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Earth Science Activities for 6th Grade

Instructor: John Hamilton

John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from Christopher Newport University.

Are you interested in educating your sixth grade students about earth science? These fun and educational activities will assist you, as your students learn about the subdisciplines of this often fascinating subject.

Earth Science

Who isn't wonderstruck by the powerful forces that shape this beautiful but dangerous planet upon which we live? Your sixth graders might already be aware that earth science encompasses the fields of geology and oceanography. However, they might be surprised to learn astronomy and meteorology are a part of earth science as well. In these activities for pairs or groups, they will work in cooperation and utilize analytical as well as creative skills.

Earthquake Simulation - Geology

Materials: cardboard (large square), marker (red), sugar cubes (and other small objects), wooden boards (two)

What student isn't fascinated and awed by the power of an earthquake? In this activity, you will demonstrate an earthquake with your simulation. Afterwards, your students can take turns trying it as well.

  • In advance of class, use a red marker to draw a large red dot about one inch in diameter in the center of your cardboard. Then draw as many concentric circles as will fit around the dot, with each circle being about one to two inches in width.
  • In class, place your cardboard on top of the two wooden boards, so you have room to reach your hand under the cardboard. Next stack some sugar cubes directly on the dot, so they look somewhat like a building. In addition, stack some sugar cubes on the concentric circles in various locations.
  • Finally, you are ready for your earthquake! Reach under the cardboard and GENTLY tap it in the center near the dot. As you continue to tap, the 'buildings' nearer the epicenter should collapse more than the buildings toward the edges. Restack the sugar cubes in various patterns, and let your students try tapping the center of the cardboard. Furthermore, they can add other various objects such as small toys.

Optional - Have your students film each demonstration, and then review them to compare the differences.

Discussion Question: Why do buildings nearer to the epicenter of an earthquake tend to have more damage, and what can be done about this problem?

Maps - Geology

Materials: maps of the United States (without the names of each state, prepared before class), online capability, paper, writing implements

It's perhaps amazing how many students (and adults) can't point out and name all 50 states on a map, much less the geology of each state.

  • First organize your students into small groups of 4-6, and give each group a map of the United States.
  • Have them find out what the word 'geology' means in Ancient Greek (study of earth).
  • Next have the groups try to identify each of the 50 states.
  • When they are through, allow them to go online and find the highest and lowest point in some of the states.
  • Now have them research some interesting geological facts about their own state, such as rocks, caves, springs, or volcanoes.
  • See if they can find when the last earthquake took place in their state, and what was the magnitude of it.
  • Have them Google 'geological map of the United States', and review one of those maps.
  • Finally, see if they can find out what types of dinosaur fossils are in their state.

Discussion Question: Which state has the most interesting outline? Why?

Weather Forecasters - Meteorology

Materials: index cards (with various weather forecasts, prepared in advance of class), overhead projector, screen (optional), telescopic teacher pointing stick (available for about ten dollars), United States map

This activity will give your students the opportunity to be weather forecasters, just like the people they see on television!

  • Place the map of the United States on the overhead project, and shine it onto the screen or your blackboard.
  • Hand each student an index card with a different weather forecast.
  • Now allow your students to take turns going to the front of the class, and giving a forecast just like a television weather person.
  • If someone is too shy to go to the front of the class, allow that student to raise their hand and ask pertinent weather questions instead.

Discussion Question: Why is it so important that weather forecasters tell us in advance about hurricanes and tornadoes?

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