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Students Enjoy Earth Science Day 2007 at USGS in Menlo Park, California

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students view tiny marine organisms through microscopes
Above: Students view tiny marine organisms through microscopes in a popular activity presented by Mary McGann (not shown). Photograph by Mike Diggles, USGS. [larger version]

Lori Hibbeler helps a student line up a brick before sliding it into water to simulate a landslide-induced tsunami
Above: Lori Hibbeler helps a student line up a brick before sliding it into water to simulate a landslide-induced tsunami. Photograph by Mike Diggles, USGS. [larger version]

Enthusiastic student triggers an impressive wave
Above: Enthusiastic student triggers an impressive wave at the "Submarine Landslides Can Cause Destructive Tsunamis" display. Photograph by Mike Diggles, USGS. [larger version]

Rachel Dunham uses a set of plastic trays on which contour lines have been drawn to give students a three-dimensional view of Monterey Submarine Canyon
Above: Rachel Dunham uses a set of plastic trays on which contour lines have been drawn to give students a three-dimensional view of Monterey Submarine Canyon. Photograph by Mike Diggles, USGS. [larger version]

Occasional rain could not dampen the spirits of more than 1,000 students from more than 40 local schools when they attended Earth Science Day at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) campus in Menlo Park, California, on October 16, 2007. Numerous hands-on exhibits were set up for this 1-day celebration of Earth Science Week, an annual event established by the American Geological Institute to help the public gain a better understanding and appreciation of the Earth sciences.

At this year's Earth Science Day, students could make their own landslides, experience simulated earthquake shaking, see a demonstration of the dangers of volcanic CO2 emissions, and much more. In addition to USGS exhibits, displays and activities were presented by the California Geological Survey, the San Francisco Zoo, the American Red Cross, PG&E, and the California Academy of Sciences. (Visit URL http://geomaps.wr.usgs.gov/EarthScienceWeek/exhibits.html for a complete list of exhibits.)

Several of the displays had coastal or marine themes:

  • At "Submarine Landslides Can Cause Destructive Tsunamis"—presented by Lori Hibbeler and Homa Lee of the Western Coastal and Marine Geology (WCMG) team—students slid a brick into a tub of water to trigger a miniature tsunami, and then watched it sweep plastic buildings off a second brick representing the coast.
  • At "Topo Salad Trays (Landforms in 3D)"—presented by Helen Gibbons, Rachel Dunham, Laura Torresan, and Mike Torresan (WCMG)—students learned about contour lines and topographic maps as they stacked up clear plastic trays, each with a labeled contour line on the bottom, and saw Monterey Submarine Canyon and Angel Island take shape in three dimensions.
  • At "Dive into Marine Geology"—presented by Carol Reiss (WCMG)—students learned about plate tectonics, handled sea-floor rock samples, and watched deep-sea hydrothermal vents videotaped from a submersible at a midocean spreading ridge.
  • At "Our Micro-World"—presented by Mary McGann (WCMG)—students looked through microscopes at shells of tiny marine organisms, learned about one-celled animals that have invaded San Francisco Bay, and handled equipment used to collect and analyze marine microorganisms.
  • At "How Clean Is Clean?"—presented by Jim Kuwabara of Water Resources Discipline's National Research Program—students used a salinity meter to try to differentiate between ocean water, bay water, tapwater, bottled water, and high-purity lab water.
  • At "Tsunami: When the World Waves Back"—presented by Shane Detweiler, Jillian McLaughlin, Walter Mooney, and Jesse Kass of the Earthquake Hazards Team, with assistance from Eric Geist of WCMG—students moved a submerged piece of plastic to simulate a sea-floor earthquake and trigger a miniature tsunami that ran up on a sandy beach.

Several WCMG scientists provided logistical support: Carol Reiss served on the planning committee, and Clint Steele, Carolyn Degnan, and Pete Dartnell helped prepare and hang signs in Building 1. Clint replenished handout stacks and directed visitors in Building 1, and Carolyn directed visitors in Building 3.

The invitation-only event was designed for children from grades 1 through 8 and included home-schooled students as well as students from public and private schools around the San Francisco Bay area. Exhibits were open from 9:30 a.m. until 2:00 p.m., with groups assigned different arrival times to prevent overcrowding. Although the campus got congested around the noon hour, all the attendees seemed to enjoy themselves, and rewarded exhibitors with appreciative comments. The event organizer, Christy Ryan, received some glowing thanks from teachers, including the following e-mail message: "This event [and] the open house [held every 3 years] are always slam-dunk events. The scientists sharing their passion with the kids is priceless! We got back to school, and the kids were bubbling with all of the "cool" stuff they learned. It's amazing to me just how much they actually walk away with in their brains!"

The USGS in Menlo Park was just one venue in the nationwide celebration of Earth Science Week, held this year from October 14 through 20 with the theme "The Pulse of Earth Science" (see URL http://www.earthsciweek.org/). Earth scientists at universities, government agencies, and businesses nationwide opened their doors to visitors, visited classrooms, and hosted field trips. For more information about USGS Earth Science Week activities, visit URL http://www.usgs.gov/earthscience/2007/.

Related Sound Waves Stories
USGS Welcomes Students for Earth Science Week Celebration in Menlo Park, California
Nov. / Dec. 2006
Coastal and Marine Exhibits Are Wet and Wild at USGS Open House in Menlo Park, California
July 2006

Related Web Sites
Earth Science Day 2007 Exhibit List
USGS (U.S. Geological Survey)
Earth Science Week
American Geological Institute (AGI)
Western Region Coastal & Marine Geology
USGS (U.S. Geological Survey), Santa Cruz & Menlo Park, CA

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in this issue:

cover story:
Ocean-Bottom Seismometers Monitor Earthquake Swarms

Assessing Resilience of the Chandeleur and Breton Islands

Outreach Earth Science Day in Menlo Park, CA

Meetings USGS Emeritus Scientist Leads Field Trip

Awards Abby Sallenger Wins USGS Shoemaker Award for Lifetime Achievement in Communication

American Fisheries Society Honors Biologist Walter R. Courtenay

Renee Taksue Recognized by AGU for Excellence in Refereeing

Staff USGS Director Mark Myers Visits the Florida Integrated Science Center


New Book Includes USGS Sea-Floor Data

December Publications List

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Updated December 02, 2016 @ 12:09 PM (JSS)