Who's Digging This?

Better Lesson Jillian Gates
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Field Trip , 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.



Students contemplate the big idea that erosion affects the surface of the earth's crust. The teacher creates student interest with an anchoring event called RAP- Review and Preview. Focus and relevance for the lesson is emphasized by asking students to predict what will occur when water and classroom fan are applied to a pile of soil. Students investigate their school grounds and neighborhood for evidence that wind and /or water have created noticeable landscape changes. Students work in groups of 4-6 to make a scale drawing of the school area. They discuss ways that the erosion they observed could be rehabilitated, using an "I Wonder" format for developing ideas.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Grade 5
  • Grade 4
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
This lesson primary objective is to have students observe evidence of erosion and generate claims as to their cause. Students often confuse the terms weathering and erosion, or use them interchangeably. Before the beginning of the lesson, students could review the terms "weathering" and "erosion," using photos, pictures, or videos as visual representations. The teacher could assess prior knowledge having students work in groups to explain difference in the terms, using visuals in their discussion. Students could share their ideas with the class, creating a weathering/erosion definition chart, dispelling any student misconceptions during the class share time. Teacher could then structure lesson focusing on the concept of erosion. This class sharing time could also provide the teacher with an indication of student prior knowledge. To better meet the Performance Expectations, students could conduct an investigation using or taking before/after storm or even new construction photographs and displays of school area and have students explain evidence (movement of sand, soil, breaks in concrete, etc.) interpreted on grid.

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
In order to observe connections between weather types and erosion, students might collect data on wind speed, wind direction, and rainfall totals for the observed school area. This data collection could take place as a classroom weather activity. Students could refer to data, making observations and measurements on a regular basis in the surrounding school area. They could compare weather collection data with observable changes in school area. A class chart could depict sections for weather data, photos of eroded area (taken after weather events, and student comments about landscape changes. This chart would allow students to construct explanations about how the changes they observed happened. Discussion could allow students to infer that forces of nature (wind, water,) may influence the observed changes in the area landscape. Students could observe real change and extend learning, by creating their own sand hill, illustrating changes over time, journaling correlations between weather activity and sand hill changes.

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
Modeling how erosion happens in the classroom using a fan and water source beyond just suggesting it as this resource does would be a valuable student experience for evidence and construction of future explanations. Students could illustrate what changes they might observe if the fan (wind) and (hose) water are used to create changes in soil. They could provide captions under illustrations, explaining their reasons. Once activity is complete, students could assess their own illustrations, asking themselves the question, "Does my model match what actually happened?" Students could use arrows as symbols of movement, displaying their understanding that the concept of erosion denotes movement of earth materials. Once the outdoor measurement activity has taken place, students could compare grid evidence with simulated activity results. How are the two experiences alike? Different?

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
The teacher might review concept of cause and effect with students to reinforce the concept that weather events (wind and water) have the potential to affect the landscape through erosion. Student illustrations from the Core Idea tips could be a starting point for a cause/effect relationship discussion. Students (using their journaling explanations, illustrations and grid created during the lesson) could explain reasons for landscape changes. Possible teacher simulated erosion demonstration, outdoor sand hill changes, and/or other outdoor area observations results could be included as evidence. Tips included in the Core Idea details could also be implemented in identifying, testing, and explaining changes that occur in school areas. Outdoor learning could be extended by the student observation of the cause/effect relationship of wind and water on existing landforms.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This lesson allows students to engage in real-life scenarios that directly expose them to phenomena. Prior knowledge and structured instruction could be incorporated in student journals and illustrations. Students could be asked to provide evidence for their explanations of landscape change- both in the simulated activity and the grid measurement sheet. The practice of constructing explanations and the crosscutting concept of cause and effect could easily be made explicit by the teacher.

  • Instructional Supports: Differentiated instruction for struggling students is not highlighted in this resource. Students could illustrate their understanding of erosion in the simulated activity, using arrows to indicate movement of materials. They could also create a visual grid outdoors (using stakes and string) as they measure areas of erosion. The resource does discuss the concept of "rehabilitation". Advanced students could develop solutions for the rehabilitation of eroded areas, possibly interviewing members of the local Public Works Department as they carry out an investigation of those solutions.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: Student grid sheets and development of "I Wonder " questions concerning rehabilitation of eroded areas are included in the resource. Formative assessment could be woven into the lesson, incorporating questions that elicit student understanding. Examples might include, " What do you think we will be demonstrating using sand, a fan, and water?" "What do think the landscape will look like after our demonstration?" Why do you think this will occur?" Teacher will look for evidence that students are using the term "erosion" correctly. Summative assessment focus would ask students to explain their outdoor grid sheets in a journal narrative, comparing the simulated activity to the outdoor real-life scenario.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: This lesson does not have a technological component.