So many of the ‘things’ we use every day are provided by the Earth. We call these ‘things’ resources. We are celebrating this year’s Earth Science Week theme “Earth Materials in Our Lives” by looking at what some of those materials are and how we use them now and in the future.
Materials that are provided to us by the planet Earth are also named resources so we will use this terminology throughout this blog. Resources are anything that is useful and they can be classed as either essential (something living things cannot exist without) or non-essential. Resources that the Earth provides to us include water, soil, rocks, minerals, geothermal energy and air.
Students are asked to consider the essential and non-essential resources that different living things need in the PALMS activity, Essential Resources. The teacher notes to accompany this activity can be found here and the student worksheet can be found here.
Let’s consider how we use just two of the vital resources that Earth provides, water and soil.
Water is essential for most living things and we find it above ground in rain, rivers, lakes and oceans. We can also find it stored underground in aquifers. The most useful water resource for humans is fresh water as we need it to drink. We may also use salty ocean water as a resource to generate electricity (tidal or wave movement) and to farm fish and other seafood.
There is a finite amount of water on Earth and it is constantly recycled in a natural process called the water cycle.
Simple water cycle (Image: Wikimedia Commons)
There are lots of fun activities to do with the resource of water found in the PALMS Earth’s Resources package:
A series of activities look at methods to obtain clean water, firstly using Small Scale Water Treatment (teacher notes found here and student worksheet here), then Large Scale Water Treatment (teacher notes found here). There is also a video demonstrating some water treatment techniques and a blog post with further information.
Students can learn how vital water is through the historical perspective of the 1900’s gold rush in Western Australia. The Precious Water teacher notes can be found here and the student worksheet here.
Some historical facts about how Aboriginal people have sourced and managed water resources can be found in the Aboriginal Perspective on Water activity. The teacher notes for this activity can be found here and the student worksheet here.
Students may not consider soil as a resource, but it is essential for life. It helps provide the food we eat, helps the trees that provide our oxygen grow and filters and stores water to name just a few of its functions. Soil is formed from weathered parent rocks and organic material that is decomposed by microorganisms, to recycle nutrients that help plants grow. There are so many different types of soil depending on the parent rock they are formed from and the environmental conditions of their location.
Some examples of soil from different locations in WA (Image from PALMS 2)
This series of hands-on activities from the PALMS Earth’s Resources package will assist students in learning more about soil:
In the Introduction to Soils activity, students learn some interesting soil facts, combine materials to make their own soil, practice using their senses to observe soil and brainstorm what soil is used for. The teacher notes for this activity can be found here and the student worksheet here.
The Humus in Soils activity gets students to determine how much humus (the organic component of soil) is in some soil samples and what mulch and compost are used for. The teacher notes for this activity can be found here and the student worksheet here.
Worms are often part of the living component of soil and students learn how worms help soil through a story in the Soils and Worms activity. There is also the option to create a worm farm. The teacher notes for this activity can be found here and the student worksheet here.
An activity that students may like to try at home is Good Soil and Bad Soil where they can determine which soil is better at growing seeds and using their classroom learning to determine why. The student worksheet for this activity can be found here.
- To celebrate this year’s Earth Science Week theme of ‘Earth Materials in Our Lives’, please visit the Earth Science Week websitefor more activities and resources.
- Activities on other resources that Earth provides can be found in the PALMS Earth Resources package.
- Further activities and resources about soils can also be found in the PALMS Earth’s Surface package.
- It is possible for schools in Western Australia to borrow Crystals and Minerals kits designed to complement your Earth Science teaching. Some kits are available in regional areas across the state as part of local loan pools as well as in the metropolitan area. Find out more information about these kits and how to borrow them here.