Grade 6: Earth's Changing Surface

Lessons at a Glance


Lesson 1: Looking for Changes to the Earth's Surface: Part 1

Big Idea: Landforms are the result of changes to the earth's surface.

Students think about whether the earth's surface changes. They tour the school grounds looking for evidence of change, then discuss the causes and period of time involved for the changes they observed.

 

Lesson 2: Looking at Landforms

Big Idea: Landforms are the result of changes to the earth's surface.

Students observe relief maps or globes and note the large landforms on them. To become familiar with the diversity of landforms on Earth, they examine and discuss photographs of various landforms and guess how they were formed.

 

Lesson 3: Rivers Shape the Land

Big Idea: Moving water, ice, and wind break down rock, transport materials, and build up the earth's surface.

Students explore how moving water can shape the earth's surface when they set up a model to simulate a river. They observe the pathways carved by water and how moving water carries sediment from one location to another. Then they identify the parts of a river. To conclude, students discuss their observations and consider how the process of water erosion and deposition shapes the earth's surface.

 

Lesson 4: Rivers Shape the Land in Different Ways

Big Idea: Moving water, ice, and wind break down rock, transport materials, and build up the earth's surface.

Students continue to explore how moving water can shape the earth's surface. They experiment with ways to alter a river's shape. Then they reflect on what they've learned from the exploration to better understand the factors that affect how moving water shapes the earth's surface and the landforms that can result.

 

Lesson 5: Abrasion Wears Down Rock

Big Idea: Moving water, ice, and wind break down rock, transport materials, and build up the earth's surface.

Students review their understanding of the processes that shape the earth's surface and build a foundation for future lessons. They review and discuss their observations of erosion and deposition over the past three lessons. Then they engage in a science talk about the question: "What happens to rocks over time?" Students further explore this question by conducting a simple investigation about abrasion. Finally, they begin an investigation to explore water's effect on abrasion.

 

Lesson 6: Glaciers Carve the Land

Big Idea: Moving water, ice, and wind break down rock, transport materials, and build up the earth's surface.

Students explore how glaciers shape the earth's surface. They use model glaciers to explore how glaciers abrade and erode the surface of the earth. Then they observe their melted glaciers to learn how glaciers deposit the sediment they carry and consider how glaciers have shaped the land in the past, and continue to do so today.

 

Lesson 7: Wind Erodes Hoodoos

Big Idea: Moving water, ice, and wind break down rock, transport materials, and build up the earth's surface.

Students examine pictures of landforms shaped by wind. They speculate about how wind shapes landforms through abrasion and erosion and then use a "windstorm" box to model windblown sand. They discuss their results and relate their findings to the images of wind-eroded landforms they observe at the beginning of the lesson.

 

Lesson 8: Wind Deposits Dunes

Big Idea: Moving water, ice, and wind break down rock, transport materials, and build up the earth's surface.

Children examine sand dunes and other landforms made by wind deposition and discuss how windblown materials can build up or erode the earth's surface. They use a "windstorm" box to model sand dune formation and to observe how plants help stabilize sand dunes. They share and discuss their exploration results and connect their observations to natural landforms built by wind deposition.

 

Lesson 9: Weathering Breaks Down Rock

Big Idea: The earth's rock is slowly weathered or broken down into smaller fragments.

Students discuss processes that weather rocks. They gain an appreciation of how "soft" rocks and "hard" rocks break down as they watch a variety of rocks get broken down, then observe and describe the results. Students also share observations they recorded about their rock jar investigations, and complete their investigations by observing, describing, and comparing the ways the various rocks abrade.

 

Lesson 10: Looking for Changes to the Earth's Surface: Part 2

Big Idea: Moving water, ice, and wind break down rock, transport materials, and build up the earth's surface.

Students take a walk around the school grounds to look for evidence of weathering, erosion, and deposition. They deepen their understanding of these processes by comparing their observations from today's walk with their observations from their walk in Lesson 1.

 

Lesson 11: Plate Movements Form Mountains

Big Idea: Movements of the earth's crust shape the surface of the earth.

Students explore how plate movements form mountains. They discuss how they think mountains form and learn about the layers of the earth. They are introduced to plate tectonics, and then model a consequence of plate movements -- the folded mountains that form when plates collide. They also compare two folded mountain chains: the Appalachians and the Himalayas.

 

Lesson 12: Volcanoes Build Up the Earth's Surface

Big Idea: Movements of the earth's crust shape the surface of the earth.

Students learn how some volcanoes are formed when magma that emerges from beneath the surface of the earth is deposited on the surface. They set up a model of a volcanic mountain. Then they simulate a volcanic eruption to see that lava deposited on the earth's surface builds up the earth's surface over time. They also discuss how moving water, ice, and wind weather and erode volcanoes.

 

Lesson 13: Touring Landforms

Big Idea: Landforms are the result of changes to the earth's surface.

Students take "virtual" field trips to view Bryce Canyon National Park and Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. They apply what they have learned about the processes that change earth's surface as they explore and make observations through photographs. Alternatively, students go on a field trip to observe local landforms.

 

Skill Building Activity: Observing and Describing

Big Idea: Observation is a powerful tool for learning about something. Detailed and accurate descriptions of your observations help you communicate them to others.

Students practice making accurate and detailed descriptions before and after observing a familiar object. They discover the importance of careful observation and detailed description in science.

 

Skill Building Activity: Reading Science Books

Big Idea: Paying attention to a book's organization can assist reading comprehension.

Students familiarize themselves with the organization and layout of the Earth's Changing Surface Student Reference Book. They are encouraged to look through each section before they begin reading so they can use visual and text cues -- such as headings, margin notes, and illustrations -- to help understand the material and its relationship to what they already know. Ongoing reading strategies to help children absorb new information and vocabulary are included at the end of the lesson.

 

Skill Building Activity: Using Models in Science

Big Idea: Scientists use models to represent things that are too big, small, fast, slow, far away, or dangerous to observe in the real world.

Students study various types of models and consider how they are used in science. They also make models of their own.