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What Are the Different Types of Earth Science Labs?

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  • Written By: Megan Shoop
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 22 November 2016
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Earth science is the study of Earth and all of its rhythms. This subject covers weather, geologic processes, the water cycle, and different climates. Not only is the subject very broad, it can also sometimes include archaic concepts that are difficult for students to understand. Lab activities can help students visualize and understand such concepts, like the shifting of the Earth’s plates, why it rains, and how the moon affects the tides. These Earth science labs may involve candy, homemade terrariums, and group activities.

Some of the most engaging Earth science labs use candy to illustrate key concepts. Not only do the students get to play with food, but they also get to have a treat when the lab is finished. Teachers should generally instruct their students to wash their hands before performing candy-based Earth science labs. Desks should also be covered with clean paper towels, especially during cold and flu season.

A relatively simple but fun lab activity involves some kind of thick candy bar. The bar should be filled with nougat, nuts, and other gooey or crunchy things and covered with chocolate. These bars can represent Earth’s crust. Students may use clean toothpicks to carefully gouge lines into the tops of the bars to represent tectonic plates. Students may then tug on the ends of the candy bars to see what happens when the plates separate. Pushing the ends of the bars towards each other shows how mountains form and how earthquakes occur.

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Another lab involves using different kinds of candy to create a soil strata sample. Students may crunch, crumble, and rip apart different kinds of food — like chocolate cookies, graham crackers, chocolate chips, and different colors of candy-coated chocolate pieces. The students may then layer the different kinds of food in clear plastic containers to correctly represent the rock cycle. They can label each layer with a wax pencil and then eat their creations after they’ve been graded.

Some Earth science labs must be created over time, like terrariums. Not only does this activity allow students to study the water cycle, it can also help them understand how plants grow and interact with the weather. The students should plant a radish, lima bean, or other fast-growing seed in a small, clear, plastic jar. Holes should be poked in the lid, which may be screwed on tightly after the seed is very well watered. Students should observe how the water cycles from the soil to the sides of the jar and back into the soil. They can also draw pictures of how their plants grow.

Other kinds of Earth science labs involve the moon. The moon affects the ocean tides with its gravitational pull, which can be demonstrated through a group lab. Three or four students can represent the ocean tide while another portrays the moon in its weakest phase. The students can play tug-of-war with a long rope to demonstrate how the ocean students are stronger than the single moon student. The teacher should then add students to the moon side of the rope to demonstrate how the moon’s pull gets stronger as it waxes.

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