Geology of Earth and Planets
With Paul Doherty, John Lahr, and Modesto
This set of lessons is available online at
The present is the key to the
James Hutton 1785
All you need to know about geology
The Rocks on the summit of Mt. Everest
are Marine Limestone.
A draft plan of what we might do.
Day 1 Introductions of participants: Planets,
orbits, rotations, web resources. How Planets Form:
Hydrogen is an odorless, colorless gas
that after 13 billion years produces people. Carl Sagan
Day 2 Planetary Magnetism, radioactive
Atomic Theory: "All ordinary matter is
made of atoms, small indivisible particles which attract each
other when a little ways apart and repel each other when close."
North?, hang magnets and they all hang
in the same orientation.
Poles, likes repel and unlikes attract,
so why does the north pole of a magnet point north?
Globe, explore the magnetic field of
field of planets, images of planetary
Tape, use pieces of magnetic tape to
model continental drift
also, Bits and Bytes, Snack.
- Film can and black sand model of
magnetization. By Tien.
decay model, Snack, toss dice to show
the half-life of radioactive decay. Math
Day 3 Gravity, tides, cratering, icy bodies,
In the outer solar system think of liquid
water as molten ice. Phil Karlton
craters, drop steel ball bearings into
spice-covered salt to study impact craters.
Illusion, change the lighting on a
crater and make it look like a mound.
Moon, how big is the moon relative to
a koosh, planetary equatorial
explore how tides are made.
bodies, use dry ice on warm water to
make patterns like comets with tails.
shapes, the fundamental building blocks
of planet shape.
Day 4 Seismology, earth's interior,
models, model earthquake waves with
slinkies, P, S, Raleigh and Love. See also Seismic
- Squeezebox, create layered sediments from sand
and flour, then squeeze the layers and observe folding and
quake, break spaghetti to model the
energy in a quake.
Table, build it and test
shake a wet sandy sediment and liquefy it.
- Who's Fault is it? Model how seismologists
locate an epicenter by holding hands.
- Model of the Earth's interior, mark a scale
model of the earth's interior on a sidewalk.
- Use silly putty to model mantle rock, on a
short time scale it is brittle, over longer times it
Seismograph, hold a pen against a paper
at arms length and drive down a bumpy road to make your own
Day 5 Teachers present lessons.
Day 6 Planetary Atmospheres, Volcanos
water, boil water in a syringe by
reducing pressure to Martian values.
Atmosphere Model, stack magnets on a
pencil to model the density of the atmosphere versus
Cycle Video, watch the video by Andre
Zdravic and make a script for it.
foam volcano, liquids which create foam
when mixed can be purchased at TAP plastics. Mix them in a cup
then cover the cup with sand and watch the eruption.
syrup pillow lava, Hershey's Magic
syrup when squirted out underwater creates pillow lava structures.
See the movie "Fire Under the Sea."
Volcano, Make double strength clear
Jell-O, inject chocolate pudding from a syringe from below,
observe dikes and sill.
Day 7 Mapping part 1
- Mercator Your Face, exhibit. Make a mercator
projection of an image of your face.
- Use nesting clear plastic boxes to make
- Make a clay mountain, slice it into layers,
trace the layers on a piece of paper to make the topographic
- Topographic mapping, use surveying instruments
to map a slice through a hill. This day we survey the
- Create a topographic model of a landform from
a map by cutting out patterns of contour lines in construction
paper and hot melt gluing the construction paper together spaced
by pieces of drinking straws.
Day 8 Mapping p2 MT
- This day we make the map.
- See the movie "Fire Under the Sea." How pillow
lava is formed.
Day 9 Subway to Subduction SF, Marin,
- Visit the San Franciscan formation in San
Francisco, see slicknesides in chert along a fault.
- Visit the Marin Headlands, see pillow lavas
and deformed chert layers.
- Use triangulation to measure the distance to
the golden gate bridge.
Day 10 Teachers present lessons.
Resources, a compilation of
information on the web about planetary geology.
Return to Geology