Geologic Hazards WebQuest

Project URL: www.teachersnetwork.org/teachnetusa/dpatrick/index.htm 

How it works:
The goal of this program is to identify a geologically related hazard or catastrophe that has occurred in the past. Once identified, students will research the causes, impacts, responses, and resulting mitigation efforts that were involved in this event. The program will  use the Internet as the primary research tool, starting with pre-selected Web sites. Students will also make contact with a scientist who specializes in this field of study to get an expert opinion on the subject. The information, once gathered and analyzed, will be compiled and presented in the form of a PowerPoint presentation, written report, play, or videotape for evaluation (alternative methods are okay with teacher approval).

This Geologic Hazards WebQuest provides an opportunity for students to engage in a collaborative, self-directed investigation that can serve as a alternative culminating assessment for several major understandings related to the Physical Setting/Earth Science course. A variety of MST standards are addressed, as outlined below.  Examples of student work should be presented beforehand to clarify expectations. (Samples can be found by clicking on the STUDENT PROJECTS link at www.ccsd.edu/science/esci/)

Standards addressed:  
Students will be able to access, generate, process, and transfer information, using Internet technology and computer software applications, and will apply the knowledge and thinking skills of mathematics, science, and technology to address the real-life problem of geologic and natural hazards and become better at making informed decisions. They will recognize that landforms are the result of the interaction of tectonic forces and the processes of weathering, erosion, and deposition. The results of these processes can sometimes be catastrophic and result in loss of life and property. Natural agents of erosion--generally driven by gravity--remove, transport, and deposit weathered rock particles. Each agent of erosion produces distinctive changes in the material that it transports and creates characteristic surface features and landscapes. In certain erosion situations, loss of property, personal injury, and  life can be reduced by effective emergency preparedness.

Materials used:
A computer with Internet connection, word processing software, and PowerPoint, FrontPage, or other presentation software is required.  For in-class presentations, a computer with a large monitor or LCD projector is used.

The students:
The Geologic Hazards WebQuest is intended for high school (grades 8-12) Earth Science students as a complementary component to the study of the Earth's Dynamic Crust and Surface Processes units. Although students will continue to develop Earth Science skills and knowledge through this program, they must be familiar with role of plate tectonics in shaping Earth's surface, and the interplay between weathering, erosion, and deposition in the physical setting beforehand. It is recommended that students work individually or in pairs, and have some experience using word processing and Internet browsing software.

Overall value:
This assignment provides an opportunity for students of varying abilities and learning styles to demonstrate an understanding of complicated geologic and social processes.  The information available over the Internet provides the basis for a constructivist learning experience that challenges students to develop a risk assessment associated with natural hazards.  The flexibility associated with the form of the final product encourages the use of varied skills, especially the use of electronic media and presentation software.

In the past, I have allowed students three days of computer time to develop their information, and an additional week or two to complete the assignment. I then require each group to present the final product to their peers, during which I complete the evaluation. If you are relying on particular Web sites, check that they are working beforehand!


About the teacher:
Drew Patrick is an Earth Science teacher at Clarkstown High School South in Rockland County, NY.  A former curatorial scientist with the ocean drilling program, Drew has experience in both research and education. In addition to his teaching duties at South High School, Drew also serves as co-coordinator of the science research program and school webmaster. The idea for this lesson stems from a course Drew co-teaches each summer in Naples, Italy, entitled Geology and Civilization in Italy.


Subject Areas: 

Grade Levels: 


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