Earth

Exploring our Physical World

To develop a sense of place we need an understanding of the Earth itself – the ground beneath our feet, the air we breathe, the water that fills our lakes, streams and oceans and the other living things that share our planet. We’ll look at the Earth’s geosphere when we study rocks and erosion, at the atmosphere when we learn about the blanket of air that surrounds us, and at the hydrosphere when we learn about the water cycle, winds, clouds, and weather. Throughout we’ll consider the biosphere, the living things in our world, and how they interact with the other components.

Our exploration starts with the sun, the engine that powers Earth’s major systems. In Sunlight and Shadow we’ll see how and why we experience day and night and the seasons, and we’ll consider how sunlight supplies the energy for photosynthesis, fuels the water cycle, and provides the right conditions for life. Beginning our study of the geosphere, in Erosion we’ll look at the process of erosion that has shaped and formed the Earth’s landforms over time by wearing away and carrying away rocks, soil, sand, and sediments, and depositing them in new places. We’ll look at how gravity, water, wind, and ice change the land, and we’ll consider the impact humans have as well. In Rocks and Minerals we’ll study the Earth’s crust, looking at rocks and learning how they’ve been formed and reformed, and at fossils, considering how they tell us about organisms and conditions in the past. We’ll examine minerals, testing their different properties as we try to identify them, and look at rocks we find outside for evidence of how they were made and how far they’ve traveled. Continue reading Earth

Earth Table of Contents

Earth – General Resourcesbooklet, bibliographies, etc. (password needed)

Earth – Vocabulary for Children

Earth – Vocabulary for Children

air  The mixture of gases that forms the earth’s atmosphere.

air pressure  The weight of air pressing on the earth; at sea level, about 14.7 pounds per square inch.

angle of repose  The greatest angle at which rocks, sand, or other material can remain without sliding.

anvil bone  The tiny bone in our middle ear, shaped like an anvil, that conducts sound waves to the stirrup bone.

auditory nerve  The nerve leading from the inner ear to the brain that allows us to hear different sounds. Continue reading Earth – Vocabulary for Children

Sunlight and Shadow – Background

The sun gives a rhythm to our lives – day follows night, shadows grow shorter and longer, the seasons follow a regular progression over the year. We are adapted to these daily and seasonal changes, and our lives are structured around them. Bats hunt at night and dragonflies in the daytime, leaves turn colors in the fall, buds swell in the spring. Whether plant or animal, diurnal or nocturnal, all living things depend on the sun for providing heat and light and making our planet habitable. Continue reading Sunlight and Shadow – Background

Sunlight and Shadow – Activities

**Caution: It is not safe to look directly at the sun!**

FOCUS: As the Earth spins on its axis and travels around the sun, we experience day and night and the seasons. The sun’s rays give us energy in the form of light and heat. Solar energy warms the Earth, fuels the water cycle, and generates our weather systems. It provides the energy for plants to carry out photosynthesis, the basis of food chains and webs, and the conditions in which living things can exist. Through engineering we can also harness the sun’s energy for our own uses.

INTRODUCTION
Objective: To begin to explore and ask questions about the sun.

Take children outside to do Eyes Closed and Tracing Shadows to begin with. You will revisit the shadow tracings later.

Materials: sidewalk chalk, one for every two students.

EYES-CLOSED*
*Remind children that they must never look directly at the sun for it can harm their eyes.
Objective: To notice how we can sense the direction of the sun even with our eyes closed.

Bring children outside. Remind them that looking directly at the sun can be harmful to their eyes. Have everyone close their eyes and turn slowly in a circle two times, and then stop when they feel the sun shining on the back of their heads. Continue reading Sunlight and Shadow – Activities

Sunlight and Shadow – Puppet Show

The Sun is Falling!

Characters: Gracie Grouse, Myrtle Turtle, Honeybee, Rosie Raspberry, Benjy Bear.

Gracie Grouse  Squawk, squawk! Look out, look out! The sun is falling! The sun is falling!

Myrtle Turtle: The sun is falling? How do you know, Gracie Grouse?

Grouse  How do I know? Why, it was high up above my head just a little while ago. And now look, it’s halfway down the sky. It must be falling down! Continue reading Sunlight and Shadow – Puppet Show

Sunlight and Shadow – Standards

SUNLIGHT AND SHADOW ALIGNMENT WITH
NEXT GENERATION SCIENCE STANDARDS

The activities in this unit help children understand the basic concepts in the Disciplinary Core Ideas listed here. You can use the following list as a guide for lesson planning. These Disciplinary Core Ideas are taken from Grade Band Endpoints in A Framework for K-12 Science Education. Additionally, our activities give children opportunities to engage in many of the Science and Engineering Practices and reflect on the Crosscutting Concepts as identified in the Next Generation Science Standards. Continue reading Sunlight and Shadow – Standards

Erosion – Background

The landscape around us is a patchwork of mountains and valleys, steep cliffs and gentle slopes, lakes, ponds, and puddles, stitched together with a network of rivers and streams. The features of our landscape tell a story about the process of erosion, in which landforms are worn away and their fragments carried off to another place. Jagged mountains became rolling hills, flat plains became deep river gorges, steep bluffs crumble into the sea.

Erosion is the process by which rocks and sediments are loosened and moved to different places on the Earth’s surface, where they may be deposited and become parts of other landforms, or buried to eventually become solid rock again. The agents of erosion – wind, water, ice, and gravity – are powerful forces constantly at work shaping and reshaping the land. Continue reading Erosion – Background

Erosion – Activities

FOCUS: Our study of the geosphere begins with a look at how, over time, the powerful agents of erosion have shaped and formed our landscape. Gravity, water, wind, and ice are constantly weathering, wearing away, and moving rocks, soil, sand, and sediments and depositing them elsewhere. We’ll also consider the impact humans have on erosion, deposition, and our ever-changing landscape.

INTRODUCTION
Objective: To begin to explore and ask questions about erosion.

Find a good example of erosion on the school grounds for children to visit, and ask children what they think is going on.

DROP BY DROP
Objective: To use a model to investigate the effects of water drops falling on bare soil.

Ask the children if they think that a drop of water could be an agent of erosion – could it move soil, sand, or fine sediment around? How could we find out? Continue reading Erosion – Activities

Erosion – Standards

EROSION ALIGNMENT WITH
NEXT GENERATION SCIENCE STANDARDS

The activities in this unit help children understand the basic concepts in the Disciplinary Core Ideas listed here. You can use the following list as a guide for lesson planning. These Disciplinary Core Ideas are taken from Grade Band Endpoints in A Framework for K-12 Science Education. Additionally, our activities give children opportunities to engage in many of the Science and Engineering Practices and reflect on the Crosscutting Concepts as identified in the Next Generation Science Standards. Continue reading Erosion – Standards

Rocks and Minerals – Background

Who hasn’t stopped to pick up a pebble, to admire or wonder about its color or texture, or just to toss it in your hand? Rocks speak to us, especially as children, and for some people, like geologists, sculptors, stone masons, and rock hounds, the fascination with rocks lasts a lifetime. Of course rocks can’t really talk, but they can tell us about the history of our rocky planet and its living creatures, if we know where and how to look.

Every pebble we find is part of the geosphere, the rocky covering of our planet. The Earth’s crust is a layer of rock from three to thirty miles thick that underlies Continue reading Rocks and Minerals – Background

Rocks and Minerals – Activities

FOCUS: Studying rocks helps us to piece together the story of how the geosphere, the Earth’s rocky outer layer, has been shaped and changed over time. We’ll meet some rocks that formed by three different processes, examine some minerals we find in rocks, and look for fossils of ancient creatures. Underlying all the Earth’s land and water, rocks provide a foundation that supports the living world, gives clues about past life forms, and provides us with many materials that we use in our everyday lives.

INTRODUCTION
Objective: To begin to explore and ask questions about rocks and minerals.

In small groups, have the children sit in a circle. Give each child a paper sandwich bag containing a small rock. Have the children feel their rock without looking at it, noticing its smoothness, texture, any irregularities in the shape, if the edges seem rounded or sharp etc. Then, on the count of three, have the children put their bag in front of the person on their right. Now have them feel the pebble in their new bag, pass again, and repeat until everyone has had a chance to feel three or four different rocks. Finally, let the children take the rock they have out of the bag to look at it. Have them set all the rocks out in front of them so everyone can admire the whole collection. Ask children for ideas about why rocks can be so different from each other.

Materials: brown paper lunch bags, small rocks (from one to four inches in diameter) with different textures and shapes, one per student.

STATIONS: The following three activities are best done in small groups and so could be set up as stations: Rocks Up Close, Fossil Fun, and Mineral Mysteries or Upper Grades Challenge: Testing Minerals.

ROCKS UP CLOSE
Objective: To examine granite, looking for the mineral crystals in it, and meet some other rocks.

Give each child a piece of granite to examine with a magnifying lens, looking for the different-colored mineral crystals in the rock. Continue reading Rocks and Minerals – Activities

Rocks and Minerals – Puppet Show

The Rock Stars

Characters: Girl, Rock Hound, Granny Granite, Sandy Sandstone, Nora Gneiss.

Props: Sign with the word “GNEISS”; sunglasses attached to back side of rock puppets

Girl  Out you go, Howie, but remember, no digging for bones in the yard! (exits)

Rock Hound  Bones? I’m not digging for bones. I’m a Rock Hound and I’m digging for rocks! (sniffs) I think there’s one here – I’ll just dig a tiny little hole… (Granite appears) And here’s a rock with nice speckles – gray, black, white… Continue reading Rocks and Minerals – Puppet Show

Rocks and Minerals – Standards

ROCKS AND MINERALS ALIGNMENT WITH
NEXT GENERATION SCIENCE STANDARDS

The activities in this unit help children understand the basic concepts in the Disciplinary Core Ideas listed here. You can use the following list as a guide for lesson planning. These Disciplinary Core Ideas are taken from Grade Band Endpoints in A Framework for K-12 Science Education. Additionally, our activities give children opportunities to engage in many of the Science and Engineering Practices and reflect on the Crosscutting Concepts as identified in the Next Generation Science Standards. Continue reading Rocks and Minerals – Standards

Blanket of Air – Background

The Earth’s atmosphere, the layer of air that surrounds the planet, is a protective blanket that shields us from harmful radiation and traps heat energy, storing warmth from the sun and keeping temperatures in a range that makes life possible. Animals need air to breathe, plants need it for photosynthesis, and living things also use air to fly, carry scents and sounds, and keep warm. With its many functions in our lives, it’s worthwhile exploring the nature of air.

Held in place by Earth’s gravity, the atmosphere is an envelope of air that extends outward from the surface for some 500 miles, becoming thinner and sparser with distance. Dry air is composed primarily of three gases, with nitrogen making up Continue reading Blanket of Air – Background