Hurricane Matthew Causes Weathering and Erosion

PBS and WGBH Educational Resources
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Activity , Phenomenon
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 gallery of U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) aerial photographs and video of NASA satellite imagery provides students with the opportunity to observe dramatic changes resulting from the phenomena of rapid weathering and erosion by water and wind.

Students analyze the images and look for differences in the before and after versions. They use the evidence they gather to make claims about the ways water and wind change the land.


Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Upper Elementary
Access Restrictions

Free access with user action - The right to view and/or download material without financial barriers but users are required to register or experience some other low-barrier to use.

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 is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
Students are asked to discuss and give evidence for the effects of Hurricane Matthew on landforms in Haiti and Florida. Prior to viewing these images, students could share their prior knowledge of hurricanes during a class discussion. Details in the photos could become a focus for discussion. Questions might include, “What do you notice about the colors in the photos?” What do you think they represent?” “How do the changes affect the landscape?” “What effects might they have on the living things in the area?” A review of differences between weathering and erosion might also be helpful. Students could create models of the photos presented, using materials to represent vegetation, sediment, and soil and explaining their models (and how they are similar to/different from the real thing).

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
In small groups, students are asked to observe, note changes, and discuss causes of the changes in the photos. Students might view the hurricane video suggested in the resource after observing the photos.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Teachers can ask students what they think happened to change the landforms in this way (after comparing the before and after images). Where else have they seen changes like this? What happened? What forces of nature were involved? After students have a chance to share their ideas in partners, and then via a science talk (using their evidence to support their claims), watch the hurricane video. What additional evidence do you have now to support/revise your claims? At this point, students could make models to investigate first-hand how the change may have happened. It is not recommended to use the vocabulary sheet in the lesson until students have had a chance to develop an understanding of the concepts first.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
This resource encourages students to draw and label features that they observe in the before and after photos, as well as to make claims about the landscape changes based on their observations. Students might also create before and after pictures of their own models, then explain what happened.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: Students are engaged in making sense of the phenomena of weathering and erosion as they observe the cause/effect landscape changes affected by Hurricane Matthew. Students might utilize Google Earth Maps to make comparisons of land areas before and after the hurricane.

  • Instructional Supports: Students are engaged in real-life scenarios as they express and justify their ideas about landscape changes affected by Hurricane Matthew and then respond to peer feedback as they share those ideas. Differentiated instruction is not provided in the lesson, however, struggling students could illustrate changes that were observed, use captions to describe them, and/or orally describe what’s happening to provide evidence of learning. Note: Hurricanes might be an emotional trigger for some students and it would be important for a teacher to consider about this prior to engaging in this lesson.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: A student observation activity sheet is included, which could be used for formative assessment. Alternatively, students could record their observations, ideas and questions in science notebooks. No other assessment tools or rubrics are provided.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: This resource does not include a technologically interactive component.