Laboratory Earth:
Earth's Changing Systems
NRES 809



Technical Requirements:

To take this online Institute, you'll need access to:

  • a high speed internet connection, preferably
  • a Web browser (Netscape 4.7or higher or IE 5.0 or higher)
  • associated programs (ex: Microsoft Word, Adobe Acrobat, Microsoft Excel)
  • You'll also need three free plug-ins - for Flash, Acrobat Reader, Real Player - in order to view all parts of this course.
  • If you are not sure which plug-ins are on your computer you can find out by clicking on the computer icon.
  • Clicking here will take you to a link that will direct you to any of the plug-ins you might need for this course.


Course Introduction:

In this class, you will be introduced to fundamental concepts in the earth sciences and their relationship to the "real world." Many of the activities that we will do in this class may be able to be used directly in an elementary or middle school classroom. Other activities are designed to challenge you as learners. All the concepts that you will be exposed to in this class can be related to both the K-12 National and most state science education standards. It is important to recognize that this is a science class and not a methods class. Our role as instructors in this class is to provide you with opportunities to learn about the Earth and to challenge you as learners, so that you can understand and apply basic earth science concepts to your own community. You all can be successful in this class, but it is up to you. We are always available for help so please feel free to contact one of the facilitators.


Learning Outcomes:

When you have completed this course, you will be able to:

  • Describe and explain first-order interactions between the hydrosphere, geosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere.
  • Describe and explain the relationship between Earth and it’s neighbors in the Solar System
  • Acknowledge and work with individuals who have different perspectives regarding Earth systems
  • Develop conceptual models for a variety of Earth systems that qualitatively include mass and energy fluxes.
  • Collect basic data required for the analysis of Earth systems.
  • Analyze and interpret data using basic statistics and graphs.



Group Discussion
Active participation in the discussion board is an important part of this course. We expect for you to be able to access the discussion board at least 3 times a week, and respond to posts of other participants- please plan for a minimum of an hour a week for dialogue in class, in addition to the time needed to complete individual and group assignments. Your individual discussion board participation will be assessed primarily on the quality of your contributions. Irrelevant, redundant or unresponsive comments are discouraged. More specifically, we will be examining individual contributions based on the following criteria:

  • The extent to which comments/questions relate to the current discussion.
  • The extent to which the comment/question moves the discussion forward.
  • The extent to which the comment/question is related to course content (e.g., assigned readings, activities, and assignments), or your own personal
  • The extent to which your reasoning is consistent and logical.
  • The extent to which your comment/question brings a fresh analytic perspective and/or increased insight to the discussion.

Course facilitators will comment selectively and may post a final comment on the group discussion board.



Course Outline:

Pre Course Orientation
Information About You Survey
Laboratory Earth Orientation Survey
Information about you Laboratory Earth Orientation Teaching Science (STEBIA Survey
Content Questions: Answer as many of the questions as you can without looking answers up. If you don’t know the answer, write what you know that might relate to the question Survey
Process of Science
1.1 Introduction Discussion Board
1.2 Your expectation Discussion Board
2.1 Mindsets and Vowel Counting Article, PowerPoint
2.2 What is your learning style? Survey Learning Log
2.3 Where do I go from here ? Learning Log
3.1 Feelings and Perceptions Discussion Board
3.2 Nature of Science Card Game Power point manipulatives
3.3 Activity Model for Scientific Inquiry Learning Log
3.4 Activity Model for Scientific inquiry: read and comment Articles Learning log Discussion board
3.5 Death to the Dinos and Rhinos: reading Read and Comment
3.6 Bringing it All Together PowerPoint
3.7 Content Mastery Assignment Learning Log
3.8 How did it go? Discussion Board
The Earth System
4.1 To Shop, or not to shop Activity, Discussion board
5.0 Earths Spherical systems  
5.1 Systems Thinking Reading
5.2 Why an Earth systems Approach Reading
5.3 SpaceShip Earth Reading
5.4 Earth’s Spheres Reading
5.5 Video: Earth Systems Video
5.6 Website Research Discussion Board
5.7 Spherical Earth systems I PowerPoint
5.8 Spherical Earth systems II PowerPoint
5.9 ECEE Discussion Discussion Board
5.10 Mastery of Content Activity Assessment
5.11 How did it go? Survey
Earth’s Matter, Energy and Their Interaction
6.0 Understanding systems
6.1 Environmental Change and the Great Plains Article
6.2 Earth Systems Metaphor Reading
6.3 Understanding systems PowerPoint
6.4 Application of Systems Knowledge Data analysis Discussion board
7.0 Earth systems: Nothing but Energy and Matter I PowerPoint
7.1 Narrated power point PowerPoint
7.2 Making sense out of Mass Read, discussion board
7.3 the Weight of Gravity Read, discussion board
8.0 Earth Systems: Nothing but Energy and Matter 2  
8.1 How does Energy rank for you? Discuss
8.2 Graphing Data in Excel Data analysis, discussion
8.3 Earth systems nothing but energy and matter II PowerPoint
8.4 Melting and Vaporizing Matter Lab, discussion
8.5 Black and Silver Cans Data analysis, discussion
8.6 Aquarium Energetics Video, Discussion
9.0 Sources of Earth’s Energy  
9.1 Earth Plate Puzzle Manipulative
9.2 Sources of Earth’s Energy Powerpoint and discussion
9.3 Discussion and Collaboration Essay
9.4 Content Mastery Assessment
9.5 How did it go? Survey
Weather and Climate
10.0  Weather and Climate  
10.1  Products of External Earth Energy- Earth Interaction: Weather and Climate Reading
10.2 Weather Data Collection Project  
10.2.a  Importing Data into Excel Tutorial
10.2.b  Data Collection Project Week long-activity
11.0  Earth’s Sun-Driven Seasonal Greenhouse  
11.1 People who Live in Glass Houses Assignment
11.2 Greenhouse Gas Information Reading
11.3 Earth’s Sun-driven Greenhouse Powerpoint
12.0 Energy-Earth-Atmosphere Interactions and the Weather  
12.1  Interactions Powerpoint
12.2  Energy Flow: Land and Water Assignment
12.3 Energy Water Soil Interaction Lab
13.0 Reading the Weather  
13.1 Reading the Weather Powerpoint
13.2  ??? Activity
14.0 Module 3 Assessment  
14.1 Content Mastery Module 3 Assignment
14.2 How did it go? Assignment
Plate Tectonics
Products of Internal Energy-Earth Interaction:  Plate Tectonics
15.0 Earth’s Internal Structure and the Heat from Within Powerpoint
15.1 Heat from Within Assignment
15.2 What Does the Earth Look Like to You? Assignment
15.3 Earth’s Density Differences Lab
15.4 Convection and Earth’s Internal Heat Engine Lab
16.0 Plate Tectonics- A Product of Heat from Within  
16.1 Plate Tectonics Powerpoint
16.2 Visualizing Relationships between Earthquakes, Volcanoes and Plate Boundaries Interactive
16.3 Content Mastery Module 4  
Earth in the Solar System
17.0 Reviewing Process of Science, and Earth System Principles in the Larger Context:  Earth in the Solar System  
17.1 Observing the Solar System: An Introduction Powerpoint
Observing Planets up Close Web-based observations and discussion
Observing Planets in the Night Sky Outdoor activity
17.3 Illustrated Lecture by  Dr. Tim Slater Powerpoint
Final Course Activities
18.0 End of Course Assignments
18.1 Final Project Assignment
18.2 Content Questions Redux Assignment
18.3 Survey Questions Assignment



Laboratory Earth is a three-credit graduate level, Internet-based, computer-delivered, distance learning course designed for those interested in science educatoin. This includes K - 12 educators working in the classroom and Extension educators, but also includes those working in a variety of non-formal educational settings.It will be delivered online via Canvas over a 16 week period beginning Monday, August 24th and ending Friday, December 18, 2009.

Modules The “course” is structured around six modules:

Module 0. Process of Science

Module 1. The Earth System

Module 2. Earth's Matter, Energy and Their Interaction;

Module 3. Weather and Climate: Products of External Energy - Earth Interaction;

Module 4. Plate Tectonics: Products of Internal Energy - Earth Interaction.

Module 5. Earth System within the Solar System

Each Module includes:

  • Learning objectives and an introduction that highlights these objectives
  • Module organization and topics to be covered
  • Participate and Complete section – highlights the activities in the module and the order in which they should be complete

One or more assignments of varying duration will be completed for each module. Due dates and times will be provided for all assignments in the “Introduction”. In most cases you will have several days to complete them. Some assignments will include performing “kitchen labs” for which you will need the following materials:

250 mL beaker or small sauce pan
hot plate or stove burner
ice (preferably crushed)
thermometer, range -10 to 110 C
table or rock salt



Your grade in this course will be based on your active participation and on-time completion of the grading elements in this course. These elements include: assignments, activities, discussions, assessment tools, or other items to which the facilitators assign a due date. Facilitators will provide feedback as appropriate and may ask you to revisit an assignment after additional guidance is given in order to receive full credit. If you do not respond their suggestions, credit will not be given. If you have a problem with a given deadline, please contact the facilitator as soon as possible.

Although this is an on-line course that currently uses an independent study design, your success and that of the other course participants depends on your active, on-time participation. You can view your “grade” record by going to “My Grades” which can be accessed by clicking on the course tools button.

An “A” grade will be given if your record documents the completion of 95% of the grade elements.

A “B” grade will be given if your record documents the completion of 85% of the grade elements.

A “C” grade will be given if your record documents the completion of less than 85% of the grade elements.

A NOTE FROM Ron Bonnstetter

I would like to add a quick comment about grading to help each of you relax. This course is designed to help you learn more about earth systems as such, the focus is on learning, not grades. As stated above, “Your grade in this course will be based on your active participation and on-time completion of the grading elements in this course.”

If your tasks are not complete, you may be asked to revisit some aspect of the assignment, but issuing points and worrying about such things should not be a concern. Our goal is for you to be intrinsically motivated to learn the material and not need grades as a motivator or be concerned about grades to the point that it distracts from your learning. As professionals we simply want everyone to feel comfortable exposing your areas of need and willing to work until you have the required concept knowledge and understanding.
I think many of the questions that have come up are a result of one paragraph in the grading section that is misleading. It presently states, “You can view your “grade” record by going to My Grades, which can be accessed by clicking on the course tools button.”

I think many of the questions that have come up are a result of one paragraph in the grading section that is misleading. It presently states, “You can view your “grade’ record by going to My Grades, which can be accessed by clicking on the course tools button.”

The problem with this statement is that we have used a portion of the Black Board grading protocol to house the pre-post evaluation scales. The numbers that show up in your “gradebook” mean NOTHING. The grade book is simply housing the data for us and the computer is assigning number values that we know are meaningless and now you do as well.

You are welcome to ask about your grade, but please trust us that the goal is learning and if you do what is requested, accomplish the tasks, and learn from the experience, the grade will take care of itself. Now, won’t it be nice if we could get all of our students to be intrinsically motivated so we did not have to use grades as an external motivator?


Student Conduct

Academic honesty:
Academic honesty is essential to the existence and integrity of an academic institution. The responsibility for maintaining that integrity is shared by all members of the academic community. To further serve this end, the University supports a Student Code of Conduct which addresses the issue of academic dishonesty.

The University is committed to a pluralistic campus community through Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity. We assure reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Ethics and Integrity:
The instructor is committed to offering a course that maintains an atmosphere of ethical behavior, individual integrity, and equitable treatment of each person. Expression of ideas from various perspectives acknowledges the dignity of all class members.
Click here for a link to the "Academic Services Handbook."


Technical Problems

For all technical problems related to this course, please contact the:
UNL Blackboard Help Desk
Phone: (402) 472-3970