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A description of something you are studying, using only facts that you can see, touch, hear or smell. An observation is not an opinion.


using your observations to make a guess about an object or an outcome.


Testable explanation or prediction, for natural phenomena describing a cause and effect relationship; written in the "if...then..." format

Independent Variable

The variable that you CHANGE (the variable that the experimenter can manipulate)

Dependent Variable

The variable which you OBSERVE and measure; this changes depending on the independent variable

Experimental Group

In an experiment, the subject(s) being tested (the subjects that are receiving treatment)

Control Group

In an experiment, the subject(s) who do not receive experimental treatment and are used as a comparison. The "norm"

Topographic Map

A two-dimensional way of showing a three-dimensional image of changes in elevation

Contour Lines

Lines drawn on a map connecting points of equal elevation

Prime Meridian

the line of longitude running at 0o vertically


the line of latitude running 0o horizontally

Sedimentary Rock

formed from the lithification (compaction and cementation) of sediments; typically found at the bottoms of oceans and streams

Metamorphic Rock

formed from high heat and pressure; typically found deep within Earth's crust

Igneous Rock

formed from the cooling of lava (extrusive) or magma (intrusive); typically found near volcanoes

Frost Wedging

a type of mechanical weathering where rocks are broken into small sediments by the continuous refreezing of water

Chemical Weathering

the breakdown of rock that results in a NEW chemical composition. This occurs most often in hot and wet climates

Mechanical Weathering

the breakdown of rock into smaller sediments, without changing the rock's mineral composition


the transportation of sediments; water is the primary agent of erosion on Earth (responsible for the Grand Canyon)


the rigid outer layer of Earth, made up of the crust and uppermost mantle (these make up the tectonic plates!)


the top part of the mantle, directly below the lithosphere, where convection occurs

Convergent Boundary

when 2 plates come together and collide, forming mountains, volcanoes, and ocean trenches. Old lithosphere/crust is destroyed

Divergent Boundary

when 2 plates divide and split apart, forming rift valleys or mid-ocean ridges. New lithosphere/crust is created

Transform Fault Boundary

where 2 plates slide/grind past each other without creating or destroying lithosphere; the most common location of earthquakes


triggered by the build-up and release of elastic energy along a fault


the point within earth on a fault where an earthquake begins

P Waves

the fastest wave released in an earthquake that arrives first at a seismic station

S Wave

the second wave to arrive at a seismic station from an earthquake

Surface Waves

the slowest, but most destructive type of wave from an earthquake. These waves do not travel through the earth, but along the earth's surface instead.


the smaller earthquakes that occur because of continued plate movement after the main shock


formed during an earthquake when underwater earthquakes set off an underwater wave that builds over time

Composite Cone Volcanoes

the largest type of volcano often found around the ring of fire


meeting our current needs without preventing or limiting future generations from being able to meet their needs (providing for us today, while saving for tomorrow!)

Solar Energy

an alternative and renewable energy source that provides clean energy, however it is expensive to install and is not as effective on cloudy days

Renewable Resource

resources that can be replenished (replaced) in a short amount of time after they are used

Non-renewable Resource

resources that we have in a limited supply; once we use them, we cannot get anymore because they take millions of years to replace (ex: fossil fuels—coal, oil, and natural gas)


the process of restoring the land after mining and fixing any of the damages that were done in the mining process

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