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Describing Cores


Developed by Danielle Bailey (2), Marilyn Petkovsek (3), and Gail Tynes (3). Revised January 2008 by Katherine Ellins(1), Hilary Olson (1). Revised January 20, 2010 by Katherine Ellins (1).

1. The University of Texas at Austin Institute for Geophysics;

2. NSF-GK-12 Fellow, The University of Texas at Austin Institute for Geophysics;

3. NSF-GK-12 Teacher, Round Rock ISD

How to cite this work: Bailey, D., Petkovsek, M., Tynes, G., Ellins, K.K., Olson, H.C., (2011). Describing Cores, TXESS Revolution,, Date Accessed.


This activity sets the stage for a series of learning activities that use authentic scientific ocean drilling data. Scientific ocean drilling is used to obtain cores of and geophysical wireline logs from holes drilled into the sediments and rock the seafloor. Scientists study the cores and logs that they collect and extract geological, geophysical, geochemical, and environmental information that provides insight into the Earth system. This knowledge enhances our ability to forecast possible future events or conditions, including global climate change.

Most scientific ocean drilling is carried out by the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP), an international partnership of scientists and research institutions organized to explore the evolution and the structure of Earth.

The learning activity introduces students to the purpose, history and technology of ocean drilling. Students practice describing model cores designed to simulate real cores retrieved by scientific ocean drilling. They work in teams to interpret their observations, carry out hole-to-hole correlation, develop conclusions, and present results to fellow students.  The activity was created for 8th Grade students, but is suitable for high school level students who have little or no knowledge of scientific ocean drilling. We show the correlation to both the middle school and Earth and Space Science TEKS.

Development, Research and Testing

The activity was developed by Danielle Bailey, a National Science Foundation GK-12 Fellow, working in collaboration with Texas high school science teachers under NSF Grant No. 0139347. The activity was first tested with Ms. Petkovsek and Ms. Tyne's students and subsequently implemented in the following teacher professional development workshops: (1) Revolution Teacher Workshops (2006), supported by the Texas Education Agency; and the TXESS Revolution Project (2007 - 2012), supported by the National Science Foundation Opportunities for Enhancing Diversity in the Geosciences under NSF Grant No. 0703687. Teachers who attended the TXESS Revoluion rated the activity as shown in the table below. Kathy Ellins and Hilary Olson modified the activity in 2010, using feedback provided by TXESS Revolution teachers. The activity has been shared with more than 100 teachers in Texas at a variety of workshops.

Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Activity rating by TXESS Revolution Teachers in PDA 6B, 2010 

Interesting -  4.73; applicable to the implemntation of guided inquiry in the classroom - 4.68; applicable to my use of in-class technology - 4.03

Loved this!  I would use this in ESS as a way of tying together stratigraphy, index fossils, environments of deposition, and rock types.  A great culminating activity that can also be used to discuss how we get cross-sectional diagrams.

I like this activity very much and will try to build the core samples over the summer for next year.  I would also like to develop a cross section to show where each of these core samples fit in and have the students develop a geological history to go along with the samples and cross section.



We would like to thank Sean Gulick, John Goff, and Lisa Gahagan for assistance with this learning activity.