Grades 3 - 14
Virtual Fieldwork • Activity • Curriculum • Lesson Plan • Computer Activity
This webpage serves as an introduction to both CZ science and the use of Virtual Fieldwork Experiences (VFEs) for exploration of the CZ. Embedded within this page you will find VFEs of Shale Hills Susquehanna, Southern Sierra CZO and Luquillo CZOs.
Objectives for specific VFEs are included within those VFEs.
Grades 6 - 12
A seven-minute video that explores the Critical Zone, what it is, why it's important, and how the NSF CZO program is studying it. The video emphasizes the interdisciplinary nature of work in the critical zone.
Audience: K-12 • General Public
Observatory: National CZO
Author: R. Ross (PRI), N. Coddington (WSKG), S. Johnson (WSKG), A. Moore (PRI), L. Derry (Cornell Univ), T. White (Penn State), J. Richardson (Cornell Univ), K. Singha (CSM), S. Brantley (Penn State)
Grades K - 8
Biology/Ecology • Hydrology
Activity • Lesson Plan
Use a simple active game to explore the concept of how fire can spread quickly in a dry densely populated forest.
Observatory: Sierra CZO
Author: Southern Sierra CZO
Grades 6 - 8
Website & Assessment
Grades 6 - 8
Website • Assessment
Visit the El Yunque rain forest in Puerto Rico through this interactive module to discover how hurricanes affect the producers, consumers, and the flow of resources in the forest. See how ecosystems respond in many ways to large-scale environmental events.
NGSS Crosscutting Concepts: Systems and System Models • Energy and Matter - Flows, Cycles, and Conservation • Stability and Change
NGSS Science & Engineering Practices: Analyzing and Interpreting Data • Developing and Using Models • Engaging in Argument from Evidence • Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information
NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas: LS2 - Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
Observatory: Luquillo CZO
Author: Steven McGee (The Learning Partnership) & Jess Zimmerman (LUQ-LTER)
Funding: NSF EHR and US Dept of Ed
Outlined below are key examples of educational activities coordinated by the CZO National Office to engage K-12 teachers or administrators overseeing K-12 funding programs.
Many additional K-12 E/O activities are run by the CZO program, mostly led by individual Observatories. To see examples of those per-CZO efforts, select an observatory from the “Move laterally” menu above.”
CZO researchers cooperated with the American Geosciences Institute's Earth Science Week since 2013, providing "hands on" learning exercises that are sent to more than 16,000 teachers nationwide.The CZO National Office intends for this cooperation to continue on an annual basis. More information is available in a 2014 News story and a 2015 News story (African Dust feeds the Puerto Rico ecosystem).
AGI hands-on learning exercises:
Tim White, as national coordinator, and Susan Gill, Stroud Water Research Center education director, developed a successful Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program that places 2 secondary education teachers each at the Christina River Basin and Shale Hills CZOs during the summers of 2014 through 2016.
RET, Lauren Smith, lead a secondary teachers workshop at Penn State University on the use of Virtual Field Experiences in a classroom. Smith led 10 participants in a lecture and series of discussions followed by a guided afternoon tour of the Shale Hills CZO by Tim White and Dave Eissenstat (PSU). The workshop concluded with an aquatic invertebrate exercise using Stroud Water Research Center's Leaf Pack Experiment Kit.
A CZO Science Teaching Workshop, organized by two RETs and National Office collaborator Don Duggan-Haas, was held in State College, PA to provide K-12 teachers an introduction to CZ science through the creation and use of Virtual Fieldwork Experiences (VFEs).
RET Sharon Dykhoff developed a hydrology learning unit available through the Science Education Resource Center (SERC) entitled "The Case of the Muddy Water: Using Authentic Data to Investigate Impacts of Hydrofracturing." The objective of this lesson is to introduce the potential impacts of natural gas extraction through data analysis.
Two teachers developed learning exercises and presented the results of their summer experience at the Pennsylvania State Teachers Association meeting in State College, PA on December 8, 2014.
REU/RET hands-on learning exercises:
Ground Penetrating Radar - Monitoring Soil Moisture (1 MB docx)
Carbon Storage Measurements in Forests (1 MB docx).
Paul Longwell (Hollidaysburg Area School District, PA) and Mark Yeckley (Glendale School District, PA), 2014 summer RETs at the Shale Hills CZO, present the results of their summer experience at the PA State Teachers Association meeting in State College, December 2014.
Tim White developed an on-line open-source course entitled 'Earth Surface Processes in the Critical Zone'. The course is formally offered through The Pennsylvania State University's Masters of Education in Earth Sciences program and aims to educate middle and high school teachers interested in incorporating Critical Zone science into their classroom curriculum. Course Home Page
As national coordinator, Tim White taught a short course entitled "Introduction to Critical Zone Science and Observatories" at the 125th anniversary meeting of the Geological Society of America in Denver in October 2013, a course that will be offered again at the GSA meeting in Vancouver, B.C., Canada in October 2014. CZO News Article
The CZO national coordinator traveled to Arizona State University during February 2012 to the Education and Outreach summit organized by Earthscope, presenting a short talk on CZO efforts and engaging colleagues from a variety of NSF-sponsored science initiatives to learn and share. Earthscope blog
CZOs were included in the NSF-sponsored national Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) best practices conference at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA on September 16, 2011, displaying large format posters, a stream table, and various on-line educational opportunities associated with the CZOs. CZO News Article
(639 KB pdf)
Notice & Wonder: Foundation for Scientific Inquiry in the Critical Zone
(264 KB pdf)
Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia (Dead) Zone
(441 KB pdf)
The Past, Present & Future of the Valles Caldera
(1 MB pdf)
The Influence of Dry Deserts on Tropical Rain Forests
AGI2015 - supplement
(2 MB pdf)
Supplement - The Influence of Dry Deserts on Tropical Rain Forests. African_Dust_Supplementary
AGI2015 - excel dataset
(534 KB xlsx)
Excel dataset - The Influence of Dry Deserts on Tropical Rain Forests. Rain_chemistry_data_AGI
(1 MB pdf)
Water resources management simulation
(651 KB pdf)
Paleoclimate influence on landscape evolution
04 Sep 2019 (Luquillo) - The Luquillo LTER/CZO Schoolyard Data Jam 2019 was succesfully concluded Friday May 17th. Photos from the poster session and student created...
21 Aug 2019 (Calhoun) - Dan Markewitz and Dan Richter led a field trip on June 6-7, 2019 in the rain (perhaps 3") across the Calhoun CZO with Penn State students. We...
07 May 2019 (Shale Hills) - On a warm and sunny day in May, the 2018-2019 cohort took to the field! Along with Centre County Pennsylvania Senior Environmental Corp member...
24 Jan 2019 (Shale Hills) - Without a winter warmup, students forgo the field for the classroom to discover what is in the HACH box. The 2018-2019 TeenShale cohort...