecture Notes
Provider:
Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College
Provider Set:
Teach the Earth
Author:
Laura Moore
Date Added:
08/01/2012
Atmospheric vertical structure and the First Law of Thermodynamics
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This set of homework problems is intended to help students begin to discover the importance and utility of conservation principles derived from the First Law of Thermodynamics and provide a first step in evolving from the p-V diagrams the students have seen in their physics coursework toward the thermodynamic diagrams used in meteorology.

Subject:
Geoscience
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Assessment
Lecture Notes
Provider:
Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College
Provider Set:
Teach the Earth
Author:
Anthony R. Hansen
Date Added:
08/01/2012
Back of the Envelope Calculations
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Many numbers that we use in the geosciences are outside a student's frame of reference and personal experience. Using back-of-the envelope calculations that help put very large or very small numbers into perspective by analogy with something a student can visualize can accomplish a number of things.

Subject:
Geoscience
Provider:
Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College
Provider Set:
Teach the Earth
Date Added:
08/01/2012
Back of the Envelope Calculations: Age of the Earth
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Question The Earth is about 4.6 billion years old. Let's try to get a perspective on how long that really is. Suppose that you decided to count to 4.6 billion and that you counted 1 number every second. How long would it take you to count how old you are? How long would it take you to count the following numbers of years? 5,500 years (since construction of the pyramids at Giza) 700,000 years (since the earliest appearance of archaic Homo sapiens) 66,000,000 years (since the extinction of the dinosaurs) 545,000,000 years (since the first abundant evidence of animals with hard parts) 4,600,000,000 years (since the birth of the Earth)

Subject:
Geoscience
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College
Provider Set:
Teach the Earth
Author:
Barb Tewksbury
Date Added:
08/01/2012
Back of the Envelope Calculations: Approaching Asteroid
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Question If asteroids careen through the solar system at 25 km/second, how far away would we have to detect one in order to have a year's notice to prepare for an impact, as was portrayed in the movie Deep Impact? How far away is that relative to the planets in our solar system?

Subject:
Geoscience
Space Science
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College
Provider Set:
Teach the Earth
Author:
Barb Tewksbury
Date Added:
08/01/2012
Back of the Envelope Calculations: Collision with Asteroid
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We have located an asteroid heading directly for the Earth. It is now 1.6 million km away from the Earth, about 4 times the distance from the Earth to the Moon. The asteroid is travelling at 25 km/second. How long will it be from the time of discovery at a distance of 1.6 million kilometers to impact on the Earth?

Subject:
Geoscience
Space Science
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College
Provider Set:
Teach the Earth
Author:
Barb Tewksbury
Date Added:
08/01/2012
Back of the Envelope Calculations: Communication with Mars
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Suppose you were living in a Mars colony, and you wanted to call home to your parents on Earth. You say, "Hello! How are you?" How long do you have to wait until you hear them say, "We're fine! How are you?"

Subject:
Geoscience
Physics
Space Science
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College
Provider Set:
Teach the Earth
Author:
Barb Tewksbury
Date Added:
08/01/2012
Back of the Envelope Calculations: Comparing Jupiter with Earth
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Below, you'll see a drawing of Jupiter showing the Great Red Spot, as well as several of the dark scars, like enormous black eyes, left as a result of the impact of fragments of the comet Shoemaker-Levy in 1994. If you were to cut out a circle that represented the Earth at the same scale, how big would you make the circle?

Subject:
Geoscience
Space Science
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College
Provider Set:
Teach the Earth
Author:
Barb Tewksbury
Date Added:
08/01/2012
Back of the Envelope Calculations: Depth of Buried Metamorphic Rock
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Question In many high-grade metamorphic belts around the world, rocks were buried 20-30 km beneath the surface during deformation and metamorphism. How deep is that relative to the cruising altitude of a typical commercial airplane flying across the country?

Subject:
Geoscience
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College
Provider Set:
Teach the Earth
Author:
Barb Tewksbury
Date Added:
08/01/2012
Back of the Envelope Calculations: Earth History Timeline
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The Earth is about 4.6 billion years old. Let's try to get a perspective on how long that really is. A roll of good quality toilet paper has 1000 squares. If the roll of toilet paper represents the entire history of the Earth, how many million years is represented by each square? Suppose you were to reel off the toilet paper. Where would some of the important events in the history of the Earth fall along the unrolled toilet paper?

Subject:
Geoscience
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College
Provider Set:
Teach the Earth
Author:
Barb Tewksbury
Date Added:
08/01/2012
Back of the Envelope Calculations: Energy Released in an Earthquake
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A magnitude 8.5 earthquake (such as the 1964 Good Friday earthquake in Alaska) releases about 1x1018 joules of energy. The atomic bomb exploded over Hiroshima released about 1.5x1013 joules of energy. How many Hiroshima bombs would one have to explode simultaneously to equal the amount of energy released in a single magnitude 8.5 earthquake?

Subject:
Geoscience
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College
Provider Set:
Teach the Earth
Author:
Barb Tewksbury
Date Added:
08/01/2012
Back of the Envelope Calculations: Eruption Rates
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Over the last 70 million years or so, the Hawaiian Hot Spot has been pumping out lava, a total of about 775,000 km3 worth. As the Pacific Plate has moved over the hot spot, the volcanic peaks and plateaus of the Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain have formed. If all of that lava had erupted in California, how deeply would California be buried in lava?

Subject:
Geoscience
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College
Provider Set:
Teach the Earth
Author:
Barb Tewksbury
Date Added:
08/01/2012
Back of the Envelope Calculations: Orbital Distance Scale
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QuestionLet's imagine a scale model of the Earth with an orbiting Space Shuttle. Suppose that the Earth is the size of a basketball. How far above the basketball does the Shuttle orbit?

Subject:
Geoscience
Space Science
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College
Provider Set:
Teach the Earth
Author:
Barb Tewksbury
Date Added:
08/01/2012
Back of the Envelope Calculations: Percentage of Copper in Ore
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Suppose that you are building a new house. It will take about 90 kg (198 pounds) of copper to do the electrical wiring. In order to get the copper in the first place, someone needs to mine solid rock that contains copper, extract the copper minerals, throw away the waste rock, and smelt the copper minerals to produce copper metal. Rocks mined for copper typically contain only very small percentages of copperabout 0.7% in the case of most of the big porphyry copper deposits of the world. How much rock would someone have to mine in order to extract enough copper to wire your new house?

Subject:
Mathematics
Chemistry
Geoscience
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College
Provider Set:
Teach the Earth
Author:
Barb Tewksbury
Date Added:
08/01/2012
Back of the Envelope Calculations: Position and Dimensions of the Moon
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Suppose you could scale the Earth down to the size of your head. At that scale, how big would the Moon be, and how far away would it be from your head?

Subject:
Geoscience
Space Science
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College
Provider Set:
Teach the Earth
Author:
Barb Tewksbury
Date Added:
08/01/2012
Back of the Envelope Calculations: Rate of Lava Flow
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In 1983, an eruption began at Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii that has proved to be the largest and longest-lived eruption since records began in 1823. Lava has poured out of the volcano at an average rate of about 160 million m3 per year. To put those flow rates into perspective, let's suppose that the volcano was erupting directly into your classroom. At these flow rates, how long would it take to fill your classroom with lava?

Subject:
Geoscience
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College
Provider Set:
Teach the Earth
Author:
Barb Tewksbury
Date Added:
08/01/2012
Back of the Envelope Calculations: Scale of the Atmosphere
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Let's imagine a scale model of the Earth and use a basketball to represent the Earth. Now, let's get ourselves some packages of fruit roll-ups and start covering the basketball with layers of fruit roll-ups. How many layers would we have to cover the basketball with in order to make the stack of fruit roll-ups as thick as the Earth's atmosphere, to scale?

Subject:
Geoscience
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College
Provider Set:
Teach the Earth
Author:
Barb Tewksbury
Date Added:
08/01/2012
Back of the Envelope Calculations: Scale of the Himalayas
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Let's imagine a scale model of the Earth, and let's imagine that the Earth is the size of a basketball. Suppose that you wanted to build the Himalayas to scale on the surface of the basketball. How tall would you make your scale mountains?

Subject:
Mathematics
Geoscience
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College
Provider Set:
Teach the Earth
Author:
Barb Tewksbury
Date Added:
08/01/2012
Back of the Envelope Calculations: Size of KT Meteorite
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About 66 million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous Period, a meteorite estimated to have been about 10 km in diameter slammed into the Earth. Let's put the size of this cosmic cannonball into perspective. Suppose we could carefully and quietly lower the meteorite into the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and the U.S. Once it was sitting on the bottom of the Pacific, how far would the top of the meteorite stick up relative to the surface of the ocean?

Subject:
Geoscience
Space Science
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College
Provider Set:
Teach the Earth
Author:
Barb Tewksbury
Date Added:
08/01/2012
Back of the Envelope Calculations: Size of Olympus Mons
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A picture-perfect strato-volcano such as Fujiyama in Japan is what comes to mind when most people think of a volcano. Mt. Fuji is an imposing volcanic construct, rising from nearly sea level to a summit at 3,776 m (over 12,000') above sea level. The base of the volcano is about 30 km across. Let's compare Mt. Fuji with the largest volcano on Mars, Olympus Mons. a) Olympus Mons is over 550 km across at the base and over 26 km tall. How many Mt. Fujis could you stretch in a line across the base of Olympus Mons? How many Mt. Fujis could you stack on top of one another before you reached the height of Olympus Mons? b) Olympus Mons has a summit caldera that is 80 km across and a maximum of 3 km deep. What is the relative size of Mt. Fuji in comparison to the summit caldera of Olympus Mons?

Subject:
Geoscience
Space Science
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College
Provider Set:
Teach the Earth
Author:
Barb Tewksbury
Date Added:
08/01/2012
Back of the Envelope Calculations: Spacecraft Acceleration
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Suppose someone offered you a ride to the nearest star in a new spacecraft that could travel at half the speed of light, or about 150,000 km/second. In order to reach such a cruising speed, you and the spacecraft must accelerate from a standstill to half the speed of light. Acceleration means uncomfortable (and maybe even fatal!) "g" forces, that pressed-into-the-seat feeling you get when a car or airplane accelerates. More than 3 g's of acceleration are tough to take for very long, so your spacecraft's engines are designed to accelerate you at not more than 29 meters/second/second (3 times the acceleration due to gravity at the Earth's surface). How long will it take you and your spacecraft to accelerate to half light speed?

Subject:
Mathematics
Geoscience
Space Science
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College
Provider Set:
Teach the Earth
Author:
Barb Tewksbury
Date Added:
08/01/2012
Back of the Envelope Calculations: Surface Area of the Moon
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If you could wrap the Moon in a gigantic cloth and then unwrap the cloth and spread it out on the Earth, how much of the Earth's surface would it cover?

Subject:
Geoscience
Space Science
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College
Provider Set:
Teach the Earth
Author:
Barb Tewksbury
Date Added:
08/01/2012
Back of the Envelope Calculations: The Distance Radio Waves Have Traveled
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We have been broadcasting radio waves in all directions since the development of radio and television stations. How far could you be from the Earth and detect the faint signals of an early Star Trek broadcast? Have signals from Star Trek reached the nearest star yet?

Subject:
Geoscience
Physics
Space Science
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College
Provider Set:
Teach the Earth
Author:
Barb Tewksbury
Date Added:
08/01/2012
Back of the Envelope Calculations: The Grand Canyon's Rate of Erosion
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Some geologic processes, like volcanism and earthquakes, occur intermittently but can cause significant and sometimes catastrophic change very quickly. Others, like weathering, act continuously but gradually, in fact, imperceptibly slow. Regardless of how they operate, geologic processes, acting over long periods of time (thousands and millions of years) will produce significant change in the earth's surface.If you were to occasionally visit the Grand Canyon over a period of many years, you would most likely notice no change. Even the details in the walls would probably seem frozen forever. Yet the Colorado River is continuously, albeit very slowly, cutting into and eroding the Colorado Plateau. The Grand Canyon is gradually being deepened and enlarged. Some geologists are finding evidence that suggests that this mile deep canyon may have been cut with the last 4 million years. Assuming a uniform rate of erosion and without considering canyon widening due to slop retreat, calculate how much (in millimeters per year) the Colorado River would have to downcut per year to form this mile-deep canyon in 4 million years.

Subject:
Geoscience
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College
Provider Set:
Teach the Earth
Author:
Peter Kresan
Date Added:
08/01/2012
Back of the Envelope Calculations: The Himalayas and Continental Drift
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The story of the Himalayas can be traced back to the breakup of the supercontinent, called Pangaea, about 200 million years ago, when India began its rapid movement northward towards Asia. Asia was a much smaller continent then. Then, between 45 and 55 million years ago, India and Asia collided. Before collision, India moved northward at about 7-10 centimeters per year. Remarkably, India's northward movement was slowed only a little after the collisionit continues to plow into Asia at a rate of 5-6 centimeters per year. We can measure the present northward movement of India into Asia using GPS measurements over a period of time. So, there is little doubt of the continued movement of India. There is much debate about how the northward march of India into Asia is being accommodated. Of course, the high Himalayan Plateau is a manifestation of this collision between two continents. Let's assume that India began to plow into the Asian continent 55 million years ago and that, since then, it has continued to uniformly move northward into the Asian continent at 6 centimeters per year (for 55 million years). Calculate the total distance (in kilometers) that India has plowed into Asia.

Subject:
Geoscience
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College
Provider Set:
Teach the Earth
Author:
Peter Kresan
Date Added:
08/01/2012
Back of the Envelope Calculations: The Magnitude of Geologic Time
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The oldest rock yet to be found on the earth is from Canada and is radiometrically dated at 3.8 billion years old. Various lines of evidence suggest that the earth is about 4.5 to 5 billion years old. A billion years is an immense length of time. To get a sense of the magnitude of geologic time, igure out how many years it would take you to count to one billion, assuming that each count takes one second.

Subject:
Geoscience
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College
Provider Set:
Teach the Earth
Author:
Peter Kresan
Date Added:
08/01/2012
Back of the Envelope Calculations: The Magnitude of the India-Asia Collision
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The story of the Himalayas can be traced back to the breakup of the supercontinent, called Pangaea, about 200 million years ago, when India began its rapid movement northward towards Asia. Asia was a much smaller continent then. Then, between 45 and 55 million years ago, India and Asia collided. Before collision, India moved northward at about 7-10 centimeters per year. Remarkably, India's northward movement was slowed only a little after the collisionit continues to plow into Asia at a rate of 5-6 centimeters per year. We can measure the present northward movement of India into Asia using GPS measurements over a period of time. So, there is little doubt of the continued movement of India. There is much debate about how the northward march of India into Asia is being accommodated. Of course, the high Himalayan Plateau is a manifestation of this collision between two continents.Now refer to a map of the USA. For the sake of comparison, if India were to have collided with North America near Washington, D.C. and continued to plow westward into North America at 6 centimeters per year for 55 million years, then where would the "front" of the collision zone be presently? Name a major city in the USA that is at the correct approximate distance from Washington, D.C.

Subject:
Geoscience
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College
Provider Set:
Teach the Earth
Author:
Peter Kresan
Date Added:
08/01/2012
Back of the Envelope Calculations: The Right Eye of the Man in the Moon
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The "right eye" of the Man in the Moon is really Mare Imbrium, the central portion of a gigantic multi-ring basin formed by a colossal meteorite impact several billion years ago. Which of the following is approximately the same size as Mare Imbrium? Choose from the Pacific Ocean, the North Atlantic Ocean, Australia, Texas, and New York State.

Subject:
Geoscience
Space Science
Material Type:
Activity/Lab
Provider:
Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College
Provider Set:
Teach the Earth
Author:
Barb Tewksbury
Date Added:
08/01/2012