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Earth and Space Science

Fast and Slow Processes that change the Earth

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Ryan Towata Ryan Towata 3340 Points

Hello everyone. I teach fourth grade and one of the things I do to help my students understand fast and slow processes is that I have the create models and then have a fast process (hurricane, tsunami, tornado, earthquake, etc.) destroy their model and show the students the type of damage and destruction can occur with a fast natural process. My question is does anyone have any great ideas of helping me create a tornado? Also I want to create a better model demonstration of an earthquake. Our custodians have been helping me and we use the leaf blowers and carpet blowers to help create miniature hurricanes. But have been having trouble recreating a tornado. We tend to put our models in an empty trash can and blow the air around the can. Sometimes the students model cars and people lift off the model. One year we also made a funnel cone out of railroad board and that got some of their model tress to lift off the ground. I just wanted to see if anyone had great ideas of helping me create a tornado to model for my fourth graders and if anyone knows of a better design to an earthquake scene. We do the volcanic eruption with baking soda and food coloring and our floods and tsunamis are pretty good. But I need help with creating a believable tornado. Thanks Ryan

Denise Karratti Denise Karratti 820 Points

What about a vacuum cleaner? Maybe one of those cyclone type vacuum cleaners could be the simulation you are looking for. Although I am not sure how this would work... It was just the first image I had in my head. When you vacuum, you can sometimes see the things that get picked up in the clear plastic holding container.

Shanae Hatchell Shanae Hatchell 5820 Points

Tornadoes are fascinating and I think its great that you get others on campus involved in your students' education! I think a vacuum cleaner would be a great idea. There needs to be something in it so that students can see the actual movements of the tornado. What about using water to illustrate to students how tornadoes look like? They would be able to see the circular movement and it would be easy and inexpensive to produce. I found a video online that can help with this. http://www.ehow.com/video_4950869_make-tornado-bottle.html

Joy Agard Joy Agard 2190 Points

Hi Ryan, I had the same idea as Shanae...water tornado. I got an inexpensive plastic soda bottle connector from the Ellison Onizuka Space Center that works great to show the tornado, but now I'm thinking this model would be too small for your purpose. The next thing I'm thinking about is using leaf blowers or a bunch of fans that you configure in a circle, angled away from the middle a bit so that there is air spinning around an eye with little to no wind movement in the middle. You could create a village with small boxes as houses and twigs as trees on a plywood and move the plywood village along the floor into the tornado and the kids could experience the buildings flying everywhere. I hope you were able to visualize that. It's kind of off the wall, but that's the kinds of things I come up with on my own to create models in class. What do you think? Even better, discuss the content with the students and have them create the model themselves? It might be messy...but fun!

Ryan Towata Ryan Towata 3340 Points

Thank you everyone for the great advice. I will continue to work on the tornado with your help and ideas and I will let you know how it goes.

Tina Harris Tina Harris 65805 Points

I found this online, perhaps it will help http://www.tornadoproject.com/cellar/workshop.htm My daughter did a science fair project on earthquakes and we built a split box with soil on top and moved the boxes in different directions but you can probably find better models at the IRIS website here http://www.iris.edu/hq/programs/education_and_outreach/educators I built one of their shake tables and we make "earthquake proof houses" out of pasta and various connectors Your lessons sound like fun and I hope the students are excited about the topics!

Sherilynn Chang Sherilynn Chang 1220 Points

You've given me a great idea to teach the various ways the kids will learn each process! In response to your earthquake model, last year, I made a wooden box with a large slit on either side, there were two pieces of flat wood that had handles on both ends that went through the slits. The box was filled with soil, model homes, cars and animals and the kids moved both pieces of wood in opposite directions to show shear movement of the plates, studied what occurred at the fault line, and made their observations. Something to think about are the different movements of the plates and having the kids come up with models for each one. I'm sorry I haven't come up with a tornado model yet, kids have been "lucky" enough to witness dust devils around school and see the effects of it.

Sherilynn Chang Sherilynn Chang 1220 Points

You've given me a great idea to teach the various ways the kids will learn each process! In response to your earthquake model, last year, I made a wooden box with a large slit on either side, there were two pieces of flat wood that had handles on both ends that went through the slits. The box was filled with soil, model homes, cars and animals and the kids moved both pieces of wood in opposite directions to show shear movement of the plates, studied what occurred at the fault line, and made their observations. Something to think about are the different movements of the plates and having the kids come up with models for each one. I'm sorry I haven't come up with a tornado model yet, kids have been "lucky" enough to witness dust devils around school and see the effects of it.

Ryan,

I do not have model help for you but you might want to check out some of Jason's resources on Monster Storms. They are now fee based but still really great information about weather related events

This one is free:
Tim Samaras - Tornado Researcher
http://www.jason.org/live/tim-samaras-tornado-researcher-january-20-2010
Tim Samaras, January 20, 2010
Tornado chaser Tim Samaras answered questions from students around the world in this interactive live event.

Tina Harris Tina Harris 65805 Points

The tornado project link I posted is on how to make a tornado in a box - it looked a lot like the ones my professors took us to in the meteorology research center as an undergraduate (but not as big!).

Ryan Towata Ryan Towata 3340 Points

Thank you everyone for the great ideas for my models. I will definitely be making the earthquake boxes or even having my students try and make it themselves. We are working to integrate more STEM teaching to everything we do here and having the students design their own earthquake model would be a great way to work on STEM skills. I love all the links! Thank you again everyone for all the great ideas! I'm so excited to try them all!

Ryan Towata Ryan Towata 3340 Points

Here are pictures of some of the models my students have made in previous years. I wanted to share them with you so you all have an idea about what I've been trying to do to teach about fast and slow processes.

Attachments

Helen Hicks Helen Hicks 2635 Points

Teaching fast and slow land changes is hard to make labs to help the students understand the concepts. I do a lot of science readings, real life story readings and watching real life/world videos.

Reid Fukushima Reid Fukushima 970 Points

I like that you have the students get more involved and create models to show fast and slow processes. I will have my students do this as well when we get to that benchmark. I think that it help them to understand the benchmark better and keep their interest since it is a lot more hands on. I know I would rather be making something than just reading about it. I also feel that they will retain the information better too.

Ryan Towata Ryan Towata 3340 Points

Good Reid. Let me know how the models and hands-on activities go when your students get to it. I love to see and hear about other teachers creating models and doing more hands-on things. My students love building the models and they are extremely into it when we "destroy" them with our fast processes. See if you can get your custodians involved too because they have all the "toys" that will help you create the perfect situations for your fast processes. Especially they will be helpful in creating the hurricane force winds and the tornado if you find a way to make the vortex.

Ryan Towata Ryan Towata 3340 Points

Hello all my fellow Hawaii teachers, please use this recent opportunity with the earthquake in Canada and the recent tsunami warning to review and go over the fast processes events that occurred. You could talk about plate tectonics and the resulting tsunami that was generated and how the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center used the data to help predict a possible tsunami in Hawaii. You could also tie in hurricane Sandy to the lesson and show the damage that this weather phenomenon could change the face of the Earth. Use these natural events to teach about fast processes. It's perfect.

Shanae Hatchell Shanae Hatchell 5820 Points

I agree that the Tsunami situation we just had in Hawaii as well as Hurricane Sandy on the east coast provide us with current, relevant opportunities to teach our students about ways that the Earth can undergo change. Have any of you used these events in your classrooms yet? If so, how? In Hawaii, during the Tsunami warning, I was shocked at how many teens did not understand what a Tsunami actually was. Many were confusing Tsunamis with Hurricanes. Many students did not take the warning seriously. I spoke to my Grandmother about the Tsunami we had over the weekend. She described to me some of the things she saw when a Tsunami hit Hawaii in 1946 and why she will always take these Tsunami warnings seriously. I was planning on using this as an opportunity to teach my students about what a Tsunami actually is. I want my students to speak to someone in their family or community who has experienced a deadly Tsunami and share that story with the class. I hope this will lead to a greater awareness and safe decisions in the future.

Ryan Towata Ryan Towata 3340 Points

Shanae, I'm glad you're going to use the Tsunami warning and earthquake in Canada as a way to engage your students in a great discussion. We always focus on hurricanes here in Hawaii but we've had three tsunami scares from three major earthquakes. It is important to tie the tsunami warnings with the earthquakes. The students need to understand that the chances of tsunamis increase with the size of the earthquake and where the earthquakes happen. We have been talking about the ring of fire, and the hot spot theory in fourth grade. I'm going to tie in plate tectonics and earthquakes with my lessons to give the students a better understanding. But I love the idea of the discussion.

Jennifer Rahn Jennifer Rahn 67945 Points

I love the idea about slow and fast processes that change the land, but most of what I see are fast, catastrophic processes. Living in a slightly cooler climate than Hawaii (Wisconsin) we probably notice more of the slow processes. Of course, we have freezing temperatures, and this time of year, alternating freeze-thaw cycles affect erosion by water seeping into cracks and expanding as it freezes. The cycle, repeated on a daily basis where I live, has some major effects on the landscape. Also, there are many slow organic and chemical processes that shape the landscape. Acid rain, caused by high concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere captured in raindrops hits the surface of the Earth and actually dissolves bedrock, or increases the size of cracks in limestone bedrock. There are some phenomenal caves produced when tiny drops of water travel through the subsurface, either dissolving or depositing minerals. That said, I am sure there are many activities to illustrate "slow processes." You will need a little patience though. You could have students try the freeze-thaw using different kinds of rocks. I have used this kind of activity to demonstrate erosion with a variety of rocks, collecting samples of sandstones, limestone, granite, shales, etc. You probably would want to add some volcanic rocks. We took each sample, massed it, described it, then place it in a container with an abrasive material, and shook it for a specified number of minutes (great kinetic activity). You could add other types of "erosion" to the activity, like freeze-thaw cycles, or simulation of acid rain with vinegar. Which rocks are affected? Which rocks are not? The observations are an interesting introduction to some classic physical and chemical reactions in earth science. Also, encourage the students to make their own observations. Many activities are glacial (literally). There is a pothole (kettle) in a park near my house. There is a sign describing the "Vanishing Pond." There are lots of reasons the pond is vanishing - suburban growth has pulled down the water table as the detritus from the surrounding trees fills the kettle. Erosion continues to be a factor as well. Perhaps our hotter, drier summers in the recent summers has also affected the disappearing lake. Makes for a great mystery if you can weave it into your study of landforms.

Tina Harris Tina Harris 65805 Points

And of course, as Jennifer mentioned, there are so many different slow processes like how soil creeps down hills and how streams and ocean currents change the shape of the land. We made stream tables in our classes (and used them later to model glaciers). Earthquakes can also provide slow changes - we saw buildings in San Francisco when I was out there for the NSTA conference a few years ago that were literally tied together with metal bands because of the slow creeping motion of the faultline.

I have attached pictures from San Francisco and you can google for additional ones - there is a site called Earth Science Picture of the Day where I have searched to find interesting photos of earth processes. Another good site for photos is the AGI Earth Science Image Bank - it doesn't show as many processes as the former, more results but you can get good stream images, pictures of folded rock layers, etc.

I am also attaching directions for setting up small stream models for those who have never done these before - my students had a lot of fun experimenting with factors that would change the stream flows.

Tina Harris Tina Harris 65805 Points

Sorry the pictures didn't post - I had to run to an appointment so here they are. I took these while on a field trip to look at signs of the San Andreas fault and I don't mind sharing if they would be useful in your classes :) I have additional pictures of shifted curbs and cracks in the ground but I thought these were probably the best.

Ryan Towata Ryan Towata 3340 Points

Jennifer and Tina thank you so much for the great ideas! Tina, those pictures will really help me with my fast and slow processes. California is a great place to talk about these processes and yet scary in other ways. We are lucky that we have our erupting volcano but living on Oahu makes it hard for our students to realize that they have a fast and slow process producing event here in our own backyard. Pictures don't do justice to Kilauea and the lava flow. I will definitely use those pictures as I teach about fast and slow processes. We have also been paying attention more to earthquakes in and near the Ring of Fire. We will be heading on our yearly field trip to the Hawaii Nature Center and discuss the formation of the island through the Hot Spot theory and talk about the fast and slow processes that helped shape our island chain. The students will get to learn through hands-on activities on how the islands were built over millions of years. Thank you all again!

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