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Here’s another large, well-developed unit; this one is on Erosion


Science, Social Studies  


4, 5, 6  

Title – Unit on Erosion
By – Ray Mangione
Subject – Science, Social Studies
Grade Level – 4-6

Use these student worksheets .

I. Preplanning:

A. Intended Learning Outcomes

Students will be able to…

1. predict the outcomes of various means of erosion.
2. identify different types of erosion.
3. identify effect of chemicals on land.
4. identify effect of wind on land.
5. identify effect of ice on land.
6. identify effect of water on land.
7. identify effect of temperature on land.
8. compare the effects of different types of erosion
9. distinguish variables that influence rate of change.
10. demonstrate proper handling of sternos.
11. design & build what they believe to be the strongest mountain.
12. formulate cooperatively a building plan.
13. explain what watering will do to their mountain.
14. describe building strategies to class.
15. express whether people can change rate of erosion of structures.
16. recognize examples of erosion in nature and civilization.

B. Concepts Identified & Operationally Defined

1. Erosion – the wearing away of the surface of the earth, continuous process.
2. Weathering – gradual physical and chemical wearing away of rocks.

C. Rationale

Children love the outdoors regardless of whether they are in their backyards or meandering through a city, state, or national park. Yet few children understand the geographical features of the landscapes they find so fascinating. Erosion represents a significant force in the creation of these landscapes. Learning about erosion will help children to not only identify one factor that sculpts the earth’s surface, but students will also be able to strategize means to preserve our natural treasures.
Natural wonders are not the only structures that merit saving, but many man made structures benefit from scientists’ understanding of erosion. The quality of sidewalks and roads each depend upon our understanding of erosive forces. Numerous accidents each year could be prevented if our technology to guard against such forces improved. Erosion causes great personal and monetary damage each year due to landslides, overflowing rivers, acid rain, and extreme temperature changes. Developing better methods and materials to deal with such disasters could save money and, more importantly, lives.
Later on, students will benefit from knowledge about erosion in their earth sciences and chemistry classes. Erosion encompasses numerous physical forces that constitute the foundation for more advanced earth science study. Such knowledge is also applicable to the study of geography, geology, meteorology, climatology, biology, and even history. A career in any of these diverse fields will require, at least, a rudimentary knowledge of erosion. Furthermore, hypothesizing solutions to posed problems is a skill that is pertinent to most human endeavors.

II. Engagement

A. Discrepant Event (Activity 1 – Chemical Erosion):

1. I will place a piece of flat limestone into a glass tray. I will then get students, who are gathered around our experiment table to guess out loud what they think will happen when I add drops of an unknown liquid (dilute hydrochloric acid) to the limestone.
2. I will add drops from time to time for several minutes asking students to describe what they observe (fizzing, discovering that a hole is slowly forming).
3. I will ask students for hypotheses as to why they think such a reaction occurred and I will write these on the board.

Source: Friedl, Alfred E. (1997). Teaching science to children: An inquiry approach. New
York: McGraw-Hill Companies. pp. 206-207.

III. Exploration

A. The above experiment will be conducted by students in groups except they will use vinegar dribbled on chalk (this time they will be informed of the ingredients they are using). They will predict what will happen when the vinegar is added and they will again hypothesize as to why such a reaction occurred.

B. I will direct students by writing the following on the board:
1. Place your chalk into the plastic container.
2. Slowly add drops of vinegar using the eye dropper.
3. Record your observations.
4. As a group, discuss why you think such a reaction occurred.

Students will be using vinegar and chalk because of safety concerns. Nevertheless, I will ask them to be careful not to spill the liquid and ask what safety procedures they would follow if they were using an unknown liquid (wafting if smelling required, using plastic gloves, wearing a smock, immediately seeking me out if a spill occurs or if someone spills some on themselves).

C. Grouping

I will have students count off by fives with groups formed by all the ones, twos threes, etc. Then once groups are formed, I will have students count off by five in their group. Each number will correspond to a specific assignment within the group:

5 = Principal investigator: if the group has any questions, they should first consult this person; this person also conducts the experiment when appropriate.
4 = Materials manager: this person collects and puts away materials needed for experiment.
3 = Safety manager: this person collects and puts away any safety materials the group might need, such as plastic gloves, smocks, or goggles.
2 = Recorder: this person records group data and helps put away materials.
1 = Reporter: this person reports data to the class and helps put away safety materials.

These groups will remain the same throughout the unit on erosion. Yet, I will be sure to change groups from unit to unit. This practice ensures that students will work with every classmate which might be necessary to encourage ethnic, racial, or gender interaction. I assign specific duties in groups to discourage arguing over who gets to do what. Assigning duties should also increase the efficiency of gathering and putting away materials. To make things as equitable as possible, for each experiment students will change job duties. For example, for experiment number two of this unit, number 5 becomes number 1, 2 becomes 3, 3 becomes 4, and so on. This will ensure that students do not grouse about not being the principal investigator because they know that their turn is coming.

D. Materials (for entire unit):

Activity 1: Glass tray, plastic tray, chalk, diluted hydrochloric acid, vinegar, science journals (handout containing prediction sheet, building plan sheet, result sheet), pencil, and paper.

Activity 2: Nonoily clay (not modeling clay), tray or pan, outdoor water hose, pebbles, coins, plastic chips, pencil, paper, science journals.

Activity 3: Cardboard box with top and one side removed, sand, pencil, paper, water, plastic chips, pebbles, coins, science data journals.

Activity 4: Ice cubes, sand, modeling clay, paper towel, pencil, paper, science journals.

Activity 5: 1 can of sterno per group, matches, stand, Pyrex beakers, marbles, cups of ice, cups of water, non metal tongs, goggles, science journal.

Activity 6: Dish pans, potting soil, rocks, plastic chips, ice cubes, sand, water, watering can, science journals.

IV. Explanation

A. At the end of the first activity, we will discuss as a class the results and ask students for hypotheses and explanations as to why they think their hypotheses might be correct.

Some specific questions for Activity 1, our discrepant event:

– What do you think the unknown liquid might be?
– Why do you think the acid ate a hole in the limestone?
– What happened when you dropped the vinegar on the chalk?
– Why do you think this happened?
– What materials do you think would react the same way as the chalk and limestone?
– What type of reaction do you think occurred in these two experiments?

After asking the above, I’ll reveal the answer, a chemical reaction, and introduce the unit on erosion. I will then ask students what a chemical reaction is and explain it so they understand the process of chemical erosion more clearly. I will then introduce the science notebooks which are designed specifically for this unit (See Attachment A). These notebooks will also be used for assessment, but will now be discussed solely in an explanatory context. Each activity will be represented by a page eliciting student predictions, observations, and hypotheses. This page will be followed by a page for notes listing certain questions and leaving space for student questions. This will help students focus on specific topics and get them to write questions that they would like answered.
After the science journal is handed out, I will introduce the terms erosion and weathering by asking if anyone can cite any examples of either. If no one is able to give any, I’ll tell them not to worry because we are all going to know plenty about them by the time the unit is over. Finally, I’ll present them with a few pictorial examples of chemical erosion (Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, and results of acid rain).

For questions relating to the rest of the activities, see the individual activities listed in the “Elaboration” section. Please also look through the science journal presented as Attachment A to find many more questions.

V. Elaboration:

NOTE: Predictions and a brief discussion of why students made such predictions will be recorded and discussed prior to every activity.
Observations will be recorded during every activity and discussed afterwards.
Hypotheses will be recorded after every activity and discussed afterwards.

A. Activity 2 – Water Erosion
1. Before class I will form a mound of nonoily clay into a level mass about 5-10 centimeters across and I will place it into a tray or large pan.
2. Pebbles, coins, and plastic chips will be pressed into the top surface of the clay.
3. The entire class will follow me outside where I will lightly spray the clay from above.
4. Students should note in their science journals how the spray washes away the clay while the pebbles, coins, and plastic chips cause pinnacles to form. They should be able to infer that the harder surfaces are more durable in the face of water erosion.

– What caused the clay to run off?
– Why did the pinnacles form?
– What other materials might have protected the clay?
– Can you think of any examples of such pinnacle formations in nature?
– What other examples of water erosion can you think of?

I will show pictures of formations at the Grand Canyon, Grand Tetons National Park, and Monuments National Park. I will also try to get students to consider water erosion in the form of rivers moving soil using the deadly example of China’s Yellow River in 1887 (a brief article along with some pictures and discussion will have to suffice). A discussion of deforestation would also appropriately follow this lesson.

Source: Friedl, Alfred E. (1997). Teaching science to children: An inquiry approach. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies. pp. 206-207.

Activity 3 – Wind Erosion

1. Every group will have a box with its top and one side removed. A pile of sand will then be formed in the center of the box bottom.
2. Children will be instructed to blow lightly over the sand from the open side of the box.
3. Students will record their results.
4. Students will then be asked to reform their sand piles and will be given a choice of materials (water, plastic chips, pebbles, coins) to choose from to try and prevent the sand from moving.
5. Students will again be instructed to blow and record their observations.

– What happened to the sand as you blew?
– Could you make the whole pile move if you blew long enough?
– What materials did you choose to add to your reformed piles and why did you choose these materials?
– What was the effect after you added these materials and blew?
– Can you think of any examples of wind erosion in nature?
I will bring in pictures of sand dunes from the Sahara and Kalahari Deserts in Africa, the Gobi in China, and the Patagonia in Argentina. I will also draw student attention to the fact that wind erosion has also contributed to our pictorial examples of last week. I would also bring up the Dust Bowl, the man-caused environmental disaster of the 1930s.

Source: Stetsko, Dorothy. Encarta Schoolhouse. “Erosion.”

Activity 4 – Glacier Erosion

1. Students will press an ice cube against the flat surface of modeling clay and move it back and forth several times and record observations.
2. Students should then place a small pile of sand on the clay. The ice cube should be placed on top of the sand and left for one minute.
3. Students should then pick up the ice cube and observe the surface of the cube that was touching the sand and again record their observations.
4. The same side of the ice cube should then be placed on the sandy part of the clay and moved back and forth several times.
5. The ice cube should be removed, the sand should be wiped away from the surface of the clay, and the clay’s surface texture should be recorded.

– What happened to the clay the first time you wiped the cube against it?
– What happened to the ice cube after it sat on the on the sand?
– What did the surface of the clay look like after you rubbed the cube against it the second time?
– Does glacial erosion still occur today or is it just an ice age phenomena?
– Can you give any examples of Glacier erosion?

I will bring in pictures of Hubbard Glacier in Alaska and a picture of the Matterhorn in Switzerland, a geographical anomaly produced by glaciers. We will also discuss how glaciers exist in every Mountain chain in the world including the Andes, Himalayas, and Alps. A brief presentation on how a glacier is formed will also given.

Source: Stetsko, Dorothy. Encarta Schoolhouse. “Erosion.”

Activity 5 – Temperature Erosion

1. Safety rules will be thoroughly reviewed before this lesson because we are using sternos. I will light the sterno. Students should wear goggles. Methods of extinguishing the sternos will be discussed. A warning against touching the sterno will be given. Sleeves will also be raised and jewelry will be removed to prevent accidents. Students will also be told to keep two feet on the floor to prevent them from getting too close to the fire or cooking marble.
2. Students should set up a stand holding a Pyrex beaker. Their marble should be placed in the beaker and they should have a cup of water and ice nearby.
3. I will come around and light each sterno. Students are asked to monitor the fire and marble for 5 minutes.
4. After 5 minutes the principal investigator should use tongs to place the marble in a glass of water and then into the jar full of ice. The safety manager should simultaneously extinguish the sterno.

– What happened to the marbles?
– What do you think caused the marbles to crack?
– Can you give examples of temperature erosion?
– How might we prevent erosion due to temperature?

As a class we will go outside and observe the sidewalk and driveway noting the cracks perhaps due to temperature erosion. I will also draw their attention to the grooves in the sidewalk to prevent temperature erosion. I will also note the pictures we viewed of the American Midwest and the picture on the cover of their science journals as examples of temperature erosion.

Source: Brune, Sheila. The Lessons Plans Page. “Landforms and Weathering.”

B. Interdisciplinary Activities

Reading: As a class we will read Karen Hesse’s Out of the Dust (1997). The tragedy of the Dust Bowl is experienced through the eyes of Billie Jo, an adolescent living in Oklahoma in the 1930s.

Writing: Our creative writing project for this time period will involve the students creating brochure to entice visitors to the Grand Canyon. Recent vocabulary and grammar will be stressed. A section discussing the formation of the canyon will also be mandatory. Students will also be encouraged to use information from our social studies unit which will focus on the native American Anasazi cliff dwellers and other native Americans of the region, including the Havasupai. Students will be allowed to use the Internet, books which I’ll provide, or information from other classes to complete this assignment.

Social Studies: We will begin a unit on native Americans with special attention paid to the Anasazi cliff dwellers which inhabited areas of Grand Canyon National Park

Art: We could make “acid” rain sticks or normal rain sticks which could also tie in with our social studies unit.

VI. Evaluation

Activity 6 – Mountain Building – Assessment

A page titled “Building Plan Sheet” and a follow up sheet of questions are included in students’ science journals. These sheets refer to the final activity which, along with the quality of students’ responses to “Extension Questions” also in the science journals, will determine the greatest part of students’ grades for the unit.

1. The five groups will be asked to build a mountain which they believe will best hold up to a watering can full of water being poured over their structure. One group will be assigned to build their mountain out of sand, one group will use rocks and a small amount of sand, one group will use soil, and two groups will be able to use any combination. All groups will have access to a certain number of plastic chips, pebbles, ice cubes.
2. The groups must devise a building plan writing down all suggestions (See science journal). The groups must also write down what their final building plan consists of and why they think this is the best structure to withstand the water.
3. Students will be allowed to observe all groups’ completed structures and make predictions which I’ll record on the board.
4. The students should then build their mountains, after which I will empty a watering can of water onto them.
5. Students must record the results and explain why they think such an outcome occurred. Then students must suggest improvements to their structure and explain why they think such improvements will be beneficial.

See Science Journal. We will spend some time discussing the results of each individual group’s mountain test and compare them to our predictions which were recorded on the board.

Source: Walker, Tom. AskERIC Lesson Plan. “Mountain Building.”

The quality of their science journals will determine the greatest part of students’ grades for the unit. The other determinant of students’ grades will be articipation/cooperation and following directions. The grading sheet will comprise the last page of their science journals.

Use these student worksheets (Attachment A).

E-Mail Ray !

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