Landscaping With Wind and Water

National Park Service
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Lesson/Lesson Plan
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



This National Park lesson plan focuses on the destructive forces of nature in Yellowstone National Park, but student investigations can be adapted to any landscape. Students work in groups to create a landscape (a model of a small mountain) from a variety of earth materials. Provided handouts are used to record their predictions and observations about landscape change. Their models  include a volcanic eruption.  Students observe other student groups’ models as they discuss how wind, water, and ice are major agents of weathering and erosion.


Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Upper Elementary
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

4-ESS2-1 Make observations and/or measurements to provide evidence of the effects of weathering or the rate of erosion by water, ice, wind, or vegetation.

Clarification Statement: Examples of variables to test could include angle of slope in the downhill movement of water, amount of vegetation, speed of wind, relative rate of deposition, cycles of freezing and thawing of water, cycles of heating and cooling, and volume of water flow.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to a single form of weathering or erosion.

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this performance expectation, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Students could predict what impact the rates of weathering and erosion would have on a real landscape, discussing types of soil used, giving evidence for those predictions. These predictions could give the teacher an insight into student prior knowledge, guide further instruction and discussion, and serve as a type of formative assessment. If the landscape around the school provides opportunities to observe weathering and erosion, the lesson could be continued in a real-world context. Photographs of changing landscapes could also be used. To better address this practice students could make a table to record the cause of erosion and how much sediment was move in each situation. This data could be represented in a graph.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Each section of the Erosion Investigation Student Handout suggests types of materials to be used in the demonstration as well as the specific questions for students to discuss. The role of gravity could be added through a discussion of the direction of the flow of the water. The teacher could also explicitly point out that when students are pouring water on their mountain--they're simulating rainfall. Students could share their experiences with how rainfall shapes the land .

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource was not designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Students might illustrate/video/photograph their own mountain landscapes, journalling the “before” “after” examples of weathering and erosion on the landscape to better meet the crosscutting concept. They could also create a diagram of sediment movement for each force to be observed, using arrows as a means of demonstrating that movement. Questions for students to consider: “ How were the effects of wind, rain, and ice similar and different for your landscape?” “How are these effects similar/different from real life landscapes?” They could observe photos depicting effects of rain, wind, and ice on landscapes and explain how those effects were similar to/different from what they observed in their models. In order for the Crosscutting Concept to be implemented more completely, teacher guided discussion could include questions such as- “ When water is poured on soil ( or it rains), what happens?” “When we blow across soil ( or it’s windy, what happens?” This discussion will focus student attention on the cause/effect aspects of the lesson.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This resource allows students to begin to make sense of the phenomenon that they have observed. They are engaged in model scenarios that reflect real world vs. authentic occurrences. Students are able to experience the phenomenon as directly as possible, using a hands-on approach specifically targeted to the Disciplinary Core Idea.

  • Instructional Supports: Students are able to express, clarify, justify and interpret their ideas, as well as to respond to peer and teacher feedback in the wind section of the lesson. They are able to observe changes in other student groups, giving their interpretations of types of weathering and erosion observed. Examples of differentiated instruction are not provided. Students work in groups to complete the erosion activity handout, so students could take turns reading instructions, conducting investigations, and illustrating landscape changes. Teacher “visits” to each group could allow for focused discussions on each part of the handout, noting any misconceptions while expanding on questions provided in the handout.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The resource elicits direct, observable evidence of students engaging in planning and carrying out the erosion investigation. Formative assessment could be embedded in the lesson at each stage of the demonstration by having students journal their individual predictions, illustrations, and written responses to discussion questions.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: There is no technological component included in this resource.