Unit Overview

Students are led through a progression of three inquiry lessons that focus on the locations, patterns and features of Earth’s landforms. Through a series of mapping investigations, patterns will emerge between Earth’s tectonic plate boundaries and the locations of mountain ranges, oceanic trenches, earthquakes, and volcanoes. In the engineering challenge, students use these concepts to design an earthquake-resistant building in an earthquake-prone region to help mitigate damages.

  • Lesson 1
    Lesson 1: Solve:  Caribbean Treasure Hunt Mystery

    Solve: Caribbean Treasure Hunt Mystery

    Students review Earth’s Processes & Mapping vocabulary in a mind map before helping Felix and JoJo find their grandfather’s mystery location in the Caribbean. By the end of The Solve, students decipher clues in order to successfully read maps and uncover a variety of landforms and natural events on Earth before finding their grandfather. (75 mins)

  • Lesson 2
    Lesson 2: Lab: Discover Earth's Features and Patterns

    Lab: Discover Earth's Features and Patterns

    Students are challenged to investigate the locations of a variety of Earth’s landforms and natural events. By plotting the locations of mountain ranges, oceanic trenches, earthquakes, volcanoes, and tectonic boundaries, students will discover the patterns that exist amongst Earth’s processes and landforms. (130 mins)

  • Lesson 3
    Lesson 3: Engineer:  Design an Earthquake Resistant Building

    Engineer: Design an Earthquake Resistant Building

    Students investigate and research the impact of earthquakes on cities to design an earthquake-resistant building capable of withstanding an earthquake of magnitude 5 or greater. (130 mins)

  • Next Generation Science Standards
    Identify evidence from patterns in rock formations and fossils in rock layers to support an explanation for changes in a landscape over time. [Clarification Statement: Examples of evidence from patterns could include rock layers with marine shell fossils above rock layers with plant fossils and no shells, indicating a change from land to water over time; and, a canyon with different rock layers in the walls and a river in the bottom, indicating that over time a river cut through the rock.] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include specific knowledge of the mechanism of rock formation or memorization of specific rock formations and layers. Assessment is limited to relative time.]
    Make observations and/or measurements to provide evidence of the effects of weathering or the rate of erosion by water, ice, wind, or vegetation. [Clarification Statement: Examples of variables to test could include angle of slope in the downhill movement of water, amount of vegetation, speed of wind, relative rate of deposition, cycles of freezing and thawing of water, cycles of heating and cooling, and volume of water flow.] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to a single form of weathering or erosion.]
    Analyze and interpret data from maps to describe patterns of Earth’s features. [Clarification Statement: Maps can include topographic maps of Earth’s land and ocean floor, as well as maps of the locations of mountains, continental boundaries, volcanoes, and earthquakes.]
    Generate and compare multiple solutions to reduce the impacts of natural Earth processes on humans.* [Clarification Statement: Examples of solutions could include designing an earthquake resistant building and improving monitoring of volcanic activity.] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions.]
  • Inquiry Scale
    • Each lesson in the unit has an Inquiry Scale that provides directions on how to implement the lesson at the level that works best for you and your students.
    • “Level 1” is the most teacher-driven, and recommended for students in 4th-5th grades. “Level 4” is the most student-driven, and recommended for students in 7th-8th grades.
    • For differentiation within the same grade or class, use different inquiry levels for different groups of students who may require additional support or an extra challenge.
  • Common Misconceptions
    • Learners often assume that earthquakes and volcanoes only occur on land. Emphasize to students (through the Lab) that earthquakes and volcanoes occur on land and in the ocean. The movement of Earth’s plates can trigger a volcanic eruption or earthquake on land or in the ocean. Refer to the earthquake and volcano maps in the Lab to highlight locations.
    • Students often assume that weathering and erosion are the same thing. Emphasize to students (through the Solve) that weathering and erosion are related, but are two separate processes. Weathering is the process of rock breaking down over time due to exposure of natural elements such as wind, water, and ice. Erosion is the process of wind, water, or ice moving sediments away from a parent rock to another location. Use the example of Mogote weathering and erosion in the comic to differentiate between these processes
    • Students may believe that rocks do not change. Emphasize to students (through the Solve) that rocks can change as a result of weathering and erosion, heat, and pressure. Use the example of the Mogotes that are made of sedimentary rock in the comic to show how rocks can change in shape and size over time.
  • Vocabulary
      • Earthquake
      • Volcano
      • Erosion
      • Oceanic Trench
      • Fossil
      • Mountain
  • Content Expert
    • ESS1.C
      The History of Planet Earth Local, regional, and global patterns of rock formations reveal changes over time due to earth forces, such as earthquakes. The presence and location of certain fossil types indicate the order in which rock layESS2.A
      Earth Materials and Systems Rainfall helps to shape the land and affects the types of living things found in a region. Water, ice, wind, living organisms, and gravity break rocks, soils, and sediments into smaller particles and move them around.ESS2.E
      Biogeology Living things affect the physical characteristics of their regionsESS2.B
      Plate Tectonics and LargeScale System Interactions The locations of mountain ranges, deep ocean trenches, ocean floor structures, earthquakes, and volcanoes occur in patterns. Most earthquakes and volcanoes occur in bands that are often along the boundaries between continents and oceans. Major mountain chains form inside continents or near their edges. Maps can help locate the different land and water features areas of Earth.