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Show caption HideA critical component of this activity involves sharing team data with the entire class, done the old-fashioned way on the chalkboard. Details This activity begins with an exploration of a topographic map of the earth, ending with the question: Why is the distribution of topography on the earth bimodal? The students then collect two forms of data. They measure the density of the most common rocks that make up oceanic crust (basalt), continental crust (granite), and the mantle (peridotite). They also measure the density of several different kinds of wood, and how high each kind floats in a tub of water. In each case, they work in teams of two or three and then the entire class shares their data. Based on the data from the wood, they derive an equation that relates the density of the wood to the height at which the block floats in the water - the isostasy equation. They then substitute density values for real rocks into their equation to derive thicknesses for average continental and oceanic crust, and apply their knowledge in order to draw a cross-section of the crust across South America. This activity gives students a real, hands-on and mathematical understanding of the principle of isostasy.
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