Type of lesson

3. Journey Through Earth

In the style of Jules Verne’s book Journey to the Center of the Earth, take your students on a walk, using sidewalk chalk to mark the boundaries between the different layers inside our planet. After you pass through each layer, tell your students about the layer of the Earth they just traveled through. This lesson was developed by Eric Muller of the Exploratorium Teachers’ Institute. Here you will find a student handout for taking notes during the walk, a teacher cheat sheet and some assessment ideas. Download a detailed lesson plan for this activity from Eric Muller’s website, originally published in The Science Teacher, September 1995.

2. Plate Patterns

Kilauea Crater, Hawaii: Pu'u 'O'o crater at dusk. Image courtesy of USGS.Kilauea Crater, Hawaii: Pu'u 'O'o crater at dusk. Image courtesy of USGS.Starting with an earthquake epicenter map (generated by students in The Big One activity), students add information about where active volcanoes are located and the location of the mid-ocean ridges. With the combined information about volcanoes, mid-ocean ridges, and earthquake epicenters, student can trace the boundaries of the Earth’s major plates. On individual student maps containing earthquake epicenter data, they outline the plate boundaries, learn the names of each plate, and use colored pencils to highlight volcano zones and mid-ocean ridges. Future activities in this box have students adding plate direction and speed information to student maps as well as labeling 4 different types of plate boundaries: continent-continent convergent boundaries, subducting convergent boundaries, transform boundaries, and divergent boundaries. The direction and speed of many plates can be inferred from the opposition of mid-ocean ridges on one side of the plate and volcano zones on the other.

1. The Big One

San Francisco, 1906: Aftermath of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that caused an estimated 3,000 deaths and $524 million in damage.San Francisco, 1906: Aftermath of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that caused an estimated 3,000 deaths and $524 million in damage.Students use the USGS World Earthquake Archive to research the major earthquakes in recorded history. Each student is given a range of dates and assembles a table of facts on 10 earthquakes within that time frame. Students present their research and plot the locations of their earthquakes on a large world map, thereby discovering distinct earthquake zones that define the boundaries of the earth’s plates (see the Plate Patterns activity for ways to elaborate on this idea).

Can use the USGS Earthquake Archives to research information about historically important earthquakes around the world.
Can diagram and explain what causes earthquakes in general terms.
Can understand and use basic earthquake terminology (fault, epicenter, magnitude, etc.)
Can use latitude and longitude information to plot locations on a world map.

tectonic plate

Sub Plan - Earthquake Fingerprints

Seismogram: Image created by Crickett.Seismogram: Image created by Crickett.Using the excellent Virtual Courseware - Earthquake program , students learn how to read a seismogram and use them to triangulate the epicenter of an earthquake. This program leads students step by step through the entire process of measuring the epicenter and calculating the magnitude of an earthquake. There is also an assessment tool associated with the program so that you can monitor how well your students did on the review quiz at the end of the activity.

Plate Tectonics Box

In this box are an assortment of lessons to teach students about earthquakes and plate tectonics. As students progress through the unit, evidence supporting the theory of plate tectonics accumulates. They begin by researching the 10 largest earthquakes over the last 30 years. This information is plotted on a world map along with information about the location of active volcanos and mid-ocean ridges.

Project - Raising Trout

Raising trout from eggs to fry in the classroom is a fabulous way for students to observe and study the life cycle of vertebrates and simultaneously learn about threatened species in local watersheds. Many states have programs where teachers and students raise trout in their classrooms in partnership with the Department of Fish and Wildlife for later release into a designated lake, creek or river. Described here is information for teachers on how to partner with state agencies, fish hatcheries, and local fly-fisher groups to raise rainbow trout in the classroom. A worksheet for the trout release field trip is provided. Best of all, many Trout in the Classroom Programs are fully supported by local fly-fisher groups and the California Department of Fish and Game (such as the California program that I participated in), and thus there is no materials cost to the teacher beyond the costs of organizing the trout release field trip at the end of the project.

Project - Raising Plants

To study the life cycle and structure of plants, students grow plants from seed, fertilize them, and collect seed, starting the process over again. With the right growing conditions, almost any plant can be grown successfully in the classroom – native plants for a restoration project, vegetables, cut flowers, etc. The instructions provided here are for growing Wisconsin Fast Plants since they are the most widely used species in classrooms across America. These plants have been artificially selected to grow well in small spaces, with indoor lighting, with little soil, and with an exceedingly short life cycle (14-20 days to flower and 21-40 days to set seed). Therefore, they are incredibly well adapted to survive in classroom conditions as well as participate in multi-generational studies such as plant life cycle studies, Mendelian crosses and artificial trait selection. However, the light boxes and terraqua columns lend themselves to growing virtually any

7. Frog Dissection


  • Frogs (order them from Carolina Biological catalog # 22-7444, 22-7445, 22-7446, 22-7464, 22-7465, 22-7466, between $3.35 - $5.95 depending on the quantity ordered and whether there is any color injection)
  • Paper plate or dissection tray
  • Scissors
  • Scalpel or razor blade
  • Forceps
  • Optional: dissection probes
  • Optional: dissection pins (especially useful if you have dissection trays on which to use them)

7. Flower Dissection


  • Flowers, possibly of several different species for cross-species comparisons. Almost any flower may be used although the anatomy is more easily distinguished in some flowers than others. Some common flowers with clearly differentiated parts include:Sarracenia flower dissection: Image courtexy of Noah ElhardtSarracenia flower dissection: Image courtexy of Noah Elhardt
    • Lily
    • Iris
    • Daffodil
    • Tulip
    • Wisconsin fast plant
    • Peas
    • Poppies
    • Gladiolus
  • Paper plates/plastic trays
  • Scissors or razor blade (to open the ovary)
  • Hand lens
  • Optional: tweezers
  • Optional: dissecting scope

7. Flower and Frog Dissection

Sarracenia flower dissection: Image courtexy of Noah ElhardtSarracenia flower dissection: Image courtexy of Noah Elhardt Leopard frog in duckweed: Image courtesy of Steven DunlopLeopard frog in duckweed: Image courtesy of Steven Dunlop

To learn about the structure and function of living things, it is essential to explore the anatomy of real organisms up close and personal. While much can be accomplished by studying living things and their life cycles (see Raising Plants and Raising Trout projects), dissections offer a view of the internal structures and how they contribute to the whole. What follows are resources and information for teachers interested in conducting a flower and/or frog dissection. There are many excellent lesson plans and dissection guides on the web already. Rather than recreate these resources here, My Science Box provides nitty-gritty logistics and resources such as a selected list of great web resources, how to order frogs, what equipment you need, student handouts, and teaching strategies.