Students will learn about erosion.
- Potting tray (without
holes) 21" x 8"
- 3 20 oz. bottles of water
- 10 2-liter bottles
- Potting soil
- Paper cups
- Small plastic toys
- Artificial turf (cut in
3" x 5" pieces)
- 5 plastic baggies
- Measuring tapes
- Stop watch
- Paper towels
- Mountain Dance, by Thomas Locker; ISBN 152026223
- The Unfolding River, by Michael March; ISBN 1561381160
- The Mountain that Loved a Bird, by Alice McLerran;
- The Mud Family, by Betsy James; ISBN 0195124790
Background for Teachers
How does erosion move and change the shape of Earth?
All along mountains and hillsides,
weathering is breaking down rock
into small pieces. These pieces can be sand, gravel, or small bits of clay.
As this material is broken up, it is moved by erosion from place to place.
The agents of erosion include gravity, moving water, ice, waves, and
wind. Deposition is the process of laying the weathered material, called
sediments, in a new location.
Running water is a major cause of erosion. Stones carried with a
river’s current scour and abrade the banks and beds. Ocean waves can
erode banks and beaches, especially during storms. When an area
receives more water than the ground can absorb, the excess flows to the
lowest level, carrying loose soil with it. The world viewed the effects of
erosion in December 2004—the tsunami in the Indian Ocean, landslides
on rain-soaked California hills, and flash flooding in St. George that ravaged
homes and property. These are graphic reminders of erosion that
causes constant changes in land. In Utah we have many examples of
erosion around us through our varied landscapes from northern to
Intended Learning Outcomes
1. Use Science Process and Thinking Skills
2. Manifest Scientific Attitudes and Interests
Invitation to Learn
Put a box of sugar cubes on a tray, pouring warm water through the
center of them. What will happen? What is that called? How is that
different from weathering? Show a pile of sand with coins on the top.
Gently drip water over the top of the sand and coins. What do you
predict will happen? Do we have places in Utah that might have been formed this
way? Show calendar pictures from various places in Utah
and discuss what the forces of erosion are evidenced. Question if anyone
has seen the effects of erosion on the news or in the newspapers this year
in the world, the United States, or Utah.
- Students are placed
in five groups. Explain to the class that their
task will be to build a mountain that will withstand the effects of
having water poured over it.
- Each group will receive different materials.
Group 1: sand/gravel
Group 2: sand/rocks
Group 3: gravel/rocks
Group 4: soil/gravel
Group 5: soil/rocks
- Students are instructed to observe their materials
and record their
observations on their plan
sheets. Each group devises a building
plan which they label and draw on their building sheet.
- Have the students
construct their mountain using only the
materials they were given.
- Tell the students they are going to observe
erosion rates on their
mountain with rain simulated from the 2-liter bottles. They must
decide how they will measure the “run-off.” Have rulers, string,
and measuring tapes available. (Help guide them through what
possible ways of measurement. Sometimes it is hard to measure
some things because of their shape and size. How might you do
it?) Have each student draw the mountain and label it’s content
materials in their journal. Then write a prediction about what will
happen to the mountain when the water is poured over it.
- Have one student
in each group be the “Rainmaker,” watering
mountain while standing next to the desk holding Bottle #1 (bottle
with 3 holes) at arm’s length.
- One group member will time how long
it took to empty the bottle.
- When the bottle is empty, have the students
decide how to
measure the amount of eroded material coming out from the
bottom of the mountain.
- Have them measure and record the eroded material.
- Going back to their
journals, students predict what will happen to
the mountain when water from Bottle #2 (bottle with 6 holes)
- Bottle #2 will be poured over the mountain by another member of
the group. When the bottle is empty, a group member will note
the time. Each group measures the amount of eroded material and
adds that to their collected data. When finished, have the students
go to their journals and answer:
- I predicted ____________
- My prediction was ____________
- What surprised me____________
- As a group, report the group findings.
Use an overhead
transparency to record each group’s materials and rates of erosion.
Have a group discussion: What materials eroded the most? Why?
Whose materials did not erode? Why? What would you use to
build a mountain that would erode the least? What is a sediment?
Will sediments erode quickly?
- Ask each group to rebuild their mountains
and see if there are
some things that might stop erosion. Hand them a plastic bag
containing toothpicks, artificial turf, monopoly house, toy people,
Ask students to answer these questions:
- Do you think there will be change
in water flow the way the
hill is rebuilt?
- Will there be as much erosion?
- Refill Bottle #2 with water and “rain” on
the mountain. What
- What did you see this time? Ask the students to share:
- What ways
did the mountain change? Why? What forces are
- What ways did they stay the same? What was different?
- Discuss with
the students what factors affect erosion. Can these
be changed? What is the difference between weathering and
erosion? Have students write their own definition of erosion in
their journal and draw
- Show the Canyon Building Model transparency
- Build a mountain at home.
What would you build it of that would
be different from the one at school?
- Identify areas in Utah that have
erosion. Collect pictures of them
and put them on a map of Utah.
- Make a coordinate grid map where weathering
and erosion have
occurred in Utah.
- Make a collage of weathering and erosion landforms throughout
- Listen to the news to see where
there are erosion disasters in the
- Ask your family if you have been on a trip where there has been
- Encourage students to draw a mountain that would have
amount of erosion. Have them include the materials that would
resist erosion longest.
- Students predict what would happen if the bottle
used to simulate
rain had one hole, 8 holes.
- Check Journal entries and Canyon Building Model for
Haury, D. L. (1993) Teaching Science through Inquiry. ERIC/CSMEE Digest.
This article addresses the benefits of teaching science through inquiry.
Inquiry based programs have generally been found to enhance students
performance especially in laboratory skills, understanding graphing and
interpreting data. Inquiry related teaching is also helpful in helping
students understand the scientific process and build vocabulary
Ryan, P., & Walking-Woman, L. (2000). Linking Writing to the Process
of Scientific Inquiry:
Strategies from Writing Teachers in the Disciplines. Paper presented at Annual
of Conference on College Composition and Communication.
This paper encourages teachers to help students use writing as a tool
of inquiry. In the disciplines of science, there is benefit for students
when completing “hands-on” activities to use writing as a tool
thinking. Rather that just giving answers, students should use writing to
show evidences, synthesize data and make conclusions. Writing, when
associated with inquiry, can require students to find data and develop
skills for dealing with methods of reporting.
Wolf, D. P. (1987). The Art of Questioning. Academic
This article attends to the issue that teachers need to develop positive
questioning strategies in the classroom. Teachers have the ability,
through their range of questioning, to guide students to discover new
information. Some of these methods of questioning include inference,
(going beyond the available information), interpretation (filling in
missing information), hypothesis (predictions & testing), and reflective
(what do I know?). If teachers use questions to provoke an atmosphere of inquiry
and personally process “when to ask,” “who to ask,” and “how
to ask and respond,” then classrooms will provide students with more