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Lab sheet & activites
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Teacher Prep Movie
Lab Materials Needed
Blockey Koa Crate
from Kea STEMCrate
- 1 Springy Spring Scale per student
Student Lab Sheet
Erosional Processes: The Wonderful World of Erosion
Earth Science 4-ESS2-1:
Make observations and/or measurements to provide evidence of the effects of weathering or the rate of erosion by water, ice, wind, or vegetation.
Pacing Guide: Recommended time to complete this unit - 1 month
Instruction day 1 (pages ): Explore the Phenomenon
Summary: Discuss and wonder
Lesson Objective: Activate prior knowledge and conduct a demonstration or class activity to help students understand why the shape of the cliff is the way it is.
2 sugar cubes + 1 for a control
A spray bottle with both a jet and mist setting on the nozzle (most Windex or cleaning spray bottles will have this)
A plastic tray/baking dish or rectangular tub
A hairdryer or handheld fan
Step 1: Show your students the sugar cube. Point out the sharp edges and the symmetrical faces of the cube.
Step 2: Place the sugar cubes in your tray.
Step 3: Spritz one sugar cube with the mist setting. Drench it fully.
Step 4: Use the jet setting of the nozzle and squirt the sugar cube many times. It might move around, create a hole or even shoot across the tray.
Step 5: Have students examine the difference between the two wet sugar cubes and the control cube. Have them notice the shape, size and edges. They may use vocabulary such as dissolved or melted at this point.
Step 1: Remind students of the shape and symmetrical faces of the cube.
Step 2: Ask what they think will happen when you blow air on the sugar cube
Step 3: Turn on the hairdryer or handheld fan near the cube. Note that it will take some time for the cube to visibly change shape. The hot setting on your hairdryer may help expedite the process as the wind and temperature will work together.
Step 4: Have students examine the difference between the control sugar cube and the other one. Have them notice the shape, size and edges.
Optional: Pass around the sugar cube and let students observe the shape. You could even turn this into a mini-lab and provide your students individual sugar cubes.
Ask: Do you think this cliff always looked like this?
Ask: What do you think caused its shape to change?
Example: I think this cliff might have been cut, or it may have been weathered away. I think part of the cliff slid off, maybe in a landslide. (Accept all answers at this point.)
Wrap-up: We see that the sugar cubes changed their shape when we used water and wind. Their edges weren’t as sharp, they may have become smaller and they didn’t look the same. This might help us understand why things look the way they do. Something may have changed their appearance over time.
Instruction day 2 (pages 135 - 136): Read and discuss
Summary: Go on a nature walk just like the author you’ll meet and solve a riddle.
Lesson Objective: Students will notice different types of rocks and begin to understand that each has its own reason for being the way it is.
Activity: Go on a nature walk just like the author! :
After reading and discussing the author activity, take your class outside and let them choose an interesting-looking rock. It could be a pebble, a piece of granite or even a weathered piece of wood that looks like a rock. In class, have them trace the outline of the rock or draw it as accurately as possible with one color. Then, ask them to use a different color and draw how they think it may have been in the past. Most likely, their second outline will be bigger and smoother than the rock in its current state.
Then, solve the riddle.
Ask: What were some of your guesses to unlock the riddle? What were the reasons you had for thinking each one might work?
Example: Answers will vary. Students may refer to the activity with their walk and focus on the way the riddle explains it used to be solid rock. Guide the discussion towards the shape, size and ‘Once, I was…’ aspect of the riddle, which will set the tone for the next day.
Wrap-Up: Can you knock on your rock? It’s hard, isn’t it? It’s not squishy. It doesn’t bend or break. If we tried to eat it, it probably wouldn’t dissolve like the sugar cubes did. Yet we see the shape changing. What do you think is strong enough to change the shape of such hard rocks, turning them into cool shapes, and even into sand?
Instruction day 3 (pages 137 - 138): Read and discuss
Summary: Read, understand new vocabulary and discuss
Lesson Objective: Students will understand what erosion is and learn the difference between mechanical and chemical erosion.
2 effervescent tablets (In Pakistan, we have Calcee and Dispirin nearly everywhere...they’re as ubiquitous as Tylenol. Is Alka Seltzer easily available? Or any Vitamin C tablet?)
2 petri dishes
An eye dropper (optional)
Something to crumble one of the tablets with (your hand, a tiny hammer, the back of a pencil etc.)
A cup of water
Step 1: Put one tablet in the petri dish and tell students that you are going to demonstrate mechanical weathering. Crush the tablet using the back of a pencil or by using your hands. Turn it into a coarse, gravel like texture. If you have a microscope, let students see what it looks like.
Step 2: Take the other tablet and tell students you will now demonstrate chemical weathering. Using the eyedropper, dribble a bit of water onto the second tablet and let students observe the changes. Try to get it to bubble on one side and show students how it has changed.
Ask: What happened when I broke the tablet with my hands? Was that a physical process?
Ask: What happened when I put water on the tablet? Was that a physical or a chemical process?
Ask: Was the tablet still a tablet when I broke it with my hands?
Ask: Was the tablet still a tablet when I put water on it?
Example: When you used your hands, that was a physical process and type of erosion. It was still a tablet at the end. When you used water, the tablet dissolved away in a chemical process.
Wrap-up: How can we apply what we learnt today to the world around us? Did you notice how when I dribbled a little water on the effervescent tablet, it started to make really cool shapes? Erosion creates some amazing shapes around the world. One of the ways erosion happens is through water. We will learn more about that tomorrow.
Instruction day 4 (pages 139 - 140): Read and discuss
Summary: Read and watch a video about v-shaped valleys using Minecraft
Lesson objective: Students will learn specifically about the formation of valleys as an example of erosion by running water.
Class activity (warm-up):
After reading the single page, if you have blocks or legos in your classroom, ask students to model a V shaped valley. You can also use cubie blocks if you have them. Allow students to work in groups and discuss how they are forming the valley and what features make it look realistic.
Then, watch this video. Some of your students may love the video game example. Lead a class discussion about the formation of the valley and the shape that is created. Discuss how a similar realistic shape was created in Minecraft.
Ask: How are cliffs formed?
Example: The waves may beat against a cliff.
Ask: Do you think the landscape on our Earth is permanent?
Example: I think the landscape is constantly changing and shapeshifting.
Ask: Does water have to be liquid to cause erosion?
Example: No, ice can scrape against rocks and mountains.
Wrap-up: We have seen that water can create some serious erosion. Things that seem permanent may be altered by water or ice. Do you think water or frozen water (ice) would alter the landscape:
i) more dramatically
ii) more quickly?
Discuss this with your partner. Explain whether you think the erosion caused by a glacier will also be shaped like a v.
Instruction day 5 (pages 141 - 142): Read and discuss
Summary: Read and do a mini activity
Lesson objective: Students will see how glaciers move and scrape through a valley, ultimately creating a U-shape.
Ice-cubes (you can color them blue or use a fun ice cube tray if you like)
A baking tray covered with anything greasy (vaseline, cooking oil, cooking spray etc.)
Something to prop the baking sheet on (like a stack of textbooks)
Material to create mountains (such as flour, dirt, sand, sugar, cocoa powder or whatever is available)
Magnifying glasses (optional)
Instructions with Guiding Questions:
Step 1: Grease the baking tray and model the mountains. Pat the ‘mountains’ down a little. If you do not mind the mess, you can let the students help. Otherwise, you can create the landscape in front of them as a demonstration. You might even want to model the landscape after a hilly or mountainous region near you. It is best not to have the mountains too high so that students can see the soil/flour being removed and deposited. Prop the baking sheet up so it has a slight slope.
Step 2: Give each group of students an ice cube in a paper or plastic cup (depending on how large your baking tray is, you may want 4 or 5 groups in your class).
Step 3: Let your students name their glacier and place it at the edge of the tray. Count down from 3 and allow them to release the glaciers and watch them slide down.
Step 4: If you have magnifying glasses, let students examine whether the tracks have a slight slope or gradient.
Ask: What tracks did your glacier make?
Ask: Did your glacier remove and deposit bits of the mountain in other places?
Explain: My glacier made a track as it moved down the mountains. I noticed that some dirt piled up in places it hadn’t been before and our landscape changed.
Ask: What happened when the glacier melted?
Explain: When the glacier melted, the water pooled up. I noticed more of a change in the terrain there.
Ask: How would the type of rock that water or frozen water is moving through change the type of landscape that is created?
Explain: When there is soft rock, such as sandstone, even water would create steep walls or cliffs. If I look at the edge of the tracks with a magnifying glass, I can see a slope.
Wrap-up: Draw what our landscape looked like after your glacier coursed through it in the margin of your journal. Label your glacier tracks and the places where you see the glacier changed the landscape most. Draw where you think a ‘U’ might have been formed.
Instruction day 6 (pages 143 - 144): Read and write
Summary: Read about the different types of valleys, and answer the questions.
Lesson objective: Students will examine different photographs of eroded valleys and provide logical evidence to determine if they were shaped by water or glaciers.
Wrap-up: Can you draw an imaginary valley with lots of animals, wildlife and a specific type of slope? Make your dream valley and exchange your picture with a partner. Ask him or her if they think a river or a glacier created it. Hear out their reasoning! Even if it’s not what you had in mind, they might make a compelling argument!
Instruction day 7 (pages 145 - 146): Read, discuss, and draw
Summary: Read about erosion caused by waves, draw, and watch a video.
Lesson Objective: Students will understand that coastal erosion is another form of erosion by water.
Instructions: Watch the following video with your students. You might want to mute it as the music is a bit gloomy. Point out examples of coastal erosion and different parts of the houses that might be most at-risk. Ask your students to imagine having a room overlooking the ocean as their bedroom, or how dangerous it might be to skateboard in some of these backyards!
Video: Costal Erosion
Sea stacks can be breathtakingly beautiful. At the time of writing this, there is only one professional sea stack climber. His name is Iain Miller. Talk to students about the shapes that the sea stacks might look like, what it might be like to climb them, and what types of extreme weather conditions Miller might have to face while he is climbing. Ask them if they think it’s easier to climb a sea stack or a mountain, and whether any of them would like to be sea stack climbers when they grow up!
Wrap-up: After watching and discussing the video, use the drawing task as a wrap-up. Before class ends, show students a bottle or beaker that you have clearly labeled and filled with water up to a specific line. Ask them all to examine where the water is and record the number in their brains. Tell them you are going to put this bottle/beaker in the freezer overnight. Say that remembering this number will be very, very important for the next class.
Instruction day 8 (pages 147 - 148): Read and discuss
Summary: Read about Ice wedging, discuss and watch a demonstration
Lesson Objective: Students will understand that ice wedging and wind can both cause erosion.
Instructions: Show students the beaker or water with frozen water. Ask them what the water level was yesterday and show them that it has risen. This is because water expands as it freezes. Explain to them that the water is taking up more space than before because it is frozen.
Ask: What if I had filled a mason jar up to the very top? What if I filled a ziplock bag full of some leftover soup and didn’t leave any room at all before freezing it?
Explain: The water would expand as it freezes. The water in your mason jar might spill over and your ziplock bag might burst. You would likely have a messy freezer.
Wrap-up: After reading the text, ask your students how the water experiment from the demonstration is linked to ice wedging. Ask them to think about the tiny particles of sand in the wind as mini sandpaper and Nature as a hardworking craftsperson creating these beautiful world of erosion art!
Instruction day 9 (pages 149 - 150): Read and discuss
Summary: Read about how erosion can make sedimentary rocks and discuss
Lesson Objective: Students will understand how the erosion of rocks can form new rocks and learn how sandstone is created. They will explore how the ridges, direction and color of sandstone can tell us about the past.
Ask: Which way was the wind blowing when the camel made its cake?
Example: I think the wind was probably blowing to the left.
Ask: We read previously that rivers can cut steep ridges through sandstone. Now that we know more about sandstone, why do you think that is?
Example: The sandstone is essentially sand that is compacted and cemented together underground. That could be why the water cuts through it easier.
Wrap-up: Draw arrows on the picture on page 149 to show the direction of the wind. Color the ridges where you think they would appear.
Instruction day 10 (pages 151 - 152): Read, discuss, and draw
Summary: Read about plant's effect on erosion, draw and identify erosion around school.
Lesson Objective: Students will learn that plant roots can slow down erosion.
Take a short walk around school, specifically in the playground, any muddy slopes and any field you may have nearby to identify any examples of erosion. While examples of the shiny part of a slide (where the paint may have worn off), or the erosion around a telephone pole are all valid observations, try to direct students’ attention to tracks in the mud or grass. It might be helpful to take a quick walk around your school before taking the students out so you can gently nudge them in this direction.
Covid adaptation: Ask students to notice examples of erosion near their houses, or their gardens if they have access.
Ask: What part of the plants slows erosion?
Example: The roots create a network underground and slow down erosion. They prevent the soil from being washed away by water.
Ask: Could any other part of the plants protect against any other form of erosion?
Example: Plant cover may also protect against wind erosion.
Wrap-up: Imagine you live in a mountainous area like the hillside in the picture. Think, pair and share with your partner about the type of protection against erosion you would try to get from plants. Would you plant big or little plants? Would you depend more on the roots in the rainy season or the windy season? Would you depend more on plant debris in the rainy season or the windy season? How would you check to see if your plan is working?
Instruction day 11 (pages 153 - 154): Read and discuss
Summary: Read about chemical erosion, discuss and conduct a demonstration
Lesson objective: Students learn that erosion can also be caused by rainfall and landslides.
Materials needed: Chalk (preferably chunky, jumbo chalk. Teachers of younger grades might have some at your school)
Vinegar, lemon juice or both
Ask: How did we see chemical erosion at the beginning of this unit?
Example: We saw the effervescent tablet dissolving slowly.
Ask: Why do you think chemical erosion creates such awesome shapes?
Example: I think the chemicals seep in at different speeds and create different patterns. The water probably soaks and seeps in underground ‘puddles’ that become caves.
Ask: How is rain related to landslides?
Example: The rain could make already unstable slopes to become mudslides or landslides. The rain is especially related to mudslides. When the dirt gets wet, it becomes mud!
Ask: Do you think the red and orange dirt in the Utah picture will stay this way forever?
Example: No, I think someone might come and remove it with bulldozers. But I also think that the water from the river will erode it. After all, erosion is all around us!
Step 1: Show students the fat end of the chalk. Explain to them that chalk is usually made out of limestone.
Step 2: Use the pipette to drop a few drops of water in the middle of the chalk. Ask students to look closely and help you record observations on the board.
Step 3: Now, use the pipette to drop some lemon juice or vinegar. Ask students to look closely and help you record observations on the board.
Step 4: Keep slowly dropping vinegar until a visible indentation forms and your students can see the fizzing bubbles.
After the Demonstration
Ask: Why did the lemon juice/vinegar cause erosion?
Example: We read that acid water seeps into the ground and erodes limestone. Lemon juice/vinegar are acidic. They reacted with the limestone (chalk) and started dissolving it to create a cave. The plain water didn’t do that.
Ask: If plain water didn’t erode the limestone, how do you think acid water gets into the rain?
Example: I have heard of acid rain. I think it’s because of pollution.
Wrap-up: Turn to a partner and explain how the dissolving chalk mimicked the way caves are formed in nature.
Instruction day 12 (pages 155 - 156): Read, write, and discuss
Summary: Read about sediments sliding, discuss, and answer the questions.
Lesson Objective: Students use data and logical reasoning to determine if slopes are safe or not. They also consider the effect of rainfall on stability.
Encourage students to consider both the slope and the possibility of rainfall. Remind them of the baking tray and ask them if adding more books to the stack would have changed their glacier tracks at all.
Wrap-up: Imagine you were the geologist asked if the houses were safe to build in the area that we saw in a video on Day 8. How would you figure that out and offer safe, helpful and reliable advice?
Instruction day 13 (pages 157 - 158): Read and STEM Vocabulary
Summary: Read about landslides, discuss, and complete the vocabulary activity.
Lesson objective: Students will learn more about how dangerous landslides can be and draw pictures for each of their STEM vocabulary words.
Let students add their ideas from the wrap-up activity yesterday, or anything else they have learned, in the space for reading notes.
Encourage students to draw pictures of things they saw themselves during demonstrations or activities in the unit.
Instruction day 14 (pages 159 - 160): Hands on Activity: Compare granite sand and granite
Summary: Lead a hands-on lab and fill out the Ven Diagram
Lesson objective: Students will examine the difference between granite sand and rock.
As students examine the similarities and differences, circulate and ask them what their findings may reveal about weathering and erosion in Kern Canyon. Accept unique answers as long as their line of reasoning corresponds with what they have learned in the text.
Wrap-up: Ask students to share the similarities and differences they found with the entire class.
Instruction day 15 (page 161): Writing Workshop
Summary: Show what you know and write
Lesson objective: Students will review what they have learnt and show what they know in a writing workshop
Introduction: As students write, encourage them to come up with creative mediums. For instance, would they like to write the autobiography of a grain of sand, and how it is both the reason for wind erosion and the product of erosion as well? Would they like to create a comic about a surging glacier? A slam poem by a v-shaped valley? A playscript about landsliding? The memoir of a cave? The song of a sand dune? A poem about the stability slope? A persuasive letter about acid rain? A thank you speech from the mountain to the plant roots? The sky is really the limit as long as students can demonstrate what they learned in the unit.
Ask: Do you see any erosion by water? Is it running water (a river), or frozen water (ice and glaciers)? Do you think there could be some frozen water (and ice wedging near the horizon)? What type of slope do you notice? Do you see anything that could actually be preventing erosion?
Example: Answers will vary.
Wrap-up: Ask students to share their writing. You may even display their pieces around your classroom or scan and compile them to make an erosion awareness brochure for your school.