Road Trip A Geologic Tour of the United States

Stalled in a sudden blizzard in the Tetons... Boiling in the blazing heat of Death Valley.

These are only two of the many unknown obstacles you may face as you embark upon a geologic cross-country road race.

You will become a member of a racing team made up of fellow classmates. Together you will race from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon. Along the way, you will stop at 15 National Parks showcasing our nation’s rich geological heritage.

Project Overview:

Once your team is chosen, together you will select a team racing vehicle (car, van, truck, motorhome, etc.) a team name, and racing colors.

All teams will place their vehicles at Portland, Maine to begin the race. Teams will move across the map to specific points along team routes during each round of play. As you race to the finish line in Portland, Oregon, you will keep your travel route secret.

Starting Point:

Portland, ME

Finish Line:

Portland, OR

Teams will visit the National Parks Service website to take a geologic tour.

Teams must choose at least one site to visit from each of the following categories:

  • Basin and Range
  • Caves
  • Colorado Plateau
  • Fossils
  • Glaciers
  • Hot Springs
  • Human Use
  • Mountain Building
  • Oldest Rocks
  • Plate Tectonics
  • River Systems
  • Sand Dunes
  • Shoreline Geology
  • Soils
  • Volcanoes

Each team must visit a minimum of 15 sites.

Route Requirements:

You are expected to be a contributing member of your team.

Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success. --Henry Ford

The following are required components of the project:

Team Vehicle

Each team will create a two dimensional representation of your team vehicle.

Be creative.
Be innovative.
Be artsy.

Team Name and Banner

Design a banner representing your team. Include your official team name, your names, and an uplifting motto.

Example Banner
Example Banner
Example Banner

Route of Travel

Decide upon your team route and chart it on the map provided. Remember, the starting point is in Portland, Maine and the ending point is in Portland, Oregon. You must visit at least 15 sites along the way using the categories listed under the National Park Service Geologic Tour. Keep your travel route secret.

Example Route

Research Reports

Each site visited must be the topic of a research report. Each team will write at least 15 reports. Research reports must be divided evenly between team members. See attached research report criteria.

Example Report Page

Diary Entries

Along your trip, each member of your team will keep a diary. The purpose of the diary is to retell the day’s happenings (where you went, what you saw, what you learned, and what you thought of the places you visited). The more that you can think of to include in the diary entries, the better it will likely be. Among the items to consider writing about in your diary entries are: your impressions of the sites you visited, what FATE cards your team received, road conditions, weather, other places you passed on your route, food you ate, and where you spent the night.

Example Diary Page
Example Diary Page

Research Report Criteria:

A minimum of 15 reports are required per team.

Each report must include the following:

Fact Sheet:

  • Park Name
  • Area of Park (in square miles)
  • Highest Elevation
  • Lowest Elevation
  • Three Natural Areas or Formations
  • Location (regions/states)
  • Closest Major City
  • Date it was designated a National Park
  • Total Yearly Visits

Written Report:


Open your report with a “snapshot” of your park. Create a mental picture in the reader’s mind of what he/she would see upon arrival at your park.

Section #1 Earth Materials:

Describe the geologic formations found at your site. What minerals are found in your park? Types of rocks? Types of soil? What landforms are found there? Are the rocks and minerals in your park useful for a specific purpose?

Section #2 Changes in the Earth’s Surface:

Describe the changes that have occurred at your park. Is there evidence of erosion, deposition, or weathering? What has shaped the surface of your park (wind, ice, waves, water)? Where the geologic features in your park formed by slow or rapid geologic processes?

Section #3 Park Highlights:

Describe your park’s climate in summer and winter. Describe the wildlife (fauna) and plants/flowers (flora) at your park. Are there unique living organisms residing in your park? Describe any problems your park faces in the years to come.


Close your report with a return to the “snapshot” introduction. Leave a mental picture of your park in your reader’s mind.

Extra Credit Options:

Your team may choose any or all of the activities below for extra credit.

Travel Log:

Calculate mileage, time, cost of gas, food, and/or lodging for your trip.

Example Travel Log Page

Team Rap/Song:

Your team will write and perform a team rap or song.

Carcise (Exercise in the Car):

Create an exercise you can do in the car. Include a step by step instruction sheet for the

Example Carcise

Carcise and include a description of what benefits the exercise gives your body.

Scrapbook Page:

Design a scrapbook page for your trip.

Public Service Announcement:

Although our National Parks are protected places, they still face environmental issues. Choose an issue facing a park or parks and create a public service announcement. A public service announcement is a media campaign to raise awareness, and/or change the public attitude or behavior towards a certain issue.

Common Core Science Standards:

Using this project and Chapter 5 of our Interactive Science curriculum, you will work to meet the following standards:

  • (SF) ALT 3 - Identify Properties Earth Materials: I can identify properties, uses and availability of Earth materials. (Structure and Function: Earth/Space Science)
  • AST 3.1 - Classify Minerals By Properties: I can classify minerals by their properties.
  • AST 3.2 - Identify Three Categories of Rocks: I can identify the three categories of rocks and how they are formed (also part of I & C target.)
  • AST 3.3 - Identify Relationship Rocks Minerals: I can identify the relationship between rocks and minerals.
  • AST 3.4 - Describe Properties of Soil Types: I can describe in detail the properties of different soil types.
  • AST 3.5 - Give Examples How Earth Materials Made: I can give examples of how Earth materials are made into useful objects.
  • AST 3.6 - Compare Availability of Earth Materials: I can compare the availability of different Earth materials.
  • AST 3.7 - C-C Objects From Nature or Humans: I can compare and contrast objects from nature and ones made or formed by humans.
  • (IC) ALT 6 - C-C Changes Slow Rapid Process: I can compare and contrast the changes in the surface of the Earth that are due to slow and rapid processes. (Interaction and Change: Earth/Space Science)
  • AST 6.1 - Define Erosion Weathering, Deposition: I can define erosion, weathering, and deposition and explain how each can change the Earth’s surface over time.
  • AST 6.2 - C-C Effects of Waves, Wind, Water, Ice: I can compare and contrast the effects of waves, wind, water, and ice erosion on the Earth’s surface.
  • AST 6.3 - Describe Effect of Volcanoes: I can describe the effect of volcanoes on the Earth’s surface.
  • AST 6.4 - Describe Effect of Earthquakes: I can describe the effect of earthquakes on the Earth’s surface.
  • AST 6.5 - C-C Slow and Rapid Changes Earth Surface: I can compare and contrast the slow and rapid changes in the Earth’s surface.

Common Core English Language Arts Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.4.3: Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.4.10: By the end of year, read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, in the grades 4-5 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.2: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.2.A: Introduce a topic clearly and group related information in paragraphs and sections; include formatting (e.g., headings), illustrations, and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.2.B: Develop the topic with facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples related to the topic.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.2.C: Link ideas within categories of information using words and phrases (e.g., another, for example, also, because).
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.2.D: Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.2.E: Provide a concluding statement or section related to the information or explanation presented.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.3.D: Use concrete words and phrases and sensory details to convey experiences and events precisely.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.4: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.5: With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, and editing. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of Language standards 1-3 up to and including grade 4 here.)
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.6: With some guidance and support from adults, use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of one page in a single sitting.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.7: Conduct short research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.8: Recall relevant information from experiences or gather relevant information from print and digital sources; take notes and categorize information, and provide a list of sources.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.9: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.9.A: Apply grade 4 Reading standards to literature (e.g., "Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text [e.g., a character's thoughts, words, or actions].").
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.9.B: Apply grade 4 Reading standards to informational texts (e.g., "Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text").
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.10: Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Groups will work to complete all of the requirements as a team. Please turn in your final drafts on the due date set by your teacher.

Created with images by Lee Edwin Coursey - "Afternoon in Arches National Park" • Lee Edwin Coursey - "Bubble Rock - Acadia National Park"

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