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Science curriculum for K—5th grades.

90 sec
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Work of Water

Erosion & Earth’s Surface

1st Grade, 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade

NGSS Standards covered: K-2-ETS1-3 , K-2-ETS1-1 , 2-ESS2-1 , 2-ESS2-2 , K-2-ETS1-2 , 2-ESS2-3 , 2-ESS1-1
In this unit, students explore how water shapes the Earth's surface. Students construct and use models of mountains to demonstrate that water flows downhill, and in the process, transforms huge rocks into the tiny grains of sand we find at the beach. Students also construct and use model hills to determine the causes of erosion, and to design solutions to problems caused by erosion. Less
  1. Lessons
  2. Activity Prep
  3. Assessments

Lesson 1: Mapping & Earth's Surface Features

Paper Mountains

In this lesson, students develop a model of the earth’s surface and use it to discover an important principle about how rivers work. In the activity, Paper Mountains, students take turns using a spray bottle to make rain fall on paper models of mountains to observe patterns of how water and rivers flow.

Number of students:
“This is ______’s land” printout Print 15 copies
Blank Paper (8.5 x 11")
Recycled is fine as long as one side is blank.
Details
30 sheets
Markers
Ideally dark blue or dark green. Choose a color that looks like water.
Details
15 markers
Table Covering (eg. Trash Bags)
16 bags
Dot Stickers
We prefer stickers because they are easier to distribute in a classroom. Tape also works.
Details
60 stickers
Spray Bottles
8 bottles
Prep Instructions

We suggest students work in pairs. Homeschool students can work alone.

Students will need to cover their workspaces with plastic trash bags or table covers. Alternatively, students can work outside when they are spraying their paper mountains with water.

If students want to keep their models, be sure to give the models time to dry.

Lesson 2: Rocks, Sand, & Erosion

Rocking the River

In this lesson, students investigate the effects of rocks tumbling in a river. Based on their observations, they construct an explanation for why there is sand at a beach. In the activity, Rocking the River, students pretend to be a river and tear up pieces of construction paper to model what happens to rocks as they travel along the river.

Number of students:
Draw the River Rocks worksheet 30 copies
River (5 sheets) printout Print 8 copies
Colored Construction Paper
24 sheets
Prep Instructions

We suggest students work in groups of four. Homeschool students can work alone.

Prepare “Paper Boulders”

Cut or tear each sheet of construction paper into about 12 pieces. We used a paper cutter to cut many sheets at the same time, making irregularly shaped pieces, but tearing or cutting with scissors will also work.

randomly cut paper

Each group (or single homeschool student) should start with 3 sheets worth of boulders (about 36). We recommend providing plenty of boulders at the beginning so that the students will still have large boulders at the end of the activity. That way, students will be able to see how the sizes of the rocks change as they move downstream.

Lesson 3: Erosion, Earth’s Surface, & Landforms

Cornmeal Canyons

In this lesson, students make hypotheses and investigate the causes of canyons. In the activity, Cornmeal Canyons, students create a model landform using cornmeal. Then they drip water over this “land” to observe how water can change its shape and to understand how, over long periods of time, canyons can be formed through a similar process.

Number of students:
Cornmeal Canyons Prep Instructions teacher-only resource 1 copy
How Did Water Change Your Land? worksheet 30 copies
Clean-up Supplies (Eg. Paper Towels)
1 roll
Mixing Bowl
1 bowl
Rulers
15 rulers
Table Covering (eg. Trash Bags)
16 bags
Cornmeal
8 cups
Dixie Cups (3 oz)
60 cups
Measuring Cup
1 cup
Paper Plates
15 plates
Plastic Containers w/ Lids
Each container must be large enough to hold about 1 cup of cornmeal “land.”
Details
8 containers
Plastic Plates (10")
15 plates
Plastic Spoons
30 spoons
Push Pins
1 pin
Salt
3 cups
Small Binder Clips (3/4")
30 clips
Solo Cups (9 oz)
45 cups
Plastic Cups (1 oz)
15 cups
Sticky Tack
15 strips
Prep Instructions

You will need access to water for this activity.

Students will need to cover their workspaces with a table covering (e.g., trash bag) in case of spills.

We suggest students work in pairs and share materials with another pair of students at the same table cluster. Homeschool students can work on their own.

Prepare the Cornmeal “Land" and "Drip Sticks" Before Class

For each group of four students, you’ll need to prepare a container of cornmeal “land." For each pair of students, you'll need to prepare a "drip stick." This will take about 15 minutes. You need a pushpin, a permanent marker, a mixing bowl, and a measuring cup. Here are instructions.

Fill Solo Cups with Water

Two Solo cups will be used to support each pair's "drip stick" apparatus. For each pair of students, fill another Solo cup about halfway with water.

Organize Materials for Distribution

We suggest that you create supply distribution stations for students. In the first part of the activity, students will need the following supplies: Activity Prep 1

After students set up their cornmeal “land,” students will need the following additional materials: Activity Prep 2

Save Materials for the Next Lesson

If you plan to teach the next lesson in this unit:

  • Save your cornmeal "land." Pour it back into the food storage containers and keep them covered until you teach the next lesson.
  • Save your "drip sticks."
  • Save the plastic plates and all the Solo cups.

Lesson 4: Erosion & Engineering

Erosion Engineering

In this lesson, students compare multiple solutions for preventing erosion. In the activity, Erosion Engineering, they design and test ways to keep water from washing away a hill modeled out of cornmeal.

Number of students:
Erosion Engineering Prep Instructions worksheet 1 copy
Save the Hills worksheet 30 copies
Clean-up Supplies (Eg. Paper Towels)
1 roll
Containers of Cornmeal Land from Lesson 3
If you have not yet prepared Cornmeal Land, you can find instructions here.
Details
8 containers
Drip Sticks from Lesson 3
If you have not yet prepared "drip sticks", you can find instructions here.
Details
15 drip sticks
Table Covering (eg. Trash Bags)
16 bags
Aluminum Foil
1 foot
Cotton Balls
150 balls
Dixie Cups (3 oz)
30 cups
Paper Plates
30 plates
Paper Towels
15 sheets
Plastic Plates (10")
30 plates
Solo Cups (9 oz)
45 cups
Toothpicks
150 toothpicks
Prep Instructions

You will need access to water for this activity.

Students will need to cover their workspaces with a table covering (e.g., trash bag) in case of spills.

We suggest students work in pairs and share materials with another pair of students at the same table. Homeschool students can work on their own.

Prepare the Cornmeal “Land” and “Drip Sticks” Before Class

For each group of four students, you’ll need a container of the cornmeal “land” that you made for Lesson 3. Each pair of students will also need a “drip stick" that you made for Lesson 3. (If you have not taught Lesson 3, you will need to make cornmeal “land” and "drip sticks." Here’s how .)

Prepare Aluminum Foil and Paper Towel Strips

Each pair of students will need two small squares of aluminum foil (about 1½” squares), and four paper towel strips (each strip should be about 1” x 5”).

Organize Materials for Distribution

We suggest that you create supply distribution stations for students. In the first part of the activity, each student will need the following supplies:

Erosion Engineering Pt 1 Supplies

In the second part of the activity, students will work in pairs to protect their cornmeal hill from erosion. To create their erosion protectors, each pair of students will need the following additional materials:

Erosion Engineering Pt 2 Supplies

In the third part of the activity, students use "drip sticks" to create rainstorms over their cornmeal hills. Each pair of students will need the following additional materials:

Erosion Engineering Pt 3 Supplies