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.

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

*Remind children that they must never look directly at the sun because it can harm their eyes.

Remind children 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. Where will their shadows be? 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


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