Making your Own National Park Geologic Tour

National Park Service, 2006
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Lesson/Lesson Plan , Lecture/Presentation
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.




This activity is based on a large number of U. S. National Parks that were created because of their geologic formations. Students will use the U.S. National Park Service’s website and the American Geosciences Institute Image Bank website to create a PowerPoint presentation that will highlight the variety of geological features of the U. S. National Parks. The emphasis is on large-scale geologic processes, such as weathering, erosion, and deposition by movements of wind, ice, and water.  

Expected time of completion of the activity 180 minutes, including time for virtual field trips, research, and presentations.

Intended Audience

Educator and learner
Educational Level
  • Middle School
  • Grade 8
  • Grade 7
  • Grade 6
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

MS-ESS2-2 Construct an explanation based on evidence for how geoscience processes have changed Earth's surface at varying time and spatial scales.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on how processes change Earth’s surface at time and spatial scales that can be large (such as slow plate motions or the uplift of large mountain ranges) or small (such as rapid landslides or microscopic geochemical reactions), and how many geoscience processes (such as earthquakes, volcanoes, and meteor impacts) usually behave gradually but are punctuated by catastrophic events. Examples of geoscience processes include surface weathering and deposition by the movements of water, ice, and wind. Emphasis is on geoscience processes that shape local geographic features, where appropriate.

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Making your Own National Park Geologic Tour provides students an opportunity to research the geologic features of U. S. National Parks and create a presentation. The procedure does not include the specific details needed to “construct an explanation.” The teacher will need to give specific directions for this. Students will need to describe the actual geoscience processes (for example, erosion and weathering) that created the arch or mountain. The teacher will also need to include any catastrophic events that helped shape these formations (for example, volcanoes or earthquakes). The time and spatial scales needed to create these processes must also be included (for example, the years it took for the Grand Canyon to form).

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Using the websites and resources given, students will be able to gather the evidence necessary to research the National Parks and create a PowerPoint presentation. The students, however, will need direction and prompts from the teacher describing the actual geoscience processes, catastrophic events and the time and spatial scales needed to create these processes. Additional resources on geologic processes may be needed such as: Yellowstone Resources Handbook ( and Geology of National Parks (

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Making Your Own National Park tasks students with researching and presenting information on how Earth’s systems interact. The activity itself does not explicitly cover the topics of global systems interactions and scale. Students will need to construct an explanation about the time and the processes needed to create the geologic formations (weathering, erosion, deposition, etc).

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
This activity is based on geologic processes/phenomena that have happened over large spans of time which is not explicitly stated in the activity. The students will likely uncover this in their research. The teacher will need to prompt the students to include these ideas in the PowerPoint presentation. The energy expended to create the various geologic processes/phenomena will also need to be understood and explained by the students. Possible questions that could be posed are: What is the approximate age of the Grand Canyon? Based on the age of the Grand Canyon the water would have been flowing at a rate of?

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This activity shows evidence of the three dimensions working together, but additional research will be needed to meet all of the three areas. Students obtain and evaluate information they find on the various National Parks and will communicate to others through a PowerPoint presentation (Science and Engineering Practices). This tasks students with researching and presenting information on how Earth’s systems interact. Students will select a feature such as a sand dune, volcano or cave and use the National Parks Website to find a park related to that feature and take a virtual tour of that park (Disciplinary Core Idea). Students will take notes and make drawings of information needed on how the park was formed and any geological processes/ phenomena associated with the selected park (Crosscutting Concepts). Additional research around geoscience processes, catastrophic events, time and spatial scales will need to be included to meet the Disciplinary Core Idea. This activity is based on geologic processes/phenomena that have happened over large spans of time (Crosscutting Concepts), although this is not explicitly stated in the activity . The following websites can be used by students in their research and will help meet the Cross Cutting Concepts and Disciplinary Core Ideas relating to spatial scale and spans of time and geologic processes: Geologic Time National Park Service ( and Park Landforms National Park Service ( The geologic phenomena can be portrayed by using models of specific National Park landmarks and representing those models in the PowerPoint presentation with a description of the scale and proportion of the geologic systems found in that landmark.

  • Instructional Supports: Issues around the closures of some National Parks makes this a relevant and current topic. Students have the opportunity to represent their ideas by creating a product based on their research about the geology of the park they have chosen. Background information will need to be given to create a base of learning for students who have not experienced a trip to a National Park. The teacher will need to monitor to make sure that student research about the phenomena is accurately portrayed in the presentation. Supports for differentiated instruction are not included.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The first piece of evidence of three-dimensional learning is present in the Science and Engineering Practice, where students will obtain, evaluate and communicate information using a PowerPoint presentation about their selected National Park. However, to meet the other dimensions, additional information will be needed for students to present the topics of spatial scales, geologic time and energy needed to create the geologic processes found in our National Parks. This activity does not provide any worksheets or scoring rubrics. No assessments or progress monitoring are included. The tasks are unbiased if the teacher gives all students the opportunity to watch videos and research the National Parks they are interested in. The teacher needs to monitor the content of the student presentation for accuracy and relevance to the phenomena and constructing explanations.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: Internet access is required to access the suggested research websites. The websites are directly related to the subject matter and provide the information by text or video, which students will use to build a PowerPoint presentation. Students will need to have access to PowerPoint, Prezi or some type of online presentation program.