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University of Nebraska–Lincoln

Nebraska Earth Systems Education Network

School of Natural Resources

Geosphere Lessons



Soils - Elementary Level

Mud Pies - Provided by John Niemoth

  • Develop a recipe to make the perfect soil pie!

Soils - Middle School Level

Burt County, NE Soil Survey - Provided by Mary Jane Bell

  • The students will identify the soil types, describe the textures, and locate waterways in or near the towns of Lyons and Decatur, the two towns that are included in the Lyons-Decatur school district. The lesson should be proceeded by locating the towns of Lyons and Decatur on a state map. Have the students calculate the miles between Lyons and Decatur, since there is more than one driving route. The students will identify the general soil types, texture descriptions, waterways and definitions of words encountered on soil descriptions.

Observing Soil Horizons - Provided by Mark Skiles

  • You will understand and recognize the differences that exist between soils from different layers of the soil profile.

Soil Composition - Provided by Kimberly Flessner

  • How does the composition of the soil affect its fertility? Students will determine whether the soil’s composition has an effect on how well plants grow.

Soil Formation….It's a Dirty Job - Provided by Susan M. Frack

  • The students will demonstrate the knowledge of soil formation by creating a HyperStudio program about soil formation in their own locale.

Soil Permeability and Texture - Provided by Kimberly Flessner

  • The students will be given several types of soil to test how water permeable each type of soil is.

Soil Structure - Provided by Judy Bogle

  • Students will compare soil samples, use World Wide Web to research information about sand, clay and silt, and then make a model to show the relative sizes of grains of clay, sand and silt.

Soils - High School Level

Hard as a Rock - Provided by Pamela Galus and Rebecca L. Kadel

  • A 2-week lab oriented activity that begins to show the relationship among human activities, rocks and soil formation.

How Does Your Soil Stack Up? - Provided by Roseanne Williby

  • Students will create a detailed description of a soil profile through observations made in the field and the classroom, and create and display a scale model of the soil profile.

Nebraska's Geology, Soils, Groundwater Regions, and Topographic Regions - Provided by Dave Gosselin and Duane Mohlman

  • Students will become familiar with the distribution of geology, soils, groundwater, topography and geography in Nebraska.

Permeabilty of Materials - Provided by Al Mussen

  • Demonstrate the apparent difference of the permeability of various earth materials.

Porosity and Permeability - Provided by Mark Skiles

  • This activity will help you understand that water moves through different types of soil at different rates. The movement of the water depends upon the soil's porosity and permeability.

Salts in Soils Demonstration - Provided by Francis Belohlavy and Steve Hartung

  • The following demonstration shows how salts move to the surface of the soil and form salt crusts. It also demonstrates how some salts may be removed from soils.

Soil Erosion Demonstrations - Provided by Francis Belohlavy and Steve Hartung

  • This is an activity to demonstrate water erosion on soil surfaces and the beneficial effect of conservation practices. Specifically, it can show: that crop residue left on the soil surface slows erosion as compared to erosion on bare soil; how using conservation terraces can slow the speed of water running off the soil surface and thus allowing more water to soak into the soil and slowing erosion; how farming on the contour can slow water runoff speed because each crop row works as a miniature terrace; and how combinations of these conservation practices can significantly reduce the amount of topsoil lost each year.

Soil Permeability - Provided by Derek Geise

  • To demonstrate the permeability of clay, sand, and organic soil.

Soil Profiles - Provided by Derek Geise

  • This lab will expose you to the method soil scientists use to gather data about past soil conditions.

Soil's Secret - Provided by Roseanne Williby

  • To determine the texture, reaction, and permeability of two different soils for developing the concept of soil genesis or origin.

Soil Survey Lesson - Provided by Gregory Paul Pavlik

  • This activity is written for Osmond, Nebraska using the Pierce County Soil Survey. This is a model that could be adapted for any location in any county. The amount of information found in the County Soil Survey's is incredible. As a result , a teacher could focus on soil chemistry, land management, or environmental science just to name a few.

Geology - Elementary Level

Core Sampling - Provided by Corkie Neumann

  • To investigate how scientists study the interior of the earth. To investigate how core samples are made.

Muffin Mining Activity - Provided by Kathy Hynes

  • To demonstrate some of the problems of mining and reclamation.

Searching For Fossils - Provided by George McNabb and Marian McNabb

  • Fossils are found very close to every home, and can be dated to when they were alive and their name.

Tell the Story of a Rock - Provided by Susan M. Frack

  • Whether a rock is igneous, sedimentary or metamorphic depends on the processes that formed it. All rocks were once igneous rocks formed from the cooling of magma. Some of these original rocks have changed many times to become the rocks we see today on the surface of the earth.

Geology - Middle School Level

Birdseed Mining Activity - Provided by Becky Kadel

  • Mining is a complex process in which relatively small amounts of valuable or useful minerals or metals are extracted from very large masses of rock. This activity will illustrate how this "needle in a haystack" process works.

Bring a Rock - Provided by Elizabeth Watt

  • This activity is designed as a pre-lab to be done as an introduction into the study of rocks and minerals. Each student will collect a rock and describe it in detail in writing. The rock and the description will be brought to the classroom. All of the rocks will then be put into one group and mixed up, This large group of rocks will then be divided randomly into groups; one group for each lab group(2-3 students) in the class. As a team, each lab group will divide their group of rocks into subgroups based on any type of classification that the team agrees on. This classification system should be written down.

Investigating Salt - Provided by Mary Lou Alfieri and Susan M. Frack

  • The word salt conjures up different images to different people. To the chemist salt is known as sodium chloride. To the geologist salt is known as halite. To most people salt is just plain salt. However, plain old salt comes in a variety of forms. There's table salt, rock salt, canning salt, animal salt, and softener salt. One question remains...are all these forms of salt the same.

Just a Bag of Rocks - Provided by Susan M. Frack

  • Scientists have identified over 2000 different minerals in the earth's crust. 95% of the earth's crust is composed of about a dozen different rock-forming minerals. The rocks composed of these minerals can be formed in three different ways. Scientists can learn many different things about a rock by observing and classifying it.

Make a Rock - Provided by Elizabeth Watt

  • In this activity the students will make a model of a sedimentary rock and an igneous rock in the form of two types of candy The students will be asked to use their skills in following directions to make the candy. The skills of observation will be used to compare the differences in the end products. This will include the sense of taste, as the candies will be eaten as part of the observation process. Writing skills will be used to describe how the making of each type of candy is similar to the making of a sedimentary and an igneous rock.

Nebraska Rocks and the Rock Cycle - Provided by Liz Snyder

  • To relate the rock cycle to rocks found in Nebraska.

Observations - Provided by Alfred L. Musson Jr. and Janice Carlton

  • One of the key components of doing science is to make and record observations. Simply put, observation is using one of your five senses (sight, touch, taste, hearing, and smell), to gather information about the world. Feeling the rough surface of a rock, hearing the thunder and seeing the thunderclouds form in the summer sky, tasting salty sea water, or smelling the unpleasant odor of vinegar are all observations. Observations lead to questions from which scientific discoveries are made.

Shifting Sand - Provided by Marianne Bonnemeir and Corkie Neumann

  • To use observations and math skills to examine the composition of sand.

Unique Classy Rocks - Provided by Susan M. Frack

  • This activity will introduce the three types of rocks in a 'tasty' way.

Geology - High School Level

Candy Keys - Provided by Susan M Frack

  • This activity reviews/teaches students how to use a dichotomus key using different types of candy.

Hard as a Rock - Provided by Pamela Galus and Rebecca L. Kadel

  • A 2-week lab oriented activity that begins to show the relationship among human activities, rocks and soil formation.

How a Mineral May Have Many Colors - Provided by Richard Bagger

  • To show how a colorless mineral may have many different colored varieties.

It's Sedimentary, My Dear Teacher! - Provided by Sharill Prey-Luedtke

  • Students will utilize their knowledge of sedimentation by creating a microenvironment. This activity also takes into consideration some of the effects of glaciation on sedimentation. Students will see the sedimentation process and become scientists by taking core samples. This activity will also promote the idea that the World's rock layers are not uniform.

(A) Journey Back In Time - Provided by Sharill Prey-Luedtke

  • Groups (about 2 students per) of students will research a geologic time period. Each groups will utilize a number of resources, create a report and model to be presented to class and be displayed.

(The) Lost Continent of Atlantis and Volcanoes - Provided by Arnie Cerny

  • Activity investigating the disappearance of Atlantis and volcanic activity.

Making Sandstone and Conglomerate - An Introduction to Sedimentary Rocks - Provided by Gregory Paul Pavlik

  • This activity will demonstrate the lithification process of sedimentary rocks.

Rock and Mineral Appreciation with a Multicultural Component - Provided by Robert Feurer

  • This unit is designed to develop an appreciation for the roles that rocks and minerals play in their lives and also to develop an appreciation for the manner in which Native Americans understood and utilized rock and mineral properties in manufacturing tools and weapons prior to the development of metals and plastics.

(A) Simple Demonstration of Chemical & Physical Weathering - Provided by Robert Feurer

  • To demonstrate some of the differences between chemical and physical weathering processes in rocks and minerals.

Tilling the Alluvium, A Glacier Lab! - Provided by Robert Feurer

  • Glacial outwash gravel and alluvial gravel are created by different mechanisms.

Writing the Geologic History of Your County - Provided by Marvin Carlson

  • Using the maps in historical sequence, the student interprets the presence/thickness or absence of the rock layers representing that part of geologic history at any point in Nebraska. By cumulating the thicknesses and determining the general elevation, an hypothetical deep-well record could be constructed.