Educational Resources


Students will learn about geology and the important role that the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) has had in shaping Canada. Students will gain an understanding of what surveyors and geologists do. They will learn about Canada's natural resources and will have the opportunity to examine primary-source material. The suggested activities can be adapted to specific class and/or curriculum needs.

Learning Objectives

In these activities students will:

  • identify various aspects of the 19th-century GSC geologists' fieldwork experience: transportation, geography, living and working conditions, diet, work activities;
  • gain a better understanding of the challenges and hardships of life in early Canada;
  • gain an understanding of the challenges and hardships faced by 19th-century GSC geologists, as well as the rewards of the work
  • make connections between historical events or circumstances such as settling the country and the need to find resources that would ensure independence from Britain, and how these events shaped Canada as we know it today
  • communicate ideas, interpret information and identify various viewpoints using a variety of primary-source materials
  • develop mapping skills, as well as methods for scientific observation and recording information
  • demonstrate reasoning and critical thinking, co-operative learning and research skills

Curriculum Tie-ins

Grades 7 and 8, Secondary I and II

Science (planet Earth, rocks and minerals)
Grade 7 (Alberta, Northwest Territories, Ontario)
Grade 8 (Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan)
Secondary II (Quebec)
Social Studies
People and Places in the World (environment, physical geography, human impact of technological change, industrialization)
Grade 7 (Manitoba)
Canada: Origins, Histories, Movement of People
Grade 7 (Ontario)
North America
Grade 7 (Nova Scotia)
Living in North America
Grade 7 (Newfoundland and Labrador)
Societies of the Past (connections between past and present; significant features, people and events of historical periods that have shaped the western world)
Grade 8 (Manitoba)
Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Canada
Grade 8 (Nova Scotia)
British North America and Conflict and Change
Grade 7 (Ontario)
Confederation; The Development of Western Canada; Canada: A Changing Society
Grade 8 (Ontario)
Canadian History: 1814-1900
Grade 8 (Prince Edward Island)
The Themes of Geographic Inquiry; Patterns in Physical Geography; Natural Resources
Grade 7 (Ontario)
World Geography
Secondary I (Quebec)
Grade 7 (Prince Edward Island)
Patterns in Human Geography; Economic Systems; Migration
Grade 8 (Ontario)
Quebec and Canada
Secondary III (Quebec)
Also covers
Language Arts (Reading, Writing and Visual Communication)
Visual Arts
Mathematics (Computation, Measurement)

Suggested Activities

Activity 1 : Making a Map

Students can make either a topographical map or a location map.

For a topographical map, have students map their bedroom, giving the dimensions of the room and mapping the "outcrops" (furniture).

Using a ruler or tape measure, students measure the height of objects such as their bed, dresser, bookcases, etc. and draw such features on their map, indicating the measurements they have taken.

Students could also pretend that objects found in a dresser or desk drawer are "fossils" that identify the "strata". The "era" of their room will be determined by dating the objects they find in the "strata". Dated objects can either be listed in a blank area of the map or on the other side of the paper.

Sample Topographic Map

For a location map, have students map the schoolyard, or a portion of it. They can use their own paces to measure the distances between "features" such as bicycle racks, trees, sports equipment, etc. Students will then draw each of these "features" onto the map.

Eachástudents should measure his or her individual pace in order to provide a scale for the map. Students should then convert all of their measurements from paces to metres. Although individual students' paces will be different, the distances mapped between features should be the same.

In the 19th century, the Geological Survey of Canada's geological surveyors used pacing to measure distance. Are your students' maps as accurate as the 19th-century Geological Survey of Canada's maps?

Sample Location Map

Tie-ins: geography, mathematics, language arts

Activity 2 : Creating a Journal

Ask students to imagine that they are 19th-century geologists working in the field. Have them write about their experience and include such details as where they are, how they have been travelling, what the landscape looks like, what their living conditions are like, etc. To prepare for this activity, ask the students to read the examples of William Logan's journals provided below.


Once students have written their journal entry, they may wish to create a pretend journal page using Logan's sample entries as a model. Students can stain a sheet of paper with tea and write with a fountain pen. They can make their page look more realistic by adding a few "dirt" smudges or splatter with a few "raindrops" to make it look like the entry was written out in the field.

Page from William Logan's journal showing a sketch of a rock face on the Bay of Fundy

Read this page
By the time Logan worked in the field in Canada, he was also a seasoned sketch artist

Page from William Logan's manuscript journal describing a coastal voyage

Read this page
Logan describes one of his coastal voyages

Page from one of William Logan's journals, written in London, England, that includes a list of things to take with him to Canada. He included himself on the list

Read this page
A list of things Logan needed to take on his trip from London to the Bay of Chaleur. An extremely important item is listed under number 12: himself.

Page from William Logan's journal listing the names of his dinner companions and what he had for dinner and commenting on travel arrangements

Read this page
Logan's journals are filled with varied lists and descriptions of his experiences both in the and out of the field. Here he lists his dinner companions and what he ate, and comments on one of his many means of travel

Page from William Logan's notebook including a list of his First Nations crew

Read this page
This page from William Logan's notebook includes a list of the First Nations crew members he had recently hired for his Ottawa expedition

Tie ins: language arts, geography, science

Activity 3 : Out in the Field - Collecting Specimens

Have students conduct some fieldwork of their own, looking for rock specimens found in the schoolyard or their neighbourhood. Have students record their findings on a Specimen Data Sheet. Students will bring their samples back to class and try to identify them. They may consult reference books or perhaps have a local geologist or member of a rock club visit the class to guide and confirm their assessments.


Once students have identified a specimen, they can research the specimen's commercial uses.

For information on where to look for specimens and what to bring along, look at "Become a Rock or Fossil Collector" on the Life of a Rock Star website.

Tie-ins: science, geography, language arts

Activity 4 : Creating a Museum Display

Once students have identified their specimens, ask them to create labels for them. Labels could include such things as the rock's name, where and when it was found, and the name of the discoverer. The label could also list the rock's commercial uses. Once the specimens have been labeled, have the students create a display. The display could be divided into three sections, one for each type of rock: sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous. Other students in the school could be invited to visit the class's "mini mineral museum" or it could be put on view at a science fair.

For information on what to do with your specimens, look at "Become a Rock or Fossil Collector" on the Life of a Rock Star website.

Tie-ins: science, language arts, visual arts