Selected Lessons


This is the introductory page for the teacher. See links in the menu at the right for specific lessons. The following text is adapted from the introduction that is repeated on the teacher pages for each lesson.

The lessons here are part of a large project designed to help educators teach about Regional and Local (ReaL) Earth system science in an inquiry-based way. This ReaL Earth Inquiry Project, and all of its related resources, support educators and students in the investigation of the project’s driving question: “Why does this place look the way it does?” The “place” of the question is anywhere you happen to be, but we hope and expect users of these materials will study areas outside their backdoor or their classroom door. The chapter, Real and Virtual Fieldwork: "Why Does This Place Look the Way it Does?" of our Teacher-Friendly Guides to the Earth Science of the United States addresses both actual and Virtual Fieldwork, and we believe the coupling of virtual and actual fieldwork is an excellent way to teach and learn, and it’s an approach that is fully three dimensional, in the The Next Generation Science Standards’ (NGSS’s) sense of that term. The Teacher-Friendly Guides™, Virtual Fieldwork, and the NGSS’s Three-Dimensional Science is the Appendix to the Guides and describes how the ReaL Earth Inquiry Project supports teaching that satisfies the NGSS. While reading more about the ReaL Earth Inquiry Project is a great thing to do, this lesson can stand alone.

We do ask that you apply the strategies and technologies employed in these lessons to the study of your local environment. Teachers and students can work together to create their own VFEs to both document their own fieldwork and to share what they learned with others. VFEs also allow continued investigation after leaving the field site.

These activities can be used to address many different Performance Expectations and more generally for addressing a range of Crosscutting Concepts and Science and Engineering Practices. However, no single lesson or small set of lessons, by itself, can be said to satisfy NGSS expectations. In order to satisfy those expectations, the activity must be part of a broader approach to the systems of understandings we are working to nurture in learners’ minds.

Appendix K of NGSS notes, “The goal is not to teach the PEs, but rather to prepare students to be able to perform them by the end of the grade band course sequence.” It’s important to understand the basic three-dimensional structure of the NGSS before looking at the PEs or DCIs. For more on using Virtual Fieldwork to satisfy NGSS, see, The Teacher-Friendly Guides™, Virtual Fieldwork, and the NGSS’s Three-Dimensional Science. Fieldwork, whether real or virtual, is very well suited to engaging learners in three-dimensional science.


Lesson Library

  1. Student Page

  2. Teacher Page

  1. Student Page

  2. Teacher Page

  1. The Colorado River Delta VFE

  2. Student Packet

  3. Teacher Packet

Images from VFEs

Click an image to visit the teacher page for the VFE.

Additional Links

  1. 1.The VFE Database

  2. 2.Big Ideas and Essential Questions

  3. 3.The Teacher-Friendly Guides


About the roles of virtual and actual fieldwork in instruction