Learning about the Earth’s Crust

My youngest loves to dig in the dirt! After some gentle teasing from her dad about how, when he was a kid, he dug to the center of the Earth, she thought she'd give it a try! This led in to some actual discussion about our Earth and how big it actually is. Our unit ended up being a lot of fun with great picture books to guide us, some messy projects, and a lapbook with what we've learned to finish it off! 

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What is the Earth Made Of?

My kiddo knows that digging in dirt is what's on top, but she did not know that it isn't dirt all the way down. To learn more, we turned, of course, to great picture books first.

One of my favorite books for learning about the Earth's layers is the clever one, How to Dig a Hole to the Other Side of the World by Faith McNulty. In it, she gives "instructions" to a kid on how to do just that, taking into consideration that at a certain point it will be too hot and you'll need a suit then a submersible that could go through molten rock. Kids will quickly see that digging though the world is not really possible!

I also like that she mentions cracks in the crust and volcanoes. All of these were a nice foundation for the rest of the unit. 

Although my full list of suggested books are included on the annotated list in my full unit, I'll highlight a couple of favorites on this blog post.

How to Dig a Hole to the Other Side of the World by Faith McNulty

Planet Earth/Inside Out  by Gail Gibbons

How Tectonic Plates Shaped Earth by Jane P. Gardner

The Island that Moved by Meredith Hooper

After we learned a few basics, we decorated a half-sphere from the craft store to represent the layers of the Earth. We were going to paint it, but those Sharpie markers were too tempting to my girl so I found a use for them for my daughter. I confess I colored the map of Earth's crust on the outside, because I wanted it to look like a world! My daughter helped with the inner layers. (I bought a bag of 12 half-spheres from Amazon, but I think Hobby Lobby might have had some, too. Foam will NOT take paint.)

It was still nice weather when we did this activity, so we took it outside. I drew the world on the driveway and outlined the tectonic plates around the continents! It was fun to run around as we talked about how the earth is made up of plates. It's quite a concept, and I'm not sure how much my 1st grader understood, but it was a nice review of geography as well!

Also in the full unit...

How is Earth like a peach?

How are tectonic plates like ice cubes?

What is the theory of continental drift, who was Alfred Wegener, and what was Pangea?


Earthquakes, Volcanoes, Tsunamis, Oh My!

Wow there is so much to learn when it comes to the Earth's crust! Not only can we learn about the layers of the Earth and the plates that float along the top of the surface, but there is a whole world of natural disasters to explore along with that (see what I did there?). 

I wanted to introduce these natural disasters in a safe context, so again, stories help. Putting the world and the changing face of the Earth into context actually has been a lot of fun. 

Earthquake by Marion Dane Bauer

How Mountains Are Made by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld

Dear Katie, the Volcano is a Girl by Jean Craighead George

Volcanoes by Franklyn Branley

Volcanoes by Gail Gibbons

An Island Grows by Lola M. Schaeffer

More Learning Activities

We learned about how plates move to cause earthquakes using pudding and graham crackers.

(I thought food-based learning would be perfect! Turns out no on likes vanilla pudding, so don't use that....next time we'll try jello.)

The full unit has pudding-and-cracker examples of various types of earthquakes.

I did not want to dwell on the concepts of tsunamis, but we did learn about them in passing.

Watch this video for a really cool demonstration idea from a librarian in Springfield, Missouri

Click here to watch this made-for-kids video on YouTube.

The full unit has more activities to discuss the effects of volcanoes and an activity to learn about how mountains form.

We learned about volcanoes with hands-on activities. Here are two of them.

  • Mentos-Coke "cinder-cone" volcanoes. (I couldn't do this outside myself this time, but I never tire of watching these!
  • Play-dough "shield" volcano.

The full unit has more details on types of volcanoes (with links to online examples) and info cards about famous historical volcanoes.


What's a Lapbook?

Lapbooks are such a great way to contain all that we learn when we do a unit study! For our earth’s crust unit, we read so many great books. As we learned, we incorporated all we learned into a lapbook. A lapbook can also be called an "interactive notebook."

In lapbook format, all the information we learn is incorporated into  foldable and assemble-able flaps. They are cut out and glued onto the inside of a single file folder, so all the learning can be folded up and contained into one folder to be stored and kept for review. 

In interactive notebook format, the student maintains a notebook or binder with pages that have the flaps and learning material glued in order on subsequent pages. This binder likewise can contain learning and review materials from other units throughout the year to be a portfolio for learning!

Would you like to build your own Earth's crust lapbook? I'm offering this lapbook for free for subscribers to my science subject email list! This interactive notebook is a part of my full Earth's Crust unit, but I know not everyone needs the whole shebang. I hope this helps you in your homeschool or classroom.


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earth's crust Lapbook

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Get the Earth's Crust Unit

In addition to all the activities, the extensive annotated book list, and the printables, the unit also has a review game to make it all the better. To be completely honest, this is a game that my son (now 15) created when he was 5 years old. We had just started homeschooling then. I haven't done anything with it until now, but I thinnk the end result is kind of spiffy.

(I wish I took a picture of the original version. It was created before I began my teacherpreneur career. He created the "danger zones" on the board and decided on the rules: You get a "Earth tokens" when you get a correct trivia answer. The winner is the one with the most Earth tokens when they get to house at the end!)

Learn about the Earth

Each section has hands-on teaching ideas, activities, and worksheets (as well as the lapbooks/interactive notebook pages).

Activities include

  • painting the earth’s layers
  • mapping tectonic plates
  • putting together a Pangea puzzle
  • demonstrating earthquakes and mountains
  • erupting a volcano
  • learning about historic volcanic eruptions
  • interactive notebook pages (offered via email subscription here)
  • review game

In my STEM Storytime & More membership, you get a new science unit each month, as well as a smaller STEM challenge. Some months there is a bonus science tip, list, or storytime idea. It’s just one monthly price to stock your science lesson cabinet each month with all the ideas you’ll need for teaching your children in your home or classroom.

The Earth's Crust full unit was offered as a part of the September 2022 membership offering. If you join now, you'll get full access to this, as well as all past units. Each month, you'll get new science units! Membership opens the 2nd-8th of each month.


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