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Lesson Plans
Making Mountains: An Erosion Lesson
3rd–5th Grade
Objective

Make observations and/or measurements to provide evidence of the effects of weathering or the rate of erosion by water, ice, wind, or vegetation.

Materials Needed
  • Erosion: Changing Earth’s Surface by Robin Koontz or Cracking Up: A Story About Erosion by Jacqui Bailey
  • Observation sheet
  • Rocks, gravel and sand
  • Plastic or metal trays (one for each group)
  • One-liter bottles of water (one for each group)
  • Rulers or tape measures (one for each group)


Preparation

Print an observation sheet for each student.



Introduction

Read aloud Erosion: Changing Earth’s Surface by Robin Koontz or Cracking Up: A Story About Erosion by Jacqui Bailey to introduce students to the process of erosion and how it affects Earth and its landforms.



Procedure

  1. Give each student an observation sheet.
  2. Tell students that they are going to work in small groups to construct a “mountain” out of rocks, gravel and sand, and then conduct an experiment to see how water erodes the mountain.
  3. Encourage students to fill in the “Our Question” section on the observation sheet to tell what question their experiment will answer (e.g., How can I make my mountain erode more slowly? or What type of mountain erodes more slowly?). Give students time to think and write.
  4. Explain that they will be pouring water from a one-liter bottle over the mountain to simulate water erosion.
  5. Give students time to fill in the “Our Materials” section on the observation sheet with information about the tools they will use for the experiment.
  6. Ask students what they think will happen. (Will they be able to build mountains that withstand the effects of the water? What effect will the water have on the mountains?)
  7. Encourage students to share their hypotheses. Give them time to write down what they think will happen in the “Our Hypothesis” section.


Guided Practice

  1. Divide the class into several small groups of three to four students.
  2. Provide each group with a plastic or metal tray along with rocks, gravel and sand for constructing their mountain.
  3. Encourage students to work together to build their mountain. Have them record their mountain designs in the “Our Design” section on the observation sheet.
  4. Give each group a ruler or tape measure and have them measure the height of their mountain.
  5. Give each group a one-liter bottle of water. Have one student in each group steadily pour the water over their mountain.
  6. Instruct students to measure the height of their mountain again to see if it has changed.
  7. Ask students to think about what they observed. (If the height measurements changed, why did they change? If not, why not? How does this simulation compare to real-life conditions of rainfall on mountains? What similarities and differences can we observe?)
  8. Encourage students to record the procedure (steps in the experiment) and the results (what happened and why they think it happened) in the “Our Procedure” and “Our Results” sections on the observation sheet.
  9. Invite students to share their ideas and discuss a variety of conclusions as to how and why some mountains eroded more than others. If necessary, help them connect their discussion with what they learned about erosion.

the 3rd–5th Grade lesson plan. (Includes all printable materials.)
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