Geosphere Teaching Ideas – Earth Science Activities for Kids

Geosphere teaching ideas span elementary, middle, and high school.  In fourth grade, kids do activities relating to changes in the surface of Earth. Then in fifth, they focus on interactions between spheres. Surprisingly, the rock cycle isn’t taught until middle school. Finally, in high school, they study how carbon cycles through the spheres.

Geosphere Teaching Ideas Cover

Mr. Grow Prepares to Teach the Geosphere

Ms. Sneed sat at the side table with her mentee. “I’ve found some great activities for Earth’s spheres,” Mr. Grow said. “Unfortunately, I don’t know how much earth science background information my students already have.” He read the related standard aloud:

NGSS 5-ESS2-2 Develop a model using an example to describe ways the geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and/or atmosphere interact.

“Specifically,” he continued, “what geosphere teaching ideas can be found in other grade levels?”

What Fourth Graders Learn About the Geosphere

“Surprisingly,” said Ms. Sneed, “kids don’t study much earth science in primary grades.”

“Instead, it begins in fourth grade. At that time, we teach rock formations and fossil layers.

In fourth grade, kids begin to understand the geosphere when they explore layers of the Earth with hands-on activities.
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“Additionally, we explore slow changes to Earth’s surface. You know, weathering, erosion, and deposition. Generally, this occurs through hands-on experimentation.

In fourth grade, geosphere teaching ideas include earth science activities on slow changes (e.g., weathering, erosion, and deposition.)

“Later, kids find patterns in the surface of our planet. For example, students in my class create volcano maps. Using latitude and longitude, they plot them on a map.

In fourth grade, geosphere teaching ideas include fast changes to the Earth's surface. Instead of learning about plate tectonics, they simply look for patterns in Earth's features, like this volcano map.

“Therefore, your fifth grade students should already understand fast and slow changes to the geosphere.”

Mr. Grow smiled. “So you’re saying I should probably review that.”

Ms. Sneed chuckled. “You’re a fast learner. Yep, always review. That’s the best practice.”

The Geosphere in Fifth Grade

“Okay,” said Mr. Grow. “After I review with these geosphere teaching ideas, I’ll also provide background information on the biosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere. Then we can explore interactions.”

In fifth grade, students explain interactions between the geosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and atmosphere.

“Not so fast,” his mentor said. “Let’s talk about the sequence of your science units.”

She turned her laptop so that he could see the screen. “Take a look at your other standards. On the first page, you see that kids learn all about matter.” She scrolled down a bit. “Here, they apply that as they study ecosystems. See? ‘Describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment.'”

At first, Mr. Grow looked puzzled. Then he nodded. “Now I get it. NGSS 5-ESS2-1 incorporates every branch of science. And other fifth grade standards provide support for it.”

“Right. Therefore, interactions between Earth’s spheres should be taught after your other topics.”

Mr. Grow sat up straight. “Aha! I can weave in review of geology, hydrology, and biology through out the year.”

Ms. Sneed nodded and smiled. Without a doubt, her mentee was beginning to understand how to maximize teaching. Integrating science experiences like this helped kids make connections.

Middle and High School

“In order to truly understand scope and sequence,” said Ms. Sneed, “you should also explore what will be taught after your grade level.”

Again, she pointed to her laptop screen. “In the middle school standards, you see that kids extend their knowledge of the geosphere. Specifically, they learn about plate tectonics and the rock cycle.”

Next, she searched the high school standards. “Although we won’t look at all of these, I wanted you to see this one. It involves ‘cycling of carbon among the hydrosphere, atmosphere, geosphere, and biosphere.’ So your little piece is really important.”

Mr. Grow nodded. “In fifth grade, I introduce Earth’s spheres. Then, in middle school, kids learn lots more about interactions. Finally, in high school, they work on a much more specific and sophisticated concept, the carbon cycle. Actually, this helps. Knowing where I fit in the learning progression shows me how to slant my instruction.”

Ms. Sneed grinned. “Just a little dose of pedagogy for the day!”

Geosphere Interactions

To help kids understand interactions between the geosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and atmosphere, try this set of resources.

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