Teaching Ideas for How Weathering & Erosion Affect the Earth
Can your 4th Grade students explain the effects water, ice, wind, and vegetation have on landscapes? Do they understand how the locations of mountain ranges or ocean trenches show patterns in their formation?
In our post TEACHING IDEAS FOR THE HISTORY OF THE PLANET EARTH – EARTH SCIENCE, we highlighted fun experiments, videos, and books that you could use in teaching the age of the Earth. It included many resources on erosion and plate tectonics as well as fossils and the rock cycle.
In this post, we’ve collected more resources to explore erosion, weathering, and plate tectonics to help you explore the Earth’s systems with your students in greater detail.
As always, we design our Science Stations and the information in our teaching ideas blog posts to follow the Next Generation Science Standards.
If teaching with the NGSS is new for you, we have a couple of great blog posts to help you get started. How to Read the Next Generation Science Standards outlines where to start reading, interpreting, and teaching the NGSS. For 4th Grade Science, things can get a little more complicated, so we wrote Unpacking the 4th Grade Next Generation Science Standards. Give them both a look if you need help.
The ideas in this blog post align with the Next Generation Science Standards for Fourth Grade 4-ESS2-1, Weathering and Erosion, and 4-ESS2-2, Earth’s Features and Landforms. We cover 4-ESS2.A (Earth Materials and Systems), 4-ESS2.B (Plate Tectonics and Large-Scale System Interactions), and 4-ESS2.E (Biogeology).
Below is a description of how each individual Performance Expectation (PE) and Disciplinary Core Idea (DCI) align and relate to each other.
NGSS 4-ESS2 Earth Systems Science Standards
4-ESS2-1 Weathering and Erosion: Make observations and/or measurements to provide evidence of the effects of weathering or the rate of erosion by water, ice, wind, or vegetation.
Aligns with the first and third DCIs:
- ESS2.A: Earth Materials and Systems
- Rainfall helps to shape the land and affects the types of living things found in a region. Water, ice, wind, living organisms, and gravity break rocks, soils, and sediments into smaller particles and move them around.
- ESS2.E: Biogeology
- Living things affect the physical characteristics of their regions.
4-ESS2-2 Earth’s Features and Landforms: Analyze and interpret data from maps to describe patterns of Earth’s features.
Aligns with the second DCI:
- ESS2.B: Plate Tectonics and Large-Scale System Interactions
- The locations of mountain ranges, deep ocean trenches, ocean floor structures, earthquakes, and volcanoes occur in patterns. Most earthquakes and volcanoes occur in bands that are often along the boundaries between continents and oceans. Major mountain chains form inside continents or near their edges. Maps can help locate the different land and water features areas of Earth.
In addition to the science stations found in the related post on the History of the Earth, we have two science station bundles that cover all of the related standards for Earth’s Systems. Each one contains eight to twelve science stations with hands-on activities designed to engage students on a deeper level in understanding weathering, erosion, and plate tectonics. The bundles also include vocabulary cards to help students with core concepts.
Weathering and Erosion – Earth’s Materials and Systems, Biogeology Bundle includes the following stations:
Plate Tectonics – Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and Mountains Bundle includes the following stations:
Need more great ideas to make sure your students understand all of the standards for Earth’s systems? Look no further, we have you covered! Below are ideas for demonstrations and experiments, books, and videos to enhance your science lessons. And the best part, they’re free!
DEMONSTRATIONS AND EXPERIMENTS FOR LEARNING ABOUT EARTH’S SYSTEMS
The following demonstrations and experiments will engage students in deepening their understanding about maps, animal activity related to erosion, plate tectonics, and more!
LOCAL MAPS AND FIELD STUDIES
Do you live in an area prone to earthquakes? Or, do you have nearby mountain ranges? You can have students map out the fault lines for the earthquakes and research the types of earthquakes and fault lines that are more common in the area. Students can also research their local mountain ranges and find out how they were formed.
Bonus: If you live near a volcano, have your students find out everything they can about it, including when it last erupted. Have them find pictures before the eruption and after. Field trips to these areas are always a hit!
LOCAL ANIMAL ACTIVITY
Have students identify burrowing animals or animals that build dens (or dams) close to where you live. Challenge your students to safely collect evidence and discover how these animals are affecting the land around the area.
EGG-CELLENT PLATE TECTONICS ACTIVITY
Here is a quick demonstration/model of the earth’s crust and plate tectonic movement. Plus, PBS doing what PBS does best, there are a lot of extra links to research more information on plate tectonics. This is well worth a visit. Note: There is an activity on the website that requires Shockwave to run it.
EAST AFRICA’S GREAT RIFT VALLEY
On this site, students can read all about a geological phenomenon happening now that gives some weight to Plate Tectonic Theory. The movement of plate tectonics creating new plates? It is definitely worth the read, and a classroom discussion.
PBS PLATE TECTONIC LESSON PLAN
Geared toward the 6th-8th grade, this lesson plan from PBS can be easily adapted for your 4th-grade students. PBS put together a lesson plan full of activities and multimedia resources that will make your students plate tectonic experts!
EASY WEATHERING AND EROSION EXPERIMENTS
Here are four easy-to-create activities you can do with your students to explore different types of weathering and erosion. The page says it’s for 3rd grade, but each activity is engaging and challenging enough for any grade level.
Note: The activities are not set up as most experiment-focused webpages are (with the materials needed listed and instructions presented in a step-by-step method), but they’re easy enough to follow that it should not be a problem.
Have students walk around the school or local parks and write down evidence they find of erosion and weathering. Bonus idea: Make it into a scavenger hunt-style game! Make a list of different types of erosion and weathering and have your students find examples of each, taking pictures if they can.
PLOP! PLOP! FIZZ! FIZZ!
The Utah Education Network provides this lesson plan that will help your students understand the difference between physical and chemical weathering.
3-D LANDFORM MODELING
Get creative with your students and have them make paper-mâché, clay, play-doh, or edible versions of landforms like mountains, volcanoes, or features on the seafloor. Have students research what landform they would like to create and help them through their creative process.
PLATE TECTONICS JIGSAW
In this activity, students participate in a jigsaw of global proportions! This is a fun way that will get your students to recognize patterns in various landforms and plate boundaries. It’s an activity that will stay with them for a long time afterward.
BOOKS TO TEACH ABOUT EARTH’S SYSTEMS
Not only can you use your science block to teaching the NGSS standards, you can also use your reading block to build science and comprehension skills! Here are some books about tectonic plates, erosion, and weathering.
Plate Tectonics (Our Changing Earth)
Part of the Our Changing Earth series of Earth Science books, this is a simple, accessible way to introduce your students to the Theory of Plate Tectonics.
What is the Theory of Plate Tectonics?
A basic introduction to the Theory of Plate Tectonics and German scientist Alfred Wegener’s process that led him to develop the theory. It is a fascinating look into the theory and the man behind it.
Grand Canyon: A Trail Through Time
A beautiful look at one of the United States’ greatest treasures, the Grand Canyon. Full of stunning illustrations, this book is a great way to teach your students about weathering and erosion. It also takes a look at all the animals that call the Grand Canyon home.
Erosion: How Hugh Bennett Saved America’s Soil and Ended the Dust Bowl
Part of the award-winning Moments in Science series, Erosion takes a look at a little-known hero of science – Hugh Bennett. Hugh knew a lot about America’s soil and he knew how to protect it to help farmers. He just needed to convince politicians that it needed protection, particularly from erosion.
Cracking up: A Story About Erosion
This creative graphic novel tells the story of a cliff that becomes sand, and all that happens in between. Students will enjoy the unique way erosion is presented and learn a lot along the way.
Weathering and Erosion (Science Readers)
If you are looking for the perfect lesson companion when teaching your students about weathering and erosion, this book will not disappoint! It’s filled with detailed pictures, easy-to-read text, and an experiment to really make the science come alive for your students.
How Do Wind and Water Change Earth?
If you need a book that explains in easy-to-understand terms how wind and water shape our Earth, look no further! With a look at how erosion can change landforms and create new ones, this book will fascinate your students and create lively classroom discussions.
VIDEOS ABOUT THE EARTH’S SYSTEMS
We have included videos and activities for Earth’s Systems in our Science Stations. Those activities include differentiated questions and ways for students to respond to the videos.
Here are links to other great videos that your students will enjoy as they learn more about Earth’s Systems.
There are so many great videos on the SciShow Kids channel on YouTube, it can be hard to pick one! It’s a good thing we did the hard work for you! Here are some great videos on weathering and erosion:
Crash Course Kids
Crash Course Kids is another wonderful source of great videos that students love. They are fun, educational, and open up science concepts in ways that stick with students. Here are a couple of great videos on Earth’s Systems:
Generation Genius never fails to deliver on fun and education. Their videos are usually a hit with students.
How to Purchase our Science Stations
If you want some ready made teaching resources for your students to learn about these Earth Systems NGSS Standards, we have two bundles full of engaging hands-on activities. Click below to check them out!
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