Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Geography Text

I started writing a geography text to use with DS. I tried to make it fun, and the idea is that the story is a spine to be used with the recommended texts and other resources. Each chapter will have two to three topics, and is designed to be studied over the course of a couple of weeks :) Each section will be used in conjunction with flashcards, written activities and experiments.
As we get into the journeys through various countries, they will keep a 'travel journal'. Or at least that is the plan! So far so good...
If you'd like to see it, read on!

Part 1: Meet the Earth

Chapter 1: Physical Geography- the Structure of the Earth.
I supposed many of you think you know all about the world. And chances are you may indeed know a little about it, but probably not all there is to know about the world. This chapter will introduce the earth to you, so you can begin to learn a little about the place where you were born!
If you were an alien, arriving in a spaceship to visit this planet- and you can imagine that you are peaceful or going to take over the world as (whichever pleases you)- you would begin the approach to our planet, by arriving in our solar system.
The solar system, is the series of planets, dwarf planets and asteroids (plus a few comets and other odd pieces of debris) that orbit our sun. The sun, (which as an alien you would call Sol) is holding them in a not-quite-circular pattern around it, using the force of gravity. You will learn a lot more about this in science class :)
As you enter the solar system the furthest point (that we know of) from the sun, would bring you into contact with some dwarf planets called Pluto, Haumea, Makemake, and Eris. - barely bigger than asteroids, which inhabit the edges of the solar system. That far from the sun, it is very cold, and the sun looks like little more than a large star. You would drive through the solar system, seeing a few planets here and there- and if you were fortunate, you might even arrive at a time when you would actually see ALL of the planets as you passed by. This doesn't happen often, and it is far more likely that the alien you, would see just a few of them. The next planet you would see, is one which we call Neptune. It is the first of four gas giants that you would see. Net would come Uranus, which has rings around it in a vertical orbit. Saturn would follow, with it's famous rings. Then you would see the biggest planet in the solar system- Jupiter.
After Jupiter, you would make your way through the asteroid belt- a ring of asteroids around the sun. Within this belt is another dwarf planet called Ceres.
After the asteroids, you'd pass Mars, the red planet, before finally arriving at our planet- Earth. There are only two more planets closer to the sun- Venus and Mercury, both of which are very hot and uninhabitable as a result.
The Alien You, will see immediately that earth is different. For a start, it is teeming with life. There is a large amount of water covering about ¾ of the earth, and it's temperature range is quite moderate.
Using your specialised alien equipment, you would notice that the earth is made up of several layers. The outer layer, is relatively thin- only about 25 miles deep or so (and only about 3-5 miles thick under the oceans). It is a hard layer, rather brittle, and it is made up of the lightest elements. It covers a liquid layer beneath it, which we call the mantle.
This liquid layer, is made up of what we know as lava- essentially molten rocks. The rocks are being compressed by the sheer weight of the earth's crust, creating heat, which prevents these rocks being in the solid state you would see on the crust. Technically they are solid in the mantle, but they are able to move around like a very thick, syrupy liquid. The mantle is the thickest layer of the earth at 1800 miles thick.
Now, beyond THAT layer, is another one- the outer core. The outer core is a ball of very hot metals (4000 degrees F to 9000 degrees F) all in their liquid state. It is about 1400 miles thick, and made mostly from melted nickle and iron.
The last layer is called the inner core- and the pressure and temperatures there are so great that the metals are squeezed together in a dense ball. They cannot move like a liquid, but rather vibrate in place instead.
But that doesn't matter to you, because it is the first layer and the second one which you find interesting.
The mantle, being semi-liquid, has a lot of movement going on. The liquid rock, or magma, acts very much like the water in a tea kettle. Water in a tea kettle circulates while being heated. Eventually it gets hot, and lets off gases- in this case water vapour in the form of steam. The steam will be forceful enough to make the kettle whistle (if it has a whistle) or if not, you might hear the lid rattle.
When magma gets hot, it too lets off gases. The gases, really have nowhere to go, so they cause an increase in pressure. As the pressure increases, it forces the magma to rise through cracks in the surface- eventually causing a volcanic eruption. The eruption is a much more powerful version of the steaming kettle :)

Alien You, might decide to look rather closely at the areas where you see the magma coming out. You notice that they always occur in the same areas, and as you look at your equipment closely, you realise that the crust layer of the earth, is in fact more like a series of puzzle pieces, than a coat over the top of the globe.
These puzzle pieces fit together remarkably well, but along the cracks where they meet- the fault line, you begin to realise that these areas have more earthquakes and volcanoes than elsewhere.
Imagine ice in a glass of water- as the water beneath it moves so does the ice. The larger the ice, the less it moves, but it does still move. Well, that is how the crust works. Like the ice on water, the crust on top of the liquid magma layer, moves a little when the magma does. As more pressure- and therefore more force in the movement builds, so does the earth along these faults move more.
Earthquake prone areas of the globe always occur along these fault lines.
Volcanoes are a little different- there are two main types of volcano- those that spew rock and ash, and those that spew the lava. These different types of volcanoes occur in different areas- and it is different types of pressure build-up that cause this. You'll learn more about these later too :)
So now, alien you has traveled through the solar system. Alien You has arrived at the earth, and began the first part of their study on the planet.
Just as Alien You is making a report, so will you be making a report, and yes, perhaps you will be allowed to make it just as if you were reporting back to your alien planet :)

Vocabulary to learn
Solar System
Dwarf Planet
Gas Giant
Fault Lines

Flash cards to introduce
Solar System
Earth Structure
Volcano Cards
Map Work
Colour in the main fault lines on a black line map.

Writing Activity Prompts
Alien You has to report back to your home planet- so create your own alien identity, and do two of the following:

a- Make a notebook page about the structure of the earth (lower grades)
b- You will be creating a book in which you will write your travel experiences to be published to the folks back home. This week, create the title page and write about visiting the earth and it's structure.
c- Using a camera, make your first report home, focusing on the structure of the earth. Plan it out on paper first, using graphics to illustrate your points.

Further Resources


Disclaimer, parents should always check websites themselves, as notions of appropriate and inappropriate content vary :)
The National Earthquake Information Center- NEIC (part of USGS) has a load of information on their website, aimed at a variety of ages.

FEMA Earthquake Legends: http://www.fema.gov/kids/eqlegnd.htm
The Educational Technology Center has put together a page full of links:

Bedfordshire UK Library System has some nice kids pages:
Volcano World- definitely check out the Rocky Stories :)
FEMA Volcanoes for Kids: http://www.fema.gov/kids/volcano.htm
Great Page with quick facts for kids from another UK site:
Homeschool Volcano Unit:
A site with some great volcanic information- aimed a little more at the advanced elementary school student- the language is simplistic, the topics less so- good explanations!
Excellent Volcano Theme Page with many links :)
Read about how to make an exploding Volcano
Companion Pages to the Nova programs about volcanoes
Volcano Questions Answered:
An Intereactive Page about Volcanoes
A cool page in Dutch and English about Volcanoes and plate techtonics
*the link above is dead, you can catch it at the wayback machine here: 
https://web.archive.org/web/20070429092515/http://library.thinkquest.org/17457/english.html or you might like this site suggested by Kelly Campbell - who kindly informed me about the dead link too!: http://volcano.oregonstate.edu/ )
Virtual Fieldtrip Into a Volcano
Volcanoes on other planets (appropriate for our intergalactic traveller!)
Another interactive Volcano website:
Volcano Game on Discovery Kids
College Level Lecture Notes on Volcanoes


Disclaimer- parents should always check the books themselves as objectionable content or twaddle are obviously subject to opinion.
(recommended by the Earthquake Museum)
(Recommended by the Seismology department at Berkley)
  • Clifford, N., Incredible Earth, Inside Guides, DK Publishing, New York, New York, hardcover, 1996.
  • Fisher, R., The Earth Pack, National Geographic Society, 1995.
    A pop-up book on the Earth. Fun for adults as well as children.
  • Levy, M., and M. Salvadori, Earthquake Games, Margaret K. McElderry Books, 1997.
    Subtitled "Earthquakes and volcanoes explained by 32 games and experiments." A great hands-on activity book. Use materials like Slinkies, buckets of soil, sponges, rocks, and strings to demonstrate the principles underlying earthquakes. Contains background information, explanations of scientific concepts, and great illustrations.
  • Van Rose, S. , Volcano and Earthquake, Eyewitness Books, Knopf, New York, New York, 64 pp., hardcover, 1992.
    One of the Eyewitness Books series, this book contains wonderful photographs and illustrations of plate tectonics, earthquakes, and volcanoes. Includes some great pictures of historical seismic instruments.
Other books that come well recommended by parents