Classroom Activity: Exploring Landforms Through Erosion

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Classroom Activity: Exploring Landforms Through Erosion

When discussing weathering and erosion with our students, some may not have the background knowledge or experiences to visualize these processes in order to make real world connections. How can we give students an experience where they can see soil being moved and influenced by wind or water? The following is a two part project found in our second grade Landforms module in our STEAM Fundamentals curriculum.


1 – measuring cup 1 – poster board Tape
2 – foam cups 1 – straw Water
1 – aluminum pan 1 – paper clip Sand




    1. Fold the poster board in half twice (top to bottom, side to side). This creates four large sections and will be used to create a working space to minimize mess and keep your classroom clean. Cut along the crease of one of the long sides to separate two of the sections. Fold the poster so that one of the sections slides under the other. This should create a structure that looks like half of a cube. You may use tape to prevent unfolding.

  1. Place a pan in the center of your new workspace. Pour roughly two cups of sand into the pan and have students form the sand into a mountain shape.

  2. Using the straw, gently blow on the sand. Notice that the landform changes as the sand moves. This an example of how weathering by wind can change the shape of a landform. Record your observations.

  3. Next, use the paper clip to punch small holes into the bottom of one of your foam cups. You can punch many holes but be careful not to compromise the structural integrity of the cup and to prevent it from falling apart.

  4. Fill the second foam cup with water. While holding your first cup (the one with holes in it) over your sand mountain, pour water into it from the second cup. This will provide an example of erosion caused by rain or moving water. Record your observations.



Take this activity further to explore erosion prevention methods. Cut a sheet of card stock into 2 inch by 3 inch pieces and place them around the sand mound halfway from the top. Repeat the two activities from before and compare the results.


This post comes from NICERC Curriculum Development Specialist Jon Ownby.

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