Erosion Detectives

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SWBAT identify areas around school that show signs of erosion.

Big Idea

Detectives are on the move looking for clues of erosion. What will they find?

NGSS Connections and Class Preparation

30 minutes

NGSS Standards

ESS2.A:  Wind and water can change the shape of the land.

Students take a walking field trip around school to find evidence of erosion.

Science Practices - Appendix F

- Asking Questions and Defining Problems (SP 1)

Students ask questions about where erosion may be happening at their school and then investigate the sites to see if they can determine whether erosion has occurred there.

- Developing and Using Models (SP 2)

Students make diagrams to show how erosion is happening at different sites around their school.

- Planning and Carrying Out Investigations (SP 3)

Students review a school map and plan where there may be evidence of erosion based on previous observations. Then students investigate these sites for signs of erosion.

- Analyzing and Interpreting Data (SP 4)

Students consider their observations to determine if erosion is occurring at a particular site.

- Engaging in Argument from Evidence (SP 7)

Students discuss the merits of visiting different sites on campus based on evidence of erosion.

Cross-cutting Concepts - Appendix G

- Patterns

Students look for the common traits of erosion to determine if erosion is happening at different sites at school.

Lesson Preparation

Copy a school map for each student

Copy "Erosion Report" for each student

Have images of erosion available to project to support students' discussion on 'erosion clues'



Camera (to take pictures of the erosion sites for students to refer to later)


Question for the Day

10 minutes

Science starts with a discussion question, posted on the board. The question helps to grab students' attention and to introduce the lesson topic. This allows students time to consider today's topic before the lesson has officially begun. 

Students know when they return from lunch, we meet on the rug to read our 'science question for the day'. I have established this routine with the kiddos to keep transition time short and effective and redirect student's attention back to content while allowing time for focused peer interaction.

I have the question and the unit KLEWS chart posted on the board.

Question for the Day: What clues could we look for if we wanted to see if there is erosion happening around our school?

Before I ask students to turn and share, I help them unpack the question. "What word do you need to know to help you understand the question?" I point to the question.

I use this opportunity to connect the question to previous learning.

"Right erosion. Remember when we watched Brainpop on weathering and erosion? First, rocks broke down through weathering and then small rocks, sand, and soil are carried away by wind or water. So erosion is when..." I call on a volunteer to rephrase what I said and write this on the board and add it to our KLEWS chart under 'Science Vocabulary'.

I use the opportunity of 'unpacking the question to provide a synonym for 'clues', such as 'evidence' and build on the idea that we can get evidence by making observations.

"To help us decide what evidence will help us find erosion around the school, I have some images of erosion. I will show a picture, then you will have an opportunity to turn and talk with a classmate about what evidence you see in the picture that shows us erosion is happening."

"Alright, let's look at the question again, so if erosion is occurring around the school, what evidence would we see?

Please share your ideas with your neighbor. Remember to check in with your partner to be sure you understood what they said."

I listen to discussions to get an idea of student's schema on erosion.

I call on volunteers to share their answers. I am looking for answers similar to the following,  dirt on the sidewalk, where there are no plants, or there is a slope. If these answers are not forthcoming, I have pictures that show the effect of erosion, to help draw out these answers.

"Now that we have an idea on how to look for evidence of where erosion may be happening, we are going to take a tour of the school to see if there is erosion happening at our school!"

I direct students to return to their seats to explain the next part of the lesson.

Preparing for Detection Work

15 minutes

While students return to their seats, I pass out the Erosion Data Packet and school map that students will use to take observations of different erosion sights.

"When you get your packet, please write down the erosion clues that we decided were the most helpful when looking for places where erosion is happening."

"Scientists plan their expeditions before they travel, because they only have so much time and or money to use for their research. We only have our science time, so we need to think about what we know about our school, and where would be the most likely places that erosion may be happening around our school. Then we can go to those places first."

I want to tap into what students already may have observed at their school and to have an opportunity to connect these observations to their new learning about erosion.

"In your packet you will see a map of the school. Please use a pen or highlighter and mark the places on the map where you think erosion could or is happening at our school."

"In a moment you will share your ideas with your table, but for now, I want you to think quietly about what you have noticed about your school."

After 1-2 minutes, I direct students to share their ideas with their tables, reminding them to allow each person an opportunity to speak.

I circulate around the room, listening to conversations and asking students what they observed at that location to help them hypothesize that erosion may be occurring at that site.

After students have shared their ideas, I direct them to bring their map and pencil to the rug. I direct students to look at their map, and choose one of their sites where they think is the most likely place that erosion may be occurring. Then I call on volunteers to point this spot out on the projected map.

Depending on the number of sites the students hypothesize, I may need to help the students prioritize which sites we will look at today, reminding them that this is what scientists do, to help conserve resources, such as time and money.

After we have selected 3 to 4 sites to visit, and have numbered these correspondingly on their maps, I explain the data page.

"We will go to each site and look for clues of erosion. If there is evidence of erosion, you will write the clues you saw and a diagram of the erosion site on your data page." I project the page that the students will use."

"If we agree as a class that there is no evidence of erosion at this site, then you will cross out this site on your map and we will move to the next site."

I remind students that I expect them to have respectful listening for one another, an appropriate noise level and participation as a scientist.

I direct students to pick up a clipboard and line up outside with the data page, pencil and map.


Erosion Detectives on the Move

25 minutes

The students and I go to the first site. I direct students to look at their list of possible clues for erosion and ask if they see any evidence of erosion happening at this location.  I call on students to share their observations and encourage whole group discussion to determine if this is an erosion site. If so, the students write their observations and make a quick diagram.

Then we move on to the next site. I look for students exhibiting scientific behaviors that I can share out with the class, such as labeling their diagram or noting where the water flowed.

After we have made our site observations, or science time is nearly over, we return to the classroom to wrap up our lesson.

Wrap up

10 minutes

After we return to class, I direct students to place their Erosion Packet in their folder and then meet me on the rug.

"Let's see what we can add to our KLEWS chart. We have the word erosion, what observations did you make about erosion at our school?"

"Right erosion made small hills of dirt on the playground. I will write that under the observation column. What caused the dirt to be moved?"

"What could we say we learned about erosion?"

Next time I will ask students to discuss why they think erosion is happening in that spot.

After summarizing today's lesson on the KLEWS chart, I point to the anchor question and read, "How can we slow or stop wind or water from changing the land?' What do we call the process where water or wind changes the land? Do you have some ideas on how you could stop erosion from changing those sites at our school? When we meet next time for science you will share your ideas!"

I congratulate the class on what I saw them do well and then dismiss them for lunch. 

When I review students' Erosion Reports' I will check that work is complete, students labeled their diagrams and included evidence of erosion.