Help your students discover the power of wind, water, and ice when it comes to slow changes to Earth’s surface. Science has its fair share of mind-blowing wonders that can leave students (and teachers!) in complete awe. Think about the Grand Canyon’s jaw-dropping beauty or the Rocky Mountains’ breathtaking scenery. Teaching students how these incredible natural formations were created lures them in as it taps into their natural curiosity and wonder. They’re often fascinated by the concept itself and love exploring and talking about it.
Working in stations to learn about slow changes to Earth’s surface is a great way to focus on this particular topic. It fosters a collaborative learning environment where students can actively participate, share ideas, and learn from one another. Working in small groups also promotes effective communication, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.
Slow Changes to Earth’s Surface Worksheets and Lesson Plan
- Landform Formation Cards (16 cards)
- Copies of student worksheets
The four landforms your students will be focusing on are deltas, canyons, glacial valleys, and sand dunes. This activity consists of four stations that student groups rotate through.
- Make copies of the Landform Formation Cards
- Laminate for durability and cut the cards apart.
- Then place the cards for each landform into separate zip-top bags.
- When finished with the bags, create space in your classroom for 4 groups of students. Or 8 groups if you made 2 sets of stations to keep the groups small.
- Make copies of the student worksheets. One per student.
- Start by observing and discussing the Landform Formation Cards at your station. What is each card showing?
- Decide the order the cards should go in to show the slow changes to Earth’s surface as the landform was created.
- Then set the cards out in that order.
- On the student worksheets, students work together to write one sentence describing what is causing Earth’s surface changes (wind, water, or ice) pictured in each card. When finished, the four sentences together will describe how that landform was created by slow changes to Earth’s surface.
- Next, students will answer each question about that particular landform on their student worksheets. Encourage students to discuss their thoughts as a group before writing their answers. This will help all students understand. Those that have a firm grasp will solidify their understanding by articulating it to others. Students who struggle will benefit from hearing their peers talk about concepts in a way that may help fill the gaps they have on the topic.
- Once students have filled out the answers to their first landform, ask each group to rotate to their next station.
- Repeat this process for each of the four landforms in this lesson.
Slow Changes to Earth’s Surface Wrap Up
Once the students have rotated through all four stations, bring the class back together. Then call on students from each group to share the sentences their group came up with. Allow time for other groups to give feedback. Are their responses all the same? Did they describe them differently? Why would this be?
Then spend some time asking students follow-up questions to gauge their understanding. Use student engagement strategies that create opportunities for all students to participate.
- How do weathering, erosion, and deposition contribute to the formation of each of these landforms?
- Why is it important to understand how landforms are formed? Why does it matter to us?
- Use what you know about how wind, water, and ice can cause Earth’s surface changes like these to infer how other landforms were formed (plateaus, beaches, gorges, etc.).
Slow Changes to Earth’s Surface Extension Ideas
Once students have a solid understanding of how Earth’s surface changes, there are many quick and engaging activities that can help this concept sink in a little more.
- Groups of students create a poster showing how wind, water, or ice makes one of the landforms talked about in this lesson.
- Keep the collaborative work going with a fun review board game or escape room.
- Have students make a model of one of the slow changes to Earth’s surface out of playdough or clay and write a summary of how it was formed.
- Students create a triple Venn diagram comparing how wind, water, and ice make slow changes to Earth’s surface.
- Students choose either delta, canyon, glacial valley, or sand dune. They write a short story or cartoon from the perspective of a piece of sediment from their chosen landform. They think about what would happen as it goes through the process of weathering, erosion, and deposition on its way to becoming part of that particular landform.
By participating in these collaborative activities and discussions, students get to share their excitement, exchange ideas, and learn from one another. And that’s exactly what science should be all about!