Earth Layers: A Geography & Art Lesson Plan for Younger Elementary Classes

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Preparing for the Lesson

This is a simple art project that helps form an understanding of the fact that the Earth is made up of different layers. It can be put together as scientifically “accurate,” or more free-form and artistic.

The teacher will need to collect clear glass baby food jars (one for each student,) knitting needles or craft sticks, food coloring, and lots of salt or sand. Alternatively, she can take her students on a sand-collecting adventure, depending upon where the school is located and the time of year. The salt or sand should be divided into four to six piles, and each one made a different color. To color the salt or sand, place it in a big bowl with food coloring or a little paint. Use a wooden spoon to mix thoroughly.

Geology: Explain the Layers

Over the centuries, different layers of rock and soil have been formed in the Earth’s crust. The further we dig into the different layers, the older the rock and soil is.

Talk to your students about dinosaur fossils buried deep down in the Earth. Everybody chooses a color and puts some sand into the bottom of their jar.

From digging in the ground, archeologists know that there is another layer of rock and soil that formed after the dinosaurs died. In this layer, we find evidence of early mammals. Have everybody choose another color and place this sand on top of the other sand.

What came next? Maybe talk about earlier forms of man, such Cro-Magnom or Neanderthal. Everybody chooses another color to place in their jar.

And so on and so forth for each color of sand, for as many colors as you have chosen. Just make sure you keep your commentary in chronological order, from earliest to present day.

When the jars are filled, students can take a craft stick or knitting needle (knitting needles work very well) and poke the sand inside the sides of the jar. This represents the movement of the layers of rock and soil over time, for example, during earthquakes.

Place the lid on top and you have a side view of different layers of rock and soil in the Earth’s crust!