PhET's excellent simulations, which let students visualize and take an active role in controlling complex scientific phenomena, have a place in earth science classes and units across the K-12 spectrum. From illustrating astronomy and gravity to demonstrating fluid dynamics and material properties (to more concrete phenomena such as glaciers, plate tectonics, and the greenhouse effect), there's almost certainly a simulation that will fit into your lessons.
Before turning to videos and diagrams to show off earth sciences, it's worth checking out PhET for a more dynamic experience. Let students get their hands on these and they'll quickly internalize tricky concepts. If you need some ideas, check out the teacher-prepared lesson plans, labs, and guides that accompany each simulation.
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Key Standards Supported
Earth’s Place in the Universe
Use observations of the sun, moon, and stars to describe patterns that can be predicted.
Use information from several sources to provide evidence that Earth events can occur quickly or slowly.
Identify evidence from patterns in rock formations and fossils in rock layers to support an explanation for changes in a landscape over time.
Develop and use a model of the Earth-sun-moon system to describe the cyclic patterns of lunar phases, eclipses of the sun and moon, and seasons.
Develop and use a model to describe the role of gravity in the motions within galaxies and the solar system.
Use mathematical or computational representations to predict the motion of orbiting objects in the solar system.
Evaluate evidence of the past and current movements of continental and oceanic crust and the theory of plate tectonics to explain the ages of crustal rocks.
Make observations and/or measurements to provide evidence of the effects of weathering or the rate of erosion by water, ice, wind, or vegetation.
Construct an explanation based on evidence for how geoscience processes have changed Earth’s surface at varying time and spatial scales.
Matter and Its Interactions
Develop a model that predicts and describes changes in particle motion, temperature, and state of a pure substance when thermal energy is added or removed.
Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions
Make observations and/or measurements of an object’s motion to provide evidence that a pattern can be used to predict future motion.
Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer
Plan and conduct investigations to provide evidence that vibrating materials can make sound and that sound can make materials vibrate.
Make observations to construct an evidence-based account that objects can be seen only when illuminated.
Plan and conduct an investigation to determine the effect of placing objects made with different materials in the path of a beam of light.
Develop a model of waves to describe patterns in terms of amplitude and wavelength and that waves can cause objects to move.
Develop a model to describe that light reflecting from objects and entering the eye allows objects to be seen.
Use mathematical representations to describe a simple model for waves that includes how the amplitude of a wave is related to the energy in a wave.
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