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By Kelly O'Donnell

Science Forward

In this video, we discuss how studying the rocks and minerals around us can tell us about the history of the planet. We also discuss what makes a scientific law and how those laws are applied in geological studies.

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Version 1.0 - published on 25 Jul 2018 doi:10.25334/Q4VM6K - cite this

Licensed under CC Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International according to these terms



Even in the human-altered landscape of New York, scientists can use the tools and laws of geology to understand the history, present and future of our planet.

Science Senses:

Data Sense

  • Using proxies
  • Getting a representative sample

Knowledge Sense

  • Drawing conclusions from observations
  • Nature of Science (scientific laws)

Classroom Ideas:

  • Geology field trip – Find out information about your local geology and lead students to a rock outcrop where they can make observations. If you are in NYC, visit Central Park to examine the effects of glaciation (grooves, erratics, etc.).
  • Structure of Science discussion – The video presents an opportunity to have students think about the structure of science because of its focus on laws in geology. Have students work in groups to create a concept map that describes the structure of science. You can brainstorm the terms that should be in the map together (theory, observation, model, law, etc.) or provide those terms to them ahead of time depending on your particular student audience. Compare the maps that the students come up with. Are there any commonalities? Try to build a structure together as a class.
  • Proxies – Like the astronomy video, the geology video brings the opportunity to discuss proxies. We don’t have a time machine to visit the past and watch our planet form, so we need to be able to draw conclusions about the past from what we see in the present. Have a discussion in class about what proxies are, what assumptions are behind them, and how we know they are reliable.

Possible Readings:

  • Selected chapters from Earle S. 2015. Physical Geology. OER
  • Valley JW. 2005. A Cool Early Earth? Scientific American

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