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Work of Water Unit Share
Mystery 3 of 4
What’s strong enough to make a canyon?
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DISCUSS: Why do you think there are these CRACKS in the ground like this? What makes a canyon?

Canyon crack image

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DISCUSS: Can you think of an experiment that would let you figure out whether WATER could make a canyon?

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You've completed the Exploration & Activity!

If you have more time, view the assessment, reading, and extension activity in the extensions.

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Extensions

Below are ideas for extending this topic beyond the activity & exploration which you just completed.

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Readings

These readings are free with registration on ReadWorks, a nonprofit that provides Common-Core-aligned readings. All readings include comprehension questions.

  • Erosion describes how water, ice, and wind can slowly change the land (Grade 2)
  • A Grand Old Canyon tells the story of the most famous canyon in the United States—the Grand Canyon (Grade 2)
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More experiments with cornmeal “land”

Here are two more experiments to try with your cornmeal "land."

If you store your cornmeal “land” in a sealed food storage container, it will keep for at least two months without going bad. If it’s soggy, add cornmeal. If it dries out, add water.

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Activity: Cornmeal Landscapes

Have students work in pairs and use the cornmeal-and-salt “land” to make a landscape of their own design. Ask them to:

  • include some high land—a hill or a mountain or a plateau
  • include some low areas—valleys or plains or even a cave
  • choose where the cup will drip and predict what will happen
  • draw a “before” picture
  • try the experiment
  • document the changes by drawing an “after” picture
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Activity: Make a River (part 1)

Discuss:

How could you make a river that flows across a plate of cornmeal?

If you want to know how we did it at Mystery Science, go to Make a River (part 2).

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Activity: Make a River (part 2)

At Mystery Science, we knew that rivers flow downhill. So we filled a plate with cornmeal, tamping it down so it stayed put. Then we tilted the plate on another plate, and set up our drip stick. Here’s our river.

cornmealriver

You can try our method — or make up your own.

Return to Make a River (Part 1).

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Discuss:

When it rains here, where will the water go? Do you think the water will change the land? Why do you think that?

riversonbernal

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Background info: Rivers to the Sea

For more detailed background information and suggested activities, check out Rocks, Rivers, and the Changing Earth — a first book about geology, available free with registration on Epic!.

The first chapter, Rivers to the Sea, details the steps in a river’s journey, from rain falling in the mountains to the formation of a delta where the river flows into the sea. This is too advanced for most second graders, but great for older students or teachers.

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Image & Video Credits

Mystery Science respects the intellectual property rights of the owners of visual assets. We make every effort to use images and videos under appropriate licenses from the owner or by reaching out to the owner to get explicit permission. If you are the owner of a visual and believe we are using it without permission, please contact us—we will reply promptly and make things right.

Exploration
plains by The American Bazaar
Avalanche Canyon by Acroterion
kid looking out car window by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: Zurijeta
Rocky Mountain National Park by Vin Kohl
Grand Canyon by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: Bryan Busovicki
looking out at the Grand Canyon by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: kojihirano
kid exploring slot canyon by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: mhgstan
walkthrough of Lower Antelope Canyon by Prouisorsapientiae
slot canyon hike by Nature for Kids
South Napa earthquake by Dan Ponti (USGS)
Kumamoto, Japan earthquake by Image used under license from Alamy.com: Aflo Co. Ltd.
aerial view of Grand Canyon by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: Sam Chadwick
kid walking through slot canyon by Utah Physical Therapy - Lehi
Antelope Canyon flash flood by manzonbo
water splash by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: Fisher Photostudio
excavator by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: smereka
Lower Antelope Canyon flood by TheMrByrom
rafting in the Grand Canyon by Miguel Filipe
outpour from gutter by Habitat Gardens
ditch by USDA NRCS Photo Gallery
channel by Landscape Drainage Solutions
backyard erosion by Catholic Mom Apologia
Activity
flat mountain by Bluesnap
prairie dogs by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: nhtg
four prarie dogs by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: scooperdigital
Fry Canyon by Image used under license from Shutterstock.com: Malgorzata Litkowska
alluvial fan by NPS Archives (USGS)
coastal landslide by USGS
Overview
Grade 2nd
Topic Erosion & Earth’s Surface
Focus Erosion, Earth’s Surface, & Landforms
Print Prep
Activity Prep

In this Mystery, 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.

Preview activity

Number of students:
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
Cornmeal Canyons Prep Instructions printout Print 1 copy
How Did Water Change Your Land? printout Print 30 copies
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 Mystery

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

  • Save your cornmeal "land." Pour it back into the food storage containers and keep them covered until you teach the next Mystery.
  • Save your "drip sticks."
  • Save the plastic plates and all the Solo cups.
Overview
Grade 2nd
Topic Erosion & Earth’s Surface
Focus Erosion, Earth’s Surface, & Landforms
Extensions