Movement of Earth's Materials

Christine Ann Royce Science and Children
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Activity , 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 5E lesson sequence probes student pre-knowledge of the erosion and its impact on earth's mountain landscapes before students explore weathering, deposition, and layering at three different activity stations.  Students share their weathering, deposition, and layering observations and explanations before connecting their investigation models to information obtained while reading the non-fiction story, "Grand Canyon: A Trail Through Time" .



Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Upper Elementary
Access Restrictions

Available for purchase - The right to view, keep, and/or download material upon payment of a one-time fee.

Performance Expectations

4-ESS1-1 Identify evidence from patterns in rock formations and fossils in rock layers for changes in a landscape over time to support an explanation for changes in a landscape over time.

Clarification Statement: Examples of evidence from patterns could include rock layers with marine shell fossils above rock layers with plant fossils and no shells, indicating a change from land to water over time; and, a canyon with different rock layers in the walls and a river in the bottom, indicating that over time a river cut through the rock.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include specific knowledge of the mechanism of rock formation or memorization of specific rock formations and layers. Assessment is limited to relative time.

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
Class discussion might include student observations of landscape changes in their own community environment, with teacher-directed use of photos, or in a "neighborhood" field trip which focuses on examples of weathering, layering, or deposition. During each of the parts of the lesson, the teacher should encourage students to describe evidence of how landscapes change over time.

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
Prior to conducting simulations, students might be asked to predict what changes they think will occur and why. After they do the activities, they could be asked to construct explanations in written form or with illustrations based on their observations (evidence). Students could list natural landscape changes, including the reasons they feel those changes occur. The teacher could use the formative assessment probe to assess prior knowledge, listing landscape changes on a class chart, noting those changes that occur over time.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

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

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Students could observe photos of local/ regional landscapes and geologic cross sections (like road cuts). They could compare these photos with those presented in the Grand Canyon non-fiction text. Focus of discussion could include similarities and differences between local, regional, and global patterns, as well as how those changes occurred over time.

Crosscutting Concepts

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

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Students could list landscape changes that occur naturally and list reasons for those changes, providing evidence for their decisions. They could create a class or group chart, comparing changes that occur quickly such as landslides, with those that occur slowly. They might also observe photos of landscape changes that have occurred over time, and at different rates.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This resource provides students with relevant opportunities to experience phenomena, then express and interpret their ideas about landscape change. Students are asked to explain, clarify, and provide evidence for their interpretations at each station, then elaborate on landscape change concepts using a non-fiction text.

  • Instructional Supports: Strategies for differentiated learners are not specifically demonstrated in the lesson. However, students are provided with many avenues to display prior knowledge and learned concepts. They illustrate their own canyon and provide explanations of landscape change. They participate in the hands-on activities of weathering, sedimentation, and layering in three stations, with many opportunities for discussion at each station. Real-life illustrations of the Grand Canyon are presented to students to create a link with rock formations found in the United States. These activities can provide the teacher with instructional support opportunities. Teacher may choose to use each station as a separate lesson, allowing for more discussion time.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The teacher is provided with the "Mountain Age Formative Assessment Probe" as a tool to determine student prior knowledge of erosion and its impact. Examples of questions that will also assess student learning and reinforce what students observed at each station are included for each 5-E section of the lesson. As the Grand Canyon non-fiction text is read, questions are again provided for discussion which focus on the concepts of sedimentation, deposition, and layering which the students had previously observed. These multi-layered activities provide the teacher with many examples for formative assessment. Student data sheets ( allow the teacher to assess the depth of student observations and resulting explanations of evidence they present.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: Students do not interact with technology in this hands-on activity.