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Earth Lesson

Earth Lesson

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Published by sciencebus
Students learn about the composition of the earth, and make a model of the earth using clay.
Students learn about the composition of the earth, and make a model of the earth using clay.

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Published by: sciencebus on May 19, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Developing a Model of the Earth’s InnerStructure
ObservingCreating Describing
AnalyzingCalculatingRecognizing patterns
EstimatingCooperatingDeveloping spatial sense
A variety of fruits and vegetables (peach or nectarine, avocado, potato, orange, apple,grape, tomato)
Drawing compasses
Clay (three different colors)
How much do your students know about the Earth's interior? This learning cycle activitywill provide them with a hands-on experience, as well as with appropriate terms and concepts.Students discover what makes a good model as they first choose a fruit or vegetable model andthen create both a two-dimensional and three-dimensional model of the Earth's interior. The useproportion and estimation to build their three-dimensional models will also compare their variousmodels for accuracy and overall utility.The learning cycle format includes three phases:
space exploration
(in which studentexploration with concrete materials and problems allows them to make new connections withpast experience),
conceptual innovation
(in which meaningful terms and concepts related to theexploration and experience are introduced), and
conceptual expansion
(in which students use theexperience and concepts to progress in their understanding of the subject).
In the following activity, students will:
Choose a good fruit or vegetable model of the earth and explain their reasoning.
Construct an accurate clay model of the earth, calculating or estimating the amount ofcleaning it for each layer.
Effectively compare and analyze their various models of the Earth's inner structure.
BACKGROUND INFORMATIONAbout the Earth's Inner Structure
The earth is composed of three layers print on do (see figure 1). The
has an inner solidportion surrounded by liquid portion. The
is mostly solid rock, but also contains
,or molten rock. The rocks of the cross create the continents and the ocean floors. The earth’smaterials have been distributed based on their
with the heavier materials found near theplanet’s center (the core being composed mostly of nickel and iron) and the lighter materials inthe crust. The deepest that humans have bored into the Earth is at a geological test site in Siberia(more than 10 km deep). Most of what we know about the composition of the inner earth isbased on studies of
seismic waves
(i.e., earthquake waves moving through rocks and monitoredby laboratory instruments as they travel through the various layers of the planet). The deeper yougo into the earth, the warmer the temperature becomes. The heat comes from the original heatthat was generated when the planet was formed in from
Plate tectonics
refers tothe movement of the plates in the crust, driven by
of the mantle (the plates arepushed about by the hot, shuffling mantle underneath). The cross plates are constantly, but veryslowly (because the plates usually move only a few centimeters each year), being created anddestroyed. Where plates diverge, new crust is treated as magma rises from the mantle or platesconverge, the leading edge of the crustal plate is pushed down and lost into the boundaries oftectonic plates, as they slide against one another.
Figure 1.
Earth’s inner structure
Main activity, step-by-step
Begin with a simple question: "What do you know about the inner structure of the earth?That is, what is the Earth like on the inside?" Create a KWL (Know-Want to Know-Learned) chart by listing their response in the “Know” column of the chart. Fill in thenext column of the chart by asking what they want to know about the Earth's innerstructure and recording their responses. Keep this chart up throughout the activity andrefer to it, clarifying knowledge, adjusting factual misconceptions, and pointing outconnections to the students' areas of interest.
exploration phase
of the learning cycle is as follows: offer student groups a varietyof types of groups and vegetables (peach or nectarine, avocado, potato, space or edge,apple, grape, tomato, etc.) and ask them to choose the one that they think best representsthe structure of the earth, especially considering what the plan is like on the inside. Besure that they know they will be responsible for explaining their reasoning. Providestudents with enough time to complete the task.
Now, to begin the
conceptual invention
phase of the learning cycle, asked each studentgroup to present its vegetable or fruit choice and rationale. Because the explanations willbe based on very limited knowledge, ask what they need to know about the Earth toreally pick the best piece of produce as an Earth model. List their responses on the board.They should want to know more about what the inside of the earth is like.Recall that the purpose of the conceptual invention phase is to build on thethoughts and findings from the exploration phase. Therefore, during and after theirfruit/vegetable model presentations, explain the basics about the internal composition ofour planet. Include the basic cross-section of core, mantle, and crust.
Proceed on to the
conceptual expansion phase
of the learning cycle by asking studentsagain which produce item is the best model of the earth, based on a new understanding ofthe facts. Ask each group to explain their answers in light of information about theEarth's inner structure. Did they choose a different produce item this time? Why or whynot?Have each student draw a cross-section of the earth, labeling the core, mantle, andcrust. Point out that this cross-sectional model is done in two dimensions (height andwidth). Also explain that they should base their drawings on the approximate diametersof each layer, which are as follows:Core = 3400 km; Mantle = 2900 km; Crust = 50 kmAsk, "If you are going to make a three-dimensional, cross-sectional model of theearth, made from three different colors of clay (core = blue, mantle = red, crust = green),how much of each color would you need? That is, would you need more blue, red, orgreen, and can decide just how much you would need to make your ‘model earth’ in thecross-section?" Be sure each group can explain its rationale.As the student groups complete the calculations/estimates, offer clay and balancesso they might weigh out the proper amount of each color and build their models. Groupscan then compare and analyze their models for accuracy. Finally, ask students todetermine and explain which is a better model of the earth's structure: the clay cross-

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