10 High School Science Lab Experiments - Earth Science

Earth science is the study of the Earth, its structure, composition, processes, and history. It plays a crucial role in addressing issues related to natural resources, climate change, natural disasters, and environmental sustainability. There are so many lab experiment options available! We’ve identified both in-person and virtual labs.

Here are the topics we’ll cover:  

  • Water Contamination
  • The Carbon Cycle
  • Plate Tectonics
  • The Water Cycle
  • Continental Drift Theory

Water Contamination

In-person: Groundwater Contamination and Remediation 

This activity explores the movement of contaminants in an aquifer and remediation techniques. Students construct a model aquifer in a clear container and introduce a simulated contaminant, observing its spread through the water table. The experiment highlights the complexities of groundwater contamination, the importance of protecting water resources, and various remediation methods to mitigate pollution.

Virtual lab: Wastewater Treatment

Students will try to rescue a fish population suffering from pollution by learning the basics of how a wastewater treatment process works. They’ll work with the different specific steps of the treatment, such as denitrification, nitrification, and aeration, and prepare samples for GC-MS analysis to look for a targeted micropollutant.

The Carbon Cycle

In-person: Carbon Emissions and Ocean Acidification

This experiment demonstrates the impact of carbon emissions on ocean pH levels. By blowing air into a jar of salt water, students introduce carbon dioxide, which reacts with water to form carbonic acid, increasing the water's acidity. Comparing the pH levels before and after the introduction of carbon dioxide helps students understand the relationship between carbon emissions and ocean acidification, a critical aspect of climate change.

Virtual lab: The Carbon Cycle: Reduce carbon emissions 

In this simulation, students will learn all about the carbon cycle to help Farmer Greg understand the reason behind the corn shortage. He has been informed that it could be due to the effects of global warming from carbon emissions. You will learn about the importance of the carbon cycle and the negative impact of human emissions on the environment so you can help Farmer Greg with his problem. 

Adding forests to show the carbon cycle in a virtual lab.

Plate Tectonics

In-person: Modeling Plate Boundaries with Clay 

Using flattened clay sheets, students simulate divergent, convergent, and transform boundaries by pulling apart, pushing together, or sliding the sheets past each other. This activity allows students to visualize and understand the dynamic processes involved in plate tectonics and the resulting geological features on Earth.

Virtual lab: Drivers of Plate Tectonics: Replicate Earth’s convection currents

Students will investigate the process of convection, learn what drives the movement of tectonic plates, and perform an experiment with an extremely hot lava sample! 

The Water Cycle

In-person: Investigating Hydrological Stores with a Sponge Model

Using saturated sponges as models for water storage, students simulate the transfer of water from one store to another by pressing one sponge and transferring the released water to the other. This activity allows students to visualize water storage, release, and absorption in Earth's systems, fostering a deeper understanding of the hydrological cycle.

Virtual lab: Principles of the Water Cycle 

Students will explore an overview of the water cycle and identify different hydrological stores. They may be surprised to learn how much of the Earth’s water is stored in the oceans! By the end of this activity, they’ll be able to differentiate between different oceanic and freshwater stores.

Principles of water cycl graph in virtual lab.

Continental Drift Theory

In-person: Puzzle of the Continents

Students trace and cut out the outlines of continents, then attempt to fit them together like puzzle pieces to demonstrate how they may have been connected in the past. This activity enables students to visualize the concept of continental drift and fosters a deeper understanding of Earth's geologic history.

Virtual lab: Continental Drift Theory: Past and future locations of the world's continents

Students will investigate the different forms of evidence that support the continental drift theory and use their knowledge to demonstrate where the continents were located in the past and where they will move in the future.

Looking at fossils in a virtual lab to demonstrate continental drift theory.

Questions for reflection

  • Were any of these in-person or virtual labs new ideas for you?
  • Which one can you implement in your classroom?

Are you excited by the idea of virtual labs? Check out our catalog of over 300 simulations and our free 30-day all-access educator’s pass. 

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