Erosion in our World

Erin Leitner, North Elementary School, Princeton, MN, an extenstion activity to go along with the Landforms unit from the FOSS Kit.


In this environmental science filed lab, students investigate erosion around the schoolyard. The students will work in a group of 2-4 to observe evidence of erosion in a chosen area. After observations, students record their findings in their science journals.

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Learning Goals

In this lesson, students will be able to identify evidence of erosion and deposition in the world around them. This lesson brings students out into the world around them so they are able to make the connections to the stream table investigations in the classroom Through particpating in this activity, students will be able to identify examples of erosion in the schoolyard environment and they will be able to explain how erosion effects the environment.
As students particpate in this lesson they will be reviewing the concept that erosion is all around and can be caused by different factors including wind and water. Students will also be able to identify evidence of deposition which was studied in a previous lesson.
Students should have a thorough understanding of the following vocabulary words: erosion, deposition, sediment, canyon, and delta.

Context for Use

This lesson is appropriate for fourth or fifth grade students. The number of students does not matter, as long it is manageable for the teacher(s) involved. This is a field exercise that would require at least 60 minutes to complete.
Students should have some prior knowledge identifying erosion and deposition through the use of stream tables in the classroom. This activity is meant to connect students learning to the world around them. This could be used as a final activity with erosion and depositon. Students are also required to complete a science journal on their observations. Students should know the expectations for completing science journals.
Evidence of erosion is all around, so this would be an easy lesson to adapt to your school's setting. If you are close to a river or creek, it is especially convenient as this is what was used to study erosion in the classroom.

Subject: Geoscience:Geology:Geomorphology, Sedimentary Geology
Resource Type: Activities:Classroom Activity, Field Activity
Special Interest: Field-Based Teaching and Learning
Grade Level: Intermediate (3-5)
Theme: Teach the Earth:Enhancing your Teaching:Teaching in the Field, Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Sedimentary Geology, Geomorphology

Description and Teaching Materials

(Prior to this lesson, the teacher should gather pictures and objects related to erosion. )
1. The lesson begins by the teacher bringing in mystery objects and objects related to erosion. Students should look at the objects and pictures and make observations orally.
2. Make an OKWHL chart as a class on chart paper about erosion.
3. Pass out nature journals and explain assignment:
a. With group of 2-4, choose an area where you think erosion may have occurred and explain why you chose the area.
b. Observe the area for 4-5 minutes without talking.
c. Write your observation in the "I observe..." box in your journal.
d. In your group, discuss any evidence of erosion you may have observed. Try to identify the cause of erosion (wind, water, etc.)
e. Draw what your site looks like in your journal.
f. Connect what you have learned today with our previous lesson of the indoor stream tables. Fill in your "connections" box in your journal.
g. Circle up and discuss observations as a class.
h. Take a mini hike and have students show where they found erosion.
i. Go inside and complete the OKWHL chart as a class.
Landform Jeopardy (PowerPoint 3.1MB Aug3 09)

Teaching Notes and Tips

As you present this lesson to your students, make sure they know your expectations of learning in an outdoor setting. Also, students should have clear expectations as to what you would like to see in their journals. You could give students a handout or have them outline in their journals. If you are going to be near water, be sure to discuss appropriate safety guidelines and use life jackets if neccessary.
In the Landforms FOSS-kit, the students do not go outside to observe erosion and deposition. This lesson would allow students to make the connection that erosion is all around us, and occurrs in many different places by having them go outside and observe.


Informal assessment can be conducted as students are participating in this lesson and through their participation in discussion.
The student should be prepared to hand in his/her journal entry at the end of the lesson. This could be used to assess whether or not the concepts are clear.

An extension activity could include having students make a poster or clay model of the landfrom terminology discussed throughout the unit.


5.3.1 The surface of the Earth changes. Some changes are due to slow processes and some changes are due to rapid processes.

References and Resources