Interesting Activities Involving Erosion
Studying erosion in the classroom can be done using a variety of resources including historical texts, videos, and games.
By Jacqueline Dwyer
Since the beginning of time the Earth has been subject to constant erosion caused by water, wind, ice, and waves. It is the reason valleys form and beaches shift along the coastline. There are many interesting, interactive ways for your students to learn about this scientific process here are some that have worked for me.
Teaching Younger Students About Erosion
When I taught second graders about erosion, many of them were under the impression that erosion makes things disappear. In order to illustrate that erosion is simply a process by which material is broken down and moved from one place to another, I made up a game that they played in the gym. First, I gathered most of the students into a large group to represent a mountain. Students stood close together on different levels of the bleachers to produce the desired effect. Then, the remaining students were given an erosion-related role, such as rain, wind, and ice. When I would shout out a weathering element, children would go up to the mountain and ‘erode’ two or three children at a time from their mountain home, depositing them far away for the bleachers. Eventually, only a small ‘hill’ with a few students was left.
Learning About Erosion With Visual Aids
While students might understand the concept of erosion in theory, it might still be hard for them to visualize what actually happens. An effective way to illustrate the process is to show students a slide show depicting each type of erosion. Children are often amazed at the shocking differences in the landscape when they compare ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures of the same place. I’ve found that aerial black and white photographs seem to work particularly well. Let students see the ‘before’ photograph, then ask them what they think the ‘after’ picture will look like. This is a great way for students to practice the scientific process of making a hypothesis.
Erosion in the Schoolyard
Erosion often occurs over a long period of time, and to landscapes, like mountains and beaches, which are often inaccessible to students. However, a good way for students to learn about the effects of erosion firsthand is to have them investigate erosion on the school grounds. Have them look for grass with bald spots, slopes with runoff, and mud near sidewalks or parking lots. They can also take a look at the school buildings themselves. Ask them to identify which ones show the least erosion or the greatest, then ask them to explain why. This will require students to identify different building materials. As a follow-up activity, divide students into groups. Assign each group a different area of the school, for example, exterior walls, driveways, and steps. Ask them to identify what materials they would use to prevent or slow down the effects of erosion in the future, and ask them to give evidence to support their answers.
The Human Impact on Erosion
In addition to discussing the effect of nature on the landscape, you might also want to discuss how humans can have an impact on the environment, in terms of erosion. The Great Plains’ Dust Bowl is always an interesting topic to study. Assign your students a work of historical fiction related to this topic. Not only will help solidify the scientific process of erosion in your students' minds, it’ll also create empathy for the humans who lived through those times. You can relate the concept back to the current times by asking students to work independently or in groups to conduct research on the ways humans try to prevent erosion on a local and global level. Then using their higher thinking skills, ask students to brainstorm practical ways humans could prevent future erosion of the landscape. Depending on their age and ability, students can display their ideas in poster form to hang up in the classroom.
Erosion Lesson Plans:
Wind Erosion and How We Can Prevent It
Students define key vocabulary, watch a video, and create a diorama to demonstrate how wind causes erosion and deposition.
A practical lesson in which students examine how erosion is affected by soil composition and the slope of the land.
Trees and Erosion
Students conduct their own experiments to find out how trees protect the soil from erosion.
Breaking It Down
Students play an online jeopardy-type game to showcase their knowledge of erosion and weathering.