Catastrophes of the Past, Shape the Land of Today

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SWBAT read and listen to new information to learn about a past event that shaped the land of today.

Big Idea

One catastrophic event can quickly change the look and feel of the land for future generations over millions of years. This lesson exposes students to one event in their own backyards that shaped our landscape from Prehistoric to Modern times.

Setting the Stage

5 minutes

The Pacific Northwest is a diverse and amazing area of the United States.  It's rich landscape and incredibly beautiful land features are part of what makes the area so incredible.  Many people are not aware that the Pacific Northwest was created by a mammoth flood that forever changed the landscape of this part of the United States.  It did not occur during the time of the dinosaurs, but shortly after.  

Understanding the effects the flood had on the carving out of the landscape touches upon many different Second Grade NGSS standards, none more clearly than 2-ESS1-1.  This lesson in particular uses information from two sources that explain and detail the formation of a part of the Earth.  An article from that details the formation of the Grand Canyon and a power point I created that details the different formations of land created by the Missoula Flood.  

Not only does this lesson address these concepts, but it also offers an opportunity for my students to practice specific skills that my school district has outlined as important practice for future learning situations that will prepare students for the Common Core.  The Common Core is strong in integrating multiple domains of learning into lessons.  This lesson encompasses reading standards, listening and writing standards along with the NGSS.  

This lesson also spans the entire day of my teaching. I utilize my reading/writing block as a time to focus on reading research and gaining background knowledge for the subject later in the day during the science lesson. 


25 minutes

During the reading/writing block of our morning, I pass out a passage about the Grand Canyon to the children.  I use this as our reading work for the morning. I ask the children to read it and take any notes they would like to take in their journals. 

I explain that I am not going to help or assist them, I simply want to see what they find to be the most important information independently.  

While the children are reading and taking notes, I am circulating and observing to see how they are working.  I am curious about the methods they will choose. We have worked on reading and finding the main idea often, but it has not always been with a topic as detailed and complicated as this; or independently.   


20 minutes

This portion of the lesson takes place at the beginning of our science lesson and is out of sequence from the normal 5E model. I do this because I need to explain to the children the different types of land formations before they are able to get to the practice of creating their own theories to explain how they were created. 

I preface the lesson by reminding the children about the passage we read during the morning session of our learning.  

"Boys and girls, I want you to think about the passage we read about the Grand Canyon this morning. It was filled with some really great information about the way the canyon was formed.  You did a fantastic job pulling out information that helped us to see that.  I am wondering if the Grand Canyon was the only place on the Earth that was formed with such amazing strength?"

"I would love it if you would explore some of the other formations that can be created by these amazing phenomenons.  Let me show you some pictures...." 

I have my power point ready and prepared for the children to watch and I ask them to focus on the screen.  

Slide one shows the title of the lesson....Ice Age Geography.  The children become excited when they see the picture. I purposely chose to put the character from the Ice Age movies.  I want to make the distinction to the children that this was not during the dinosaur era that we discussed during our Timeline lesson. 

I move on to slides two, three, and four which show pictures of the Palouse FallsDry Falls and the Moses Coulee.  Each of these places in Washington State that are perfect examples of the results of evidence of Earth events that quickly changed the landscape (2-ESS1-1). 

I chose these individual landmarks to share with my students not only because they are clear examples of the evidence, but also because they are right in our 'backyard' so to speak.  

After reading to the children where each of these places are, I ask the children if they have any theories of how the land was formed to create the landscapes?   

I expect someone to recall the article about the Grand Canyon and relate it's formation to possible connections to these formations.  

After the conversation, I show the children a quick video clip that explains more explicitly the explanations of the Moses Coulee (SP4). 

Next, we move through slides six, seven, and eight that explain more landscape formations that are prevalent to our state.  The children have many questions about how these are formed. I ask them to hold off on any questions they may have.  I do this because I want them to develop their own theories before hearing theories from their classmates.


10 minutes

I quickly move to slide nine and explain that the children will be using all this information to create their own theory (SP6).

I remind them about our lesson on theories to trigger their background knowledge. Slides nine suggests they jot down a few ideas to help them remember anything to formulate their thinking. I use slide ten to add the word 'inference' to again trigger another previous learning.  

At this time, I remind them of all the information they learned during the morning session when we read about the Grand Canyon.  Reminding them that much of what they read about is very similar to the land formations of Washington. 



5 minutes

While the students are sharing their theories with one another, I am wandering and listening to conversations and dialogue. I am closely listening for the children to share with their partners their theories. I hope to hear words and phrases such as...

  • I believe
  • I think
  • In my opinion

I am also listening for scientific talk...using words that describe the evidence that the Earth was quickly changed because of the flooding or rushing waters. 

When I believe the children have all had a chance to share within their groups, I move to slide eleven that suggests we share our theories together.  I allow the children to share their ideas with the entire class. I am listening again for the same things I listened to in their small group share outs. I am also watching for the confidence level in the children and how they present themselves.  It is amazing the differences in their level of speaking from a place of authority and assurance.  Qualities that grew with them as the school year and their level of knowledge grew and grew.  


20 minutes

After the children have had an opportunity to practice and share their theories, I show them another video clip that explains in the best detail and simplest forms the scientific theories scientists have to explain the formation of our landscape in Washington. 

I use this video clip because, it simply put, offers the best explanation available from a real scientist. After watching the video clip, I move to slide fourteen that shows a picture and has information that explains the origins where much of the scientific work that lead to these explanations comes from.