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Earth Systems Science: Exploring Change in the Critical Zone (Teacher/Student Teams)

Ongoing | Ages 10-14 | $195/team (1 Adult/5 Students)


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This Professional Development STEM Workshop is available for scheduling at local schools, districts or regional events but will not be offered on the CU Boulder campus in 2017-2018. 

The three fun and sometimes messy classes in the Earth System Science STEM Workshop focus on the complex relationships between geology, wildfires, snow, ice and climate that impact the Earth System and Colorado’s water supply. During this intensive hands-on workshop, teachers and students will rotate through these three, standards-driven, interconnected workshops:


Foundations for Flow: Using stream tables, models and new specialized materials, students and teachers will re-create Colorado Mountains from the bedrock up, and then wear them down with constructive and destructive forces over time. They will see our geological past in a new way; learn about erosion, deposition, plate tectonics, faults, hydrology; and use ice, snow and water to create snowfields, glaciers, streams, rivers and the watersheds we see today.

Key Concepts: Plate Tectonics, Erosion, Deposition, Watersheds and Hydrology

Fire and Water: Using computer models and hands-on experiments, students and teachers will explore the relationships between ecosystems, wildfires, soils and water quality. They will learn about recent wildfires, fire safety and prevention, how to predict fire intensity, and conduct experiments to help understand how wildfires impact soils, erosion water quality and storage.

Key Concepts: Forest and Fire Ecology, Soils, Erosion, Weathering and Water Quality

Ice, Snow and H2O: This class focuses on how weather, climate, snow and ice impact Colorado’s water supply. Teams will experiment with snow and ice and use measurements to understand the relationship between glaciers, snowpack and our water supply. They will compare and contrast weather data and snow tubes to solve a mystery and play a game to understand how Earth System Interactions supply year-round water to Colorado.

Key Concepts: Watersheds, Snowpack, Weather, Climate, Stream Flow and Density

Participating teachers will receive lesson plans and facilitation guide, digital resources and a letter or certificate documenting 4.5 hours of teacher professional development for district and CDE teacher licensing.


  • Teams pre-register online or by phone
  • Teams arrive at the site at 8:45am and depart between 2:30 and 3pm
  • Each team (of up to 5 learners) will need either a teacher or an adult chaperone.
  • Participants bring lunches and water bottles
  • Sample Schedule (75-minute classes):
    • 9-9:30am: Introduction
    • 9:45-11am: Class One
    • 11-11:45am: Lunch
    • 11:45am-pm: Class Two
    • 1-1:15pm: Break
    • 1:15-2:30pm: Class Three
    • 2:30-3pm: Wrap-Up

For additional information or to begin planning your CU Science Discovery program, please contact Hester Nadel via email or by calling 303.492.8640.