Earth and Space Science

Beginning Earth Science-Need Help!!

Hello all, I'm beginning an earth science unit with my 6th graders for the winter or early spring. I was wondering if any of you have any activities or plans that have anything to do with erosion, weathering, landslides, volcanoes, or earthquakes that I could use to wrap my students into the unit. Anything exciting is what I'm really looking for and along the lines of inquiry-based instruction. Thank you for your time!!!

Nathan Steier
Nathan Steier
940 Activity Points

Hi Nathan, I'm a 5th grade Math/Science teacher in Hawaii and I know that our students cover the cycles of matter at our grade level. Building on that, I think a 6th grader would probably be ready for a lesson about erosion by posing them this question, "What if elements in the cycle are not in balance and the environment is exposed to too much of something, such as rain?" A fun activity is one that I learned through another PD course offered in my district. It involves tubs of sand tipped at an angle, cups with holes of different diameters, water and a bucket to collect water that pours out of the tub. Half of the tub is filled with sand, and leveled off on the top. A ledge is created in the sand at the half-way point. The model depicts a sandy cliff at the water's edge. The student observes what happens when the cup is placed far away from the ledge and water is poured into the cup and pours out into the sand. The student writes observations and questions about what is happening to the sand below and what is happening to the water level/sand content in the body of water. Then the student observes what happens when the cup is placed near the ledge and water is poured into the cup and pours out onto the ledge. The student writes observations and questions about what is happening to the sand at the ledge and what is happening to the water level/sand content in the body of water. Variety is added by including Duplo blocks to act as homes on the sandy foundation away from the ledge and near the ledge. More variables include food coloring, and increasing/decreasing the diameter of the hole in the bottom of the cup. This is an activity that I would love to do with my students but it is not one of our grade level standards and there is not enough time to cover it in a short school year. I hope you try it. It is a lot of fun and educational. Joy Agard

Joy Agard
Joy Agard
2190 Activity Points

Thank you Joy, I have plenty of time, so I could actually build a "sand table." I'll get to it and let you know what happens! I'm still curious about other ideas if anyone else would like to chip in.

Nathan Steier
Nathan Steier
940 Activity Points

My 4th grade partner and I are in the middle of trying to put together a project for our students to help them understand landforms and forces that shape the Earth. For one part of the project we would help students to learn about forces such as waves, earthquakes, volcanoes etc. We may do this by providing texts and assisting them in conducting online research. As one of our mini assessments, we created a bunch of cards with a picture of a landform or force on each. We also have the words printed on cards. The mini assessment would be for them to first match the pictures with the words. That shows us if they know what each looks like. Then we might have them separate the cards to show "slow" processes (erosion, glaciers) versus "fast" processes (floods, tsunamis). Finally students would organize the cards to their choosing writing/telling why they arranged the cards in that way. Their explanation should give us a glimpse to the breadth and depth of their understanding so far. After this, students would do an inquiry to see "How was this formed?" In other words students would be given 3 world sites and 2 sites from Hawaii. For example, students would have to use their knowledge on forces and landforms to decide what made the Grand Canyon. We are hoping they will be able to put together a short PowerPoint presentation. Lastly, the final project will be for students to do an inquiry on our island, Kauai, specifically. We want students to research how Waimea Canyon, the Napali coast, Hanalei valley, Mount Waialeale, and Kekaha's shoreline was formed/ is being reformed. To show us their learning they will create a 3-D model using only recycled/reused materials. Their model will be accompanied with a presentation. Not sure if this is what you had in mind, but hopefully it helps. Wow, sharing this idea with you makes me realize what a big undertaking this is going to be...

Denise Karratti
Denise Karratti
820 Activity Points

We actually have several features in Billings that I could show pictures of and demonstrate to the students how they were created. There is a large sandstone formation that surrounds the city and rocks/boulders come off of it from time to time. I like your idea of building 3-D models of structures that are actually in your area. Denise, I would be very interested in finding out how well your project went!

Nathan Steier
Nathan Steier
940 Activity Points

Hi Nathan! Billings (is it safe to assume Montana here?)is a lovely area and you have so many natural examples of erosion and weathering. Do you get to field trip to any of the "badlands" areas to the east? This topic has been introduced before in the forums - if you use the "Find topic and users" box above you can bring up all sorts of previous discussions. In at least one you will find me talking about easy to make stream tables from plastic boxes that I will also link here. Good luck with your earth science unit (earth science is my favorite but you can't tell, right?!)

Tina Harris
Tina Harris
65560 Activity Points

Tina, I really appreciate the lessons that you have provided! I'll add them to my unit that I am creating and will post everything after I have completed the unit in my class. I'll try looking for pre-exisiting conversations about topics that I am inquiring about in the future too! Thank you!

Nathan Steier
Nathan Steier
940 Activity Points

Hi Nathan -

I recommend you check out the digital resources at the Digital Library for Earth System Sciences (DLESE) at http://www.dlese.org/library/index.jsp They have some wonderful resources and a section with Earth Science Literacy Maps


Also, explore Google Earth. There are wonderful resources in Google Earth that can be used with your students to map volcanoe distributions, earthquakes, tectonic plates, etc. You can use Google Earth for "virtual tours" to view other areas of the globe. Google Sky can be used for Astronomy too.

Dorothy Ginnett
Dorothy Ginnett
27595 Activity Points

Hi Nathan -

Some terrific NSTA resources (books or e-books) are the Project Earth Science series, such as Project Earth Science: Geology http://learningcenter.nsta.org/product_detail.aspx?id=10.2505/9781936137305 This book has some terrific low cost and easy set-up hands-on lab ideas.

Another useful teaching resource is the NSTA book, Earth Science Success: 50 Lesson Plans for grades 6 - 9 http://learningcenter.nsta.org/product_detail.aspx?id=10.2505/9781933531359

The NSTA Earth Science Puzzles book focuses on critical thinking/problem solving http://learningcenter.nsta.org/product_detail.aspx?id=10.2505/9781935155157

For your own background knowledge and professional development, you may want to look at the NSTA SciPacks or SciObjectson topics such as Plate Tectonics and Rocks.

Have fun!
Dorothy

Dorothy Ginnett
Dorothy Ginnett
27595 Activity Points

Thanks for the discussion and resources. This will be the first year I will be teach earth via the foss module and grand canyon. I am looking to expand on some of the ideas in the standards not really covered by the module. I like the liquification activity, i will be looking at the sites Dorthoy provided Hope everyone has a great year in teaching

Karen Carlough
Karen Carlough
875 Activity Points

Wow! I really appreciate your help Dorothy! I like free things, and especially anything that involves inquiry-based instruction for science. I could have several students searching on maps online for evidence of erosion for example. I really am using as much of everything provided as possible. Karen, I just finished "The Changing Earth" science-pack that is in the nsta library. I personally felt like I learned a lot of interesting content that I will later use to explain earth processes to my students. It also had some really nice questions in the text that got me thinking. I highly recommend that pack.

Nathan Steier
Nathan Steier
940 Activity Points

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