Treasure Earth: What Is the Earth Worth?

Treasure Earth: What Is the Earth Worth?

Treasure Earth: What is the Earth Worth?

Lesson Overview: Treasure Earth is a STEM lesson in which students will work as teams to learn about valuable natural resources in their local environment through exploration and examination of selected examples of resources which people depend upon for survival. Through the use of a GPS device and GLOBE protocols students will measure, assess or identify these resources. Student groups will attempt to find and complete the challenges contained inside 5-6 caches during approximately 1- 1.5 hours of exploration. The students will present their findings to peers, and will be assessed or surveyed on what they have learned.

Next Generation Science Standards

●ESS3.A: Humans depend on Earth’s land, ocean, atmosphere, and biosphere for many different resources.

●ESS3.C: Human activities have significantly altered the biosphere, sometimes damaging or destroying natural habitats and causing the extinction of other species

Core Literacy Practices:

●Reading a discussing a wide variety of texts.

●Analyzing patterns of evidence to draw conclusions.

●Developing precision with their use of academic language.

Environmental Literacy Standards

Standard 6: Environmental and Health

The student will use concepts from science, social studies and health to analyze and interpret both positive and negative impacts of natural events and human activities on human health.

A1. Identify and describe natural changes in the environment that may affect the health of human populations and individuals.

B1. Describe and explain that many changes in the environment designed by humans bring benefits to society as well as cause risks.

c. Explain how maintaining environmental health involves

establishing or monitoring quality standards related to the

use of soil, water and air.

Background Information:

Humans are constantly searching for treasure, for the next super valuable resource, novelty, talent, energy source, fad, skill, medicine, rock, discovery or lottery ticket. You can read about it in the news, see it on TV, catch it on the Internet, learn about it at school, or hear it from a friend. We are all about TREASURE, and we all have a bit of treasure hunter in us! So, what really is truly valuable? What is the GREATEST TREASURE on EARTH?

Learning Objectives: Treasure Earth offers students a chance to get outside and investigate the many valuable natural resources which surround us but often go unnoticed, and the natural systems such as the water cycle, the soil cycle and valuable biodiversity, which are taken for granted, or are simply wasted.

THE LESSON: Treasure Earth

Engage:10-15 minutes depending on advance preparation, as this could be done at school.

  • Divide students into groups of 5-6
  • Have the students number off in their groups – 1, 2,3… Each person will be the leader of one or more of the tests. #1 leads the first test….
  • Pass out pre-assessments or surveys / students complete (if not done yet)
  • Introduce the Task by asking a few questions, such as,
  • When you think of valuable treasure what comes to mind?
  • What makes something a “treasure?” Think about what you have learned in history or on TV. What do people search for and why?
  • What does a treasure hunter look like?
  • (How does a treasure hunter know is something is valuable?) What is the Chesapeake Watershed would you consider a treasure?

(QUOTE about the Chesapeake being a “treasure” for the United States)

  • Possible Quote to use from the NASA video: Earth as a System.

We are realizing as scientists that we have to study the entire earth as a whole. We are learning that Earth is a system in which everything is connected.The things you study in your local area, the atmosphere, water, soil, land cover and phonology are all components of the earth.

Observing your local watershed is one of the best ways to learn these connections – a body of water, air, soil and rocks, trees and plants…

Explain:15-30 minutes depending on advance preparation(Total time so far 30-45 minutes)

Students will learn how to measure, assess or identify various natural resources that matter, within all spheres of The Earth – biosphere, atmosphere, geosphere and hydrosphere.

  • Introduce JOBS,(optional)and in doing so the tasks required: Each team can have 4-8 members. Do this by passing out the data sheet on which students will decide and record their roles. You could do this randomly, let students choose or hand out cards (OPTIONAL)
  • Field Reporters – in charge of data gathering and reporting
  • Archeologist – in charge of human impact assessments
  • Geologist – in charge of geosphere assessments
  • Environmental Biologist - in charge of biosphere assessments
  • Hydrologist - in charge of hydrosphere assessments
  • Meteorologist - in charge of atmosphere assessments
  • Geographers - in charge of navigation with GPS, map and compass
  • Introduce the protocolsthat will be included along with the tools listed below. Explain that each treasure hunter/student will be in charge of 1 or more tests but everyone participates in each test as there are always a few jobs. Students will find out what the tests are once they arrive at and find the geo-cache. (You do not need to explain the tests in advance.)
  1. Measuring temperature of: soil, surface, air and water
  2. Atmospheric tests: humidity, moisture (clouds and contrails), precipitation (rain gauge)
  3. ID station: Mineral, vegetable and animal: ID a common and valuable mineral, tree and animal.
  4. The Crust of the Earth (upper-lithosphere): Soil tests such as color, texture, moisture and fertility.
  5. Flora of the area or ecosystem: MUC measurement and densiometer for canopy, signs of animals? Or Land Cover – what lives here?
  6. Trees, what good are they? How can you measure the size or the health, with simple tools. First, how to measure the height, second the health through appearance and moisture content. (If ya wanna get fancy use a Biltmore stick to check the amount of usable lumber).
  7. The health of the water: abiotic tests to determine pH, oxygen, nitrates and phosphates and maybe clarity also. That is 3 types of tests
  8. Renewable energy - Water velocity and air speed (Smith); solar and air (Skycroft)
  9. Human Impact: How have humans impacted the environment at this location? Positive or negative? How to improve upon or mitigate?
  10. Human Impact: How have humans impacted the environment at this location?
  • Introduce tools to go with tests
  1. Infrared thermometer to test surface temperature
  2. Water thermometer and weather station to test water, soil and air temperature
  3. Rain gauge, cloud and contrail reading, and hygrometer to measure humidity
  4. Animal parts for identifying animal adaptations
  5. Soil and tree moisture meters to locate and measure moisture
  6. Soil fertility 3-way analyzer; spoon or shovel, to test soil quality
  7. MUC tool to identify land type and water use
  8. Densiometer to measure tree canopy cover
  9. Anemometer to measure wind speed
  10. Clinometer to measure tree height
  11. Secchi discor tube for the water quality test
  12. Mineral ID chart, penny, nail and mineral – optional
  13. Water Velocity measurement with a timer, twig, measuring tape - optional
  14. What about the amount of lumber in a tree? (Using a Biltmore Stick – to determine usable lumber in a tree – add later)
  • Review the use of GPS if not done in advance; Show students the directions on the back of their map.(it is much better to do this in advance.)
  • MAKE A POWER POINT OR PREZI for teachers to use to teach students, and to learn themselves.
  • Look at maps and review map use if not done already. HIGHLIGHT the TRAILS upon which they should stay. Show where they will start and end. Orient the map.
  • Review or teach how to use a compass with a map, if needed / or skip compass
  • Tell Return time: ______

Explore:Ideally 60-70 minutes

This is where the students go out and actually explore the local environment.

  • Everyone travels together to #1 (or another location) just to practice using the GPS. This place can also be used to return if needed.
  • Once student groups demonstrate mastery of the GPS, direct them to their first geocache and remind them of the main rules – stay together, come back on time and don’t leave the group.
  • Give each group a separate starting place. For example, Group A could start at #2, while Group B starts at #4….
  • What students could learn while exploring the local ecosystem:
  1. How to measure the temperature of water, soil, air and various surfaces.
  2. How to identify animal adaptations.
  3. How to test the quality of soil for various uses.
  4. How to test water quality through a simple test
  5. How to measure the height, circumference and water content of a tree.
  6. How to check an ecosystem for diversity of flora and fauna.
  7. How to check for moisture in the air, the soil and in the biosphere.
  8. How to check for the presence of various renewable energy sources.
  9. How to observe human impact on the local ecosystem.
  10. How to test the speed of wind.

Evaluate: 15-30 minutes.Questions related to the Next Gen standards, the Social Studies Standards and the use of GLOBE protocols.

  • Students share their results; RECORD ANSWERS ON THE BIG DATA SHEET. (These can later be transferred to the weekly or seasonally results)
  • Students complete the post assessment or survey.
  • In small or large groups have students answer these discussion questions.
  1. (Temperature test) Which is coolest, water, soil or air, and why? What difference does the temperature make for (choose one) water, surface or soil? How does it affect life forms which live within it?
  2. (Precipitation test) Why would scientist measure rain? How does humidity affect the Earth? Humans?
  3. (Air moisture test) How do clouds and contrails help us measure moisture in the air? Where does the moisture in the air come from and how does it get into the air? (list 2 places)
  4. (Animal adaptation test) What kind of food do you think this animal eats, based on its skull? How does the skin or pelt of this animal help it survive? / What can a track tell you about an animal? What can be learned from analyzing or observing scat?
  5. (Where is the water test) What happens to the water in this soil? What happens to water in a tree?What does moisture content of a tree tell us about the ecosystem in which the tree resides?
  6. (Soil quality test) Is this soil fertile enough to grow food? / What is the value of healthy soil to humans? To all animals? (Relate to soil poster.)
  7. (MUC test and Canopy tests) What can you learn about a location by looking around, down and up? What happens to the water when it rains here? / Think like a fox – Could you survive in the landscape or habitat of this location? Was it safe and did it offer food and water?
  8. (Water quality test) Would you swim or bathe in this water? Why or why not? What can you do to improve the water quality in this stream or pond?
  9. (Air Speed test) What causes the air to move? How can wind be a valuable resource?
  10. (Surface temperature test) Which surface was warmest and why? What could you do to modify a surface area so that it is cooler?
  11. (Water speed test) What causes this water to move? What is the value of moving water? / What could you do to make the water move faster?


  1. What is the human impact here? Is it positive or negative / good for the environment or bad? / How can we improve the health of the environment or mitigate the damage that is being done?
  2. Would you recommend this for future 6th graders? Why or why not?
  4. Other?

Elaborate/Extend: Students could plan, develop and/or document a similar learning experience at school. Students could use the protocols to gather data at school or at a nearby stream.

  • MS-ESS3-3. Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing human impact on the environment. (an extend)
  • The apple activity – to look at percentage of water vs. land; amount of fresh water; amount of fertile soil or just the percentage of earth in the crust (1% - 5-65 KM) / lithosphere - crust and upper mantle (I have lesson plan copy)
  • - from GPM website,
  • - Survivor Earth Lesson Plan series; lots of water-based lesson plans
  • Soil power point and garden under the lights – plant lights that is. Try different types of soil, different watering plans, different plants, different lighting, or different slopes…
  • Thirst power point and ways to conserve water…
  • Document student created products and solutions related to local environmental issues. Show at the AFI Theater, or elsewhere, as part of an environmental film festival with mcps student produced videos.
  • Make an anemometer, a densiometer, a rain gauge, and/or any other device we have been using.

Pre-Lesson Options, at School:

  1. learn to use a GPS at school, and practice.
  2. Practice setting up and using a geocache course.
  3. Practice identifying, measuring and assessing natural resources, using the same or similar testing protocols. *Equipment can generally be checked out from the Smith Center if requested in advance.