Classroom activities

This is an evolving collection of some of the (mostly successful) activities I’ve used in undergraduate geology classrooms. In general, activities are meant to be done in small groups. Most of the activities are of my own making, but several were modified from other sources- credits are listed on the activity documents. You’re welcome to use anything you want. Email me if you have questions/improvements!


Activities are from the following courses:

1. Earth Resources (Colgate U): intro-level science and society course

2. Megageology (Colgate U): intro-level course on big ideas in geology (similar to Historical Geology)

3. Hydrology & Surficial Geology (Colgate U): intermediate level

4. Glacial & Quaternary Geology (U Wisconsin-Madison): intermediate level


Earth Resources:

1. (50 minute) jigsaw interpreting the contributions of wind-blown Saharan dust to Amazon and Caribbean soils. Instructions sheet, Caribbean, Amazon, and Saharan.

2. (50 minute) small-group discussion questions in response to this National Geographic article on oil drilling in the Niger Delta. Questions and associated map.

3. (~80 minute) small-group assignment. Students role-play five fictional countries to develop international mining laws. Country A, B, C, D, and E. Modified from an activity found here.

4. (~10 minute) small-group discussion about ethics in gold mining. Questions.

5. (~70 minute) small-group synthesis of the formation and use of certain resources. I used the examples of coal, iron, chromium, and gold, but these could easily be replaced by other resource types. The students presented their alternative histories at the end of the activity. Chromium, iron, coal, and gold.



1. (~30 minute) small-group interpretation of data relating to the causes of the end-Cretaceous extinction. Six data descriptions are split between three students, who have to interpret and explain their datasets. At the end, I had students choose whether they believed a meteorite impact or the Deccan Traps were the primary kill mechanism. Dataset A, B, and C.

2. (~100 minute) small-group synthesis of geological concepts using Mars geology. Questions, timescale, Mars geologic map, HiRISE image A and B.


Glacial & Quaternary Geology:

1. (~75 minute) partner evaluation of the effectiveness of cold-based ice at eroding the subsurface. First, students describe what influences subglacial erosion (directionskey). Then, one person reads a short, student-friendly article supporting the case for erosion under cold-based ice, and the other person reads an article opposing the case. Students then explain the articles to each other, and come up with their own interpretations (directions).

2. (~75 minute) individual or small group analysis of the influence of glacial deposits on groundwater availability. Specific to a small region in Wisconsin. Students use a map and borehole data from this report. Directions.