Make a Mini Earth Model

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SWBAT make a model of the Earth.

Big Idea

Studying the Earth can be deliciously fun! The children will make two simple models of the Earth's layers, one with Oreo cookies and another with paper.

Teacher Notes

Activity Description

Watch the short video for an activity description and to preview the resources.


In the previous lesson, the children explored models as the teacher explained the layers of the Earth. In this lesson, the children try this out for themselves by making their own model of Earth's layers by using Oreo cookies.  (Of course they get to eat their models as an ending activity).  Then they make a paper model of the Earth's layers to put in their science notebooks (or take home).

NGSS/Common Core Connections

As a science practice and part of the NGSS, the children are expected to understand and develop models.  In this lesson the children will be using diagrams and making a physical replica, which are two different types of models.  By the end of this unit, called Earth Changes, the children will have to understand how the movement of the crust and mantle creates changes, either quickly or slowly.  Thus the children need some background on the layers to help them understand how these events happen.


photo of supplies


5 minutes

In the previous lesson, the children learned about models and how they have parts that work together to represent the whole.  I had explained each of the layers of the Earth to the children.  In this lesson, they get to make their very own simplistic model.

Yesterday we made a model of the Earth.  Who can tell me how did we do that?  How were the layers represented?  Do you think this representation was accurate?  Was making the model helpful?

I am asking the children these questions to help them think like a scientists.  They need to see that models are very helpful in understanding the parts of the Earth, especially since it is not tangible and I cannot bring it into my classroom.  They also need to be thinking about how each of the parts were represented and what was chosen for the representation.  As they progress through the years, they will have to understand that models have their limitations.  So getting them to think how and why I used clay helps and if it was effective helps them see primary limitations of the model.


Elaboration--Edible Models

15 minutes

Since the children explored the idea of making models in the previous lesson, we are going to elaborate on that idea today.  So I am going to have the children build their very own model.  

But before we begin our modeling, I show this short video.  The video has a song on it about the layers of the Earth, and my children love singing.  Knowing this song, "Throw your hands up for the layers of the Earth--inner core, outer core, mantle and crust" will help the children when they are making their models and also when they are explaining it to a partner.  Check out this Using Songs and Rhythm Information Sheet to see how and why I use songs and rhythm in the classroom.

Then I have the children elaborate on the ideas learned by making their own EDIBLE model, yum!  They will be making this physical model of Earth with an Oreo cookie and an M&M.  By making this simple model they will expand their thinking about how objects can be described in terms of their parts.  They will also begin to understand that systems in the natural world have parts that work together.  These ideas will be paramount as we continue through this unit and learn about all of the changes of the Earth.   Understanding models is an extremely important concept.  It is a common thread that is woven into the NGSS, science practices and in the cross-cutting concepts.  Click here for more information on the importance of models. 

After handing out edible supplies and small plates, I pull up a copy of a Layers of the Earth diagram reference.  I want them to be able to see a model of the Earth, then transfer that learning to create a model from other materials, the cookie and candy.  

You are going to have a chance to make your own Earth model.  You are going to each get one Oreo cookie and an M&M.  How could you model each of the layers of the Earth? 

The children should come up with the idea themselves that the M&M will be the center, since it is the smallest; the white frosting will be the mantle and the brown part will be the crust.   Hopefully someone will comment that we also need to represent the outer core.  If not, voice that idea.  You can then explain that the outer core will be represented by some chocolate syrup.   I choose to go to each table and squirt some chocolate syrup in the middle of each cookie.  The squirt needs to be a little larger than the diameter of the M&M.  The syrup acts as glue for the M&M.

After you have made your model, I would like you to explain it to your turn and talk partner.  You should be explaining how each of the parts are represented.  If you remember any information about the layer, please tell you partner about it (see video clip).

 Using turn and talk partners is a strategy that I often use when I want the children to have a short discussion. Their partner is the person who is sitting the closest to them.  I use this when we are having a quick discussion and I need them to get with a partner quickly.  Having the children explain their idea to a partner helps them clarify their thinking.  They also work on respectful listening of someone else's ideas. 

When we are eating our models, we watch a short video of Ice Age and Scrat taking a journey to the center of the Earth.



15 minutes

Then I have the children represent the layers of the Earth in another way by having them fill out the interactive science journal page.  (As an alternative, you could use this diagram worksheet). Having them see that different models can represent the same object is very important as they continue through their schooling. Also, this serves as a quick evaluation of what they have learned.

The children first need to color the Earth and the layers (see earth sample cover and inner sample).  In order to do this, I again pull up the poster of the layers so they can use it for a reference when coloring. When they are done coloring, they need to cut out all of the pieces.  Then they glue the inner layer down in their science notebook or on a piece of paper.  Next they glue the labels right onto the layers, except the crust.  It is so thin that it will not fit on the model itself and will have to be placed on the background paper.  After the labels are in place, the children place, not glue, the crust model on top of the inner layers.  They then hold the tab at the top down and lift the top layer up, which creates a fold. Then they place glue at the backside of the fold and glue down.  Make sure they do not glue down the entire crust layer or they will not be able to lift the Earth top layer up.

We end the session by singing the Earth layers song.  It is catchy, and educational.  I pull up the Layers of the Earth song lyrics, so the children can sing along with the song.  Watch this video clip of my class "getting into the groove" singing the Layers of the Earth song.  They love it!