Soil Erosion

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Type Category
Instructional Materials
Model , Lesson/Lesson Plan , Activity , Experiment/Lab Activity
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.


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5 erosion

lack of importance and knowledge of farming leads people to convert farmland into residential and commercial place. It causes heavy damage to soil and converts it into soil erosion


Students investigate soil erosion by completing research of erosion, current/recent landslides, and planting a model hillside garden to best prevent erosion.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Grade 8
  • Grade 7
  • Grade 6
  • Middle School
Access Restrictions

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

Performance Expectations

MS-LS2-5 Evaluate competing design solutions for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Clarification Statement: Examples of ecosystem services could include water purification, nutrient recycling, and prevention of soil erosion. Examples of design solution constraints could include scientific, economic, and social considerations.

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
This lesson provides opportunities for students to develop and use specific elements of a practice, disciplinary core idea, and a crosscutting concept to design solutions to real-world problems. There are also powerful links to "Connections to Engineering, Technology, and Applications to Science and Connections to Nature of Science. Students should measure the mass of the soil runoff before water and after water. Students should also measure the volume of the water runoff. Then, they can boil off the water to measure the mass of the soil left behind. There should be a class-wide data table so that each group's design and runoff can be recorded and compared. This can be done using a Google Doc, chart paper, a traditional chalkboard, or an interactive whiteboard. Be sure to use the discussion questions to drive a class-wide discussion so that differing design solutions are evaluated.

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
The opportunity to use specific elements of the practice to design the solution to the proposed problem is a critical element in this lesson. When evaluating recent landslides, ask students to look for what the landslides all had in common. Also, compare the types of erosion and whether each type would need differing design solutions. The “Inch of Soil” website from NASA has been taken down but you can order posters at Be sure that students are watering their hillside gardens with the same frequency and that they follow the same design when testing erosion (height, water amount, water flow). Under the assessment section, students should be able to make an argument for their finalized design solution.

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
The "Erosion Test" provides a structured process for testing the effectiveness of the students' gardens to prevent soil erosion. The last step tells students to measure the amount of soil/plant runoff with and without water. The units of measurement are not provided so the teacher will have to decide what is best. As previously stated, students need to be sure to keep controls in place when testing the erosion of their hillside gardens.

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
The teacher will need to facilitate the use of the specific elements of the crosscutting concept. In the "Motivation" and "Development" sections of this lesson, students should assess short-term versus long-term erosion problems and solutions. Be sure to ask questions that encourage students to think about this crosscutting concept. Ask things like "Was there any way to know the landslide was going to happen?" and "Is it easier to design a solution for a sudden event or gradual change over time?"

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This lesson connects to a real world problem of landslides, which may occur in students' own communities or states. Students create a model to design their own solution and consider the influences of science, engineering, technology and societal needs and desires. It provides grade-appropriate connections to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts for technical writing in the "Planning a Hillside Garden" activity.

  • Instructional Supports: Through an article on mudslides and landslides and hands-on activities in the classroom, this lesson engages students in an authentic scenario, soil erosion. The lesson builds on prior knowledge while asking students to use several modalities of learning to study scientific phenomenon. They must research, work in teams, design solutions, and draw conclusions throughout all steps of the lesson.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: This lesson builds on prior knowledge students have with landslides. The assessment section would be better if it included a rubric for evaluating student progress. However, the worksheets and questions provided throughout are well developed and organized. The assessment includes the second of two opportunities for technical writing.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: The USGS site for real-time data about world-wide landslides is an excellent resource for students to draw connections between the science concepts they are studying and the real-world. However, the NASA one inch of soil website is not working.