What Is Our Evidence That We Live on a Changing Earth?

What Is Our Evidence That We Live on a Changing Earth?

What Is Our Evidence That We Live on a Changing Earth? is part of Smithsonian Science for the Classroom, a brand-new curriculum series by the Smithsonian Science Education Center. It is aligned to a group of grade 4 standards. It has a focus on Earth and space science with a secondary focus on engineering. In this module, students:

  • Analyze models of Earth, maps and globes, identifying patterns in the locations of major topographic features and occurrences of earthquakes and volcanoes
  • Obtain information about the hazards associated with earthquakes and volcanoes and ways humans monitor such Earth processes
  • Explain differences between wind-driven ocean waves and tsunami waves
  • Design and test models of earthquake-resistant buildings
  • Investigate weathering and erosion processes and explain the roles these processes have in changing the landscape
  • Use fossils and structures found in rock layers to explain the appearance of former landscapes
  • Propose a Smithsonian exhibit on Our Changing Earth that answers the module question

Below are digital resources that support teaching of this module.

Lesson 1: Looking Down on Earth

L1 Engagement
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This image of a phenomenon should spark student thinking about evidence of change on Earth.

Volcano Map
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This is a map showing locations of active volcanoes on Earth.

Rock Cliff 
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This rocky cliff experiences several types of weathering and erosion.

Lesson 2: Patterns on the Surface

L2 Engagement 
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This image of a phenomenon should spark student thinking.

Baseline Map
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This global map provides students with more exposure to different types of maps.

Earth Events
This website provides an animation of earthquake and eruption occurrences from 1960 to the present. Use the feature buttons at the top of the page to turn on or off the different features. The sulfur dioxide option should be turned off for Lesson 2, as volcanic gases have not yet been introduced.

Lesson 3: It’s a Disaster

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This video contains clips of eruptions at Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii.

Natural Hazards Viewer
A website with which you can search for several different types of natural disasters. To prepare the site for the Lesson 3 extension, select the Reset All Filters button on the lower left side of the viewer. Then select the check box next to Significant Earthquakes, Significant Volcanic Eruptions, or both. Use the search button for each of these hazards to limit the search to one year, possibly the year most of your students were born. Select specific events and access the information for students or prepare to show the viewer to the class and have them guide the selection.

Lesson 4: Tsunami Alert!

Deep Water Floater
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This video shows an object bobbing up and down in deep water when a wave passes through.

Stadium Wave
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This video shows a wave moving through the crowd in a stadium.

Wave Diagram
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This is an unlabeled diagram of a wave.

Tsunami Evidence
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This file contains two photographs of evidence of a tsunami wave. One shows evidence in rock layers and the other shows evidence of a recent tsunami.

Tsunami Signs
This link provides access to examples of tsunami warning and evacuation signs from several locations.

Lesson 5: Shake It Up

Earthquake Shaking
For Lesson 5, show the first 15 seconds of this video which shows shaking during a 17 October 1989 earthquake. The earthquake’s focus was 18 km (11 mi) under the surface of Earth and about 96 km (60 mi) from where the videos were taken.

For Lesson 6, show the entire video.

Earthquake Activity
This link provides access to an earthquake database. Use the setting icon on the top right to select magnitude and time limits. The map view can be changed by using the “Zoom to” button to select a region or by using the +/- keys.

Shake It Up Model
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This is a picture of the model students will use in their investigation.

Mercalli Scale 
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This image provides a description of the Modified Mercalli Intensity scale.

Lesson 7: Resist This

School Earthquake Safety
This link provides information about school earthquake safety.

Model Joints
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The images in this file are tips for joints students can use in their designs.

Resist This Engineering
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This lists the criteria and constraints for the student project.

Shake Tests 
The video shows earthquake shake testing in the University of Buffalo Structural Engineering and Earthquake Simulation Laboratory. For the initial discussion, show only the first 50 seconds of the video.
Video courtesy of Structural and Earthquake Engineering and Simulation Laboratory (SEESL), University at Buffalo (Buffalo, NY).

Drop Cover Hold On
This link provides resources for earthquake safety for people with disabilities.

Lesson 8: Agents of Change

Tsunami Debris
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This image shows natural and man-made materials moved around by a tsunami coming ashore.

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This image shows a mountain glacier.

Tray Angle
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This image shows students how to mark an index card for measuring tray angle.

Water on Soil
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This video includes two clips of water interacting with bare ground.

Lesson 9: Break It Up

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This image shows a sample of concrete.

Lesson 10: Plants—Friend or Foe?

Tree Roots
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This image shows tree roots growing into rock on a cliff.

Soil Erosion Test
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This is a photograph of the investigation set up for Lesson 10.

Rain Gardens
This is a collection of links to websites related to designing and building rain gardens.

Lesson 11: Picturing the Past

Studying Earth Layers
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This file contains several images to support the discussion of Lesson 11.

Lesson 12: Landscape Match Game

Red Rock Canyon
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These are current pictures of Red Rock Canyon, showing variations in the landscape near Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Lesson 14: Our Changing Earth Exhibit Part 1

Exhibit Guidelines
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This file houses the guidelines for the Science Challenge.

Exhibit Learning
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This file contains the prompts students will respond to when visiting other exhibits.

Smithsonian Exhibits
This is a link to a webpage from a Smithsonian Institution’s exhibits group.

Lesson 15: Our Changing Earth Exhibit Part 2

Pepper the Robot 
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This file is an introduction to Pepper, a robot docent at the Smithsonian Institution.

Kit Tips & Tricks