Development of the Land

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SWBAT create a timeline illustrating how humans have caused change to the land over time.

Big Idea

Students will develop a list of things that have changed the land throughout time, then work in groups to create pictures of the changes and put them in order by date to create a timeline.

Rationale and Preparation

The Why Behind Teaching This 

Unit 7 covers standard 5-ESS3-1: Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth's resources and environment.  In this unit students research how science is related to various professions.  They also research ways to conserve energy and ways that communities work together to keep their environment clean.    

Each lesson in this unit is directly linked to the standard.  This lesson begins to provide students with an idea of how the Earth has changed.  They begin to piece together that farming, houses, factories, roads, and train tracks have all caused land to be cleared, trees cut down, and pollution added to the air.  As we move on in the unit, students will begin to piece together how communities can work together to help protect the Earth from damage these changes may have caused and continue to cause. 

Lesson Goal:

The goal of this lesson is for students to create a timeline showing how the land on Earth has changed throughout time.  

Success Criteria: 

Students will demonstrate success on this criteria by accurately illustrating how humans have built or developed things that have changed the Earth.  

Preparing For The Lesson:

Warm Up:

  • Computer and overhead for showing the video 

Guided Practice:

  • Chart paper for creating a list of things that have changed the Earth


  • White construction paper for illustrating the assigned change 
  • String for creating the timeline 
  • Lap Tops for research 
  • A copy of the group role cards with groups preassigned based on student strengths 

Wrap Up:  

Warm Up

10 minutes

Showing a Video 

I begin today's lesson by showing a video.  This video connects what we are learning in social studies to our science lesson for the day.  In social studies we just discussed how the first people crossed a land bridge from Asia hunting animals and then followed them down into North America.  We are just starting to learn about the first Native American Groups, most of which were hunters that used the entire animal for various purposes.  The video, "Native American hunters used every part of the buffalo",goes into detail about how these first Native Americans used the entire buffalo that was hunted.  

Not only does this video help connect across content areas, but it also allows me to set the stage for what life was like for the first people into America.  This will lead directly into our discussion on how the land has changed since that time.  

Discussion After the Video 

After showing the video I ask the following questions to guide our discussion:

  • How did the first Native Americans get food? hunting
  • How did these people get clothes? from the animals they hunted
  • Where did their tools and bow and arrows come from? Parts of the animals
  • Where did the get buckets and pots?  From the organs of the buffalo
  • What did they use for candles and soap? fat from the buffalo
  • What was used as fuel to burn fires? dung (poo)

The first Americans lived off of the animals they hunted.  They valued the land which was unchanged at this time.                   

Guided Practice

10 minutes

How Humans Have Changed the Land Over Time

Our discussion continues with me directing it towards how the appearance of the land has changed since those first Native Americans.  I ask students to think about things that were developed that started to change the land and how people lived.  As they name things, I add them to a list on chart paper hanging in the front of the room where everyone can easily see it. Students name things like: farming, trains, cars, houses, and factories.  



30 minutes

Researching and Illustrating Changes to the Land 

Because this lesson is towards the end of the school year, I have a good idea of which students are artistic, which are good on the computers, and which are good presenters.  I have groups already made up with one of each of the these students in each group.  There is also one high level student in each group.  

I give the group role card to one of the students listed on the card and have them go gather the other two members without talking.  Once the three group members are together, they get a laptop and discuss which item from the chart they want to illustrate.  When they know what they want to do they raise their hand and tell me when called on.  Once an item is taken, no other group can do it.  This way we have one group doing each of the 5 items listed.  Allowing groups to choose which they do is a good strategy to use for activities like this where they are researching because they take more ownership in it.  

Groups spend the next 20 minutes researching and illustrating a paper to show how the item listed on the chart (trains, cars, homes, factories, and farms) changed the land.  As you can see from the video of student illustrating houses changing the Earth and the video of students illustrating cars and trains changing Earth that only one person can be working on the illustration at a time.  The paper is not large enough.  Having roles identified ahead of time for the students helps eliminate any arguing or debate.  After 20 minutes, we discuss the dates they found for each change and put them in chronological order.  Then we string them together to create a time line.  You can see the order they came up with in the video of completed timeline.  They found that houses were first, then farms, cars, factories and then trains.  


Wrap Up

10 minutes

Exit Ticket

To wrap up this lesson, I provide each student with a copy of the changes to land exit ticket.  This exit ticket is not used to assess their mastery of the lesson goal, which was to illustrate in a time line how the land has changed.  Exit tickets can also be used as a lead into the lessons that follow.  For example, the next lesson in this unit is on pollution.  I plan on starting the next lesson by sharing some of the information from these exit tickets where pollution is mentioned.  I could also refer back to them in other lessons yet to come in the unit such as whether technology helps or harms the Earth.

Since I want to use some of the exit tickets to introduce the next lesson on pollution, I pull out all of the exit tickets where students mention pollution.  I had a total of 12 that mentioned pollution as a negative effect from creating cars and/or factories.  

The students did an excellent job identify a positive effective and a negative effective of each change.  The only one that I did not have written about on an exit ticket was farming.  The majority of student chose either factories or cars to write about.  Below is one example from each change, a couple of them are ones I will be using to begin the next lesson on pollution.