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Earth and Space Science

Teaching Earth Science for the first time

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Brendan Trache Brendan Trache 1395 Points

Hi Everyone, I'm new to NSTA. This fall I'll be teaching Earth Science to 8th graders for the first time. Does anyone have any suggestions for relevant activities we could do on the first day? I'm looking for something that would be content related, but also could serve as a get-to-know-eachother activity. For our state standards (VA) the first couple of weeks are dedicated to explicitly teaching "the nature of science". Thanks -Brendan

Brooke Bartels Brooke Bartels 4295 Points

Hi, I have been learning about get to know you activities that are content based in my education classes at UNI. There is 4 corners. Have a questions about Earth science and give 4 possible answers and the students have to go pick a corner. Then the students that are in the corners together discussion why they chose the answers. They get to know one another and why they chose the answer. Also theres a beach ball activity. You throw it to one another and what ever question there thumb lands on they answer that question. These are just a few activities/ideas for you to think about using. Hope it helps! Brooke

Marcos Aurélio Silva Marcos Aurélio 2927 Points

Essa é uma ótima ideia! Ótima maneira de envolver os alunos.

Cris DeWolf Cris DeWolf 11965 Points

I don't remember where I got this (possibly Facebook - or here!) but I use an inflatable globe and throw it out to a student. The student catches it and tells me how many of their fingers are touching water. They then share something about themselves and toss it to another student. Tally up the number of fingers touching water for each student and then calculate the average at the end It should be close to 70%, the amount of the planet's surface covered with water.

Marisela Garza Marisela Garza 2525 Points

I like that idea. It is very creative.  

Angeles Rivero Loyola Angeles Rivero Loyola 1450 Points

I love that idea! Even though I teach Kindergartners, I could use it just tallying them up and saying that earth has a lot of water. 

Kim Duba Kim 380 Points

Thanks Chris! This is an awesome idea that can be used with many grade levels!

Deborah Suen Deborah Suen 1505 Points

This is such a great idea! Great way to get the students engaging.

Carmen Stearns Carmen Stearns 85 Points

I love this idea and we all know any lesson where kids get to throw a ball around is ideal for learning! It is a great way to get them to understand the plants surface and how much is covered by water.  Thank you for sharing this!

Steve Kirsche Stephen Kirsche 9145 Points

Fun idea! Thanks for sharing!

Dallas Aguilar Dallas Aguilar 840 Points

That is a really cool activity! It could easily be incorporated into geography lessons too!

Clarissa Draper Clarissa Draper 200 Points

Wow. That sounds so fun. It proves the statistic.

Mindy Gonzalez Mindy Gonzalez 490 Points

This is a wonderful idea! Thank you for sharing. I will be using this in my classroom. Not only will this activity provide an icebreaker for students to get to know each other, but they are learning content and practicing physical movement! I love it!!

Alina Gumbs Alina Gumbs 315 Points

That's a great idea!

I love this idea. I think visual students will benefit from this the most.

Karey McHugh Karey McHugh 245 Points

Very creative idea! Will definitely use one day.

Skye Rodriguez Skye Rodriguez 2165 Points

Wow, I love this idea. It is so creative. What I especially like is that it presents content in a fun and non-threatening way. I say non-threatening because as a student I was always intimidated by science and still am in some way today. This activity really is a fun way to introduce a science concept in fun way that will grab students attention and interest them.

Raquel Bruner Raquel Bruner 755 Points

What a great idea! I bet they enjoy that. It's great how you took a fact and made it engaging and concrete for them. They are more likely to remember that and it even incorporates math!

Rosalinda Salinas Rosalinda Salinas 1530 Points

That's a great idea. Thanks for sharing.

Ashley Gonzalez Ashley Gonzalez 2650 Points

I really like this idea. It's a good cross-curricular activity that allows students to practice both their math and science skills. I believe that to be incredibly important for student's and it also makes it easier for teachers considering the students are learning something meaningful yet they are also doing something they consider fun. Not to mention, it is also a good activity that can allow students to become comfortable with one another or to perhaps introduce a new topic. Thank you for sharing, I will definitely be using this in my future classroom.

Alexis Martinez Alexis Martinez 2970 Points

Wow, this is a great idea. Simple and get's the students engaged easily. I love how they can come up with the fact themselves without knowing it at first. They must love it and thinks it's amazing! I can see myself using this little activity in my classroom in the future.

Jodee Fuhrmann Jodee Fuhrmann 305 Points

This is a neat idea! Thanks

Carole Moreno Carole Moreno 8288 Points

Great idea, Thank you for sharing

Sara Pierce Sara Pierce 3922 Points

Very creative and engaging! Engages prior knowledge.

Jan Shimoda Jan Shimoda 10 Points

I used this activity too.....I got the idea from the Project WET workshop I attended. Very interactive and fun for the students!

Olivia Meincke Olivia Meincke 3754 Points

This is so creative. Great intro activity!

Jillian Haberichter Jillian Haberichter 3038 Points

Cris- I really like this idea! What a great way to make an activity fun and engaging while also very educational. This activity is sure to help students remember the important take-aways such as the % of water covering Earth's surface. I also like how it can be used as an energizer for students to get to know their peers better. Are there any other things we could teach students from this activity? I am currently a preservice teacher, but look forward to using this activity in my own classroom in the future.

Sadie Jackson Sadie Jackson 275 Points

I remember doing something similar when I was only in first or second grade. The teacher had each student come up to the front of the room and spin the globe. The student would stop it with one finger and tell whether they landed on land or water. This really made an impression on me (clearly since I can still remember it vividly!)

Melanie McGill Melanie McGill 3310 Points

I love this idea that could double as an icebreaker for students along with teaching a science concept. I like that this has students taking an active role in a fun way that will allow them to connect learned information to this activity and help them retain the knowledge in an engaging way.

Rebecca Manning Rebecca Manning 50 Points

What a cool idea! I will pass along to my 6th grade team!

Mallory Van Winkle Mallory Van Winkle 3190 Points

I think this is such an interesting idea! Not only is it something you could do with 8th graders but even younger I'm sure. I'm wondering if this works every/almost every time? This would be a wonderful way to get students engaged and interested in bodies of water. The ocean is a topic that really intrigues me and I think would be a great introduction to a lesson. Thank you for sharing!

BreAnna Winzer BreAnna Winzer 565 Points

I think this is a great idea!

Kelsey Ettleman Kelsey Ettleman 3729 Points

Chris- This is such a neat idea! In my schooling, I have done many get to know each other activities and many of them included throwing a ball around. This is a great activity for students to get to know one another, but also include science. While the students pass the inflatable globe they could say their name and something about themselves. After they do this they could say how many fingers are touching the water and then tally them. I love how the average will be close to 70% and that is the amount of the planet's surface covered with water! Awesome post and I can't wait to do this in my future classroom!

Kia Shields Kia Shields 3432 Points

Hi! I love this idea! I have actually played this game!

Kelsey Katcher Kelsey Katcher 3344 Points

I really like this idea. As a soon to be new teacher, I need all the ideas I can get. I really like this idea because it's so interactive with the students and gets them engaged in the lesson. It also get them interest in learning more about science, which is amazing. I will be adding this idea to my teaching bucket. Thank you!

Project Wet does things with an inflatable globe. Another place to find resources for teaching hydrology or oceanography in Earth Science.

I have attached a variety of resources I have used for teaching earth sciences as well as graphic organizers for students to organize their notes. 

Another resource you might look into is earth Science Week from American Geosciences Institute.


Micah Rogers Micah Rogers 2303 Points

I like this idea a lot! That is a cheap lesson, and it is also a hands on activity which kids love. You can expand on this by having the students do research about the water they touched when they caught the ball. You can have them explore the different sea life, the civilazation around the ocean, how the civilazation uses the ocean and etc 

Almadelia Castizo Almadelia Castizo 2815 Points

This activity sounds amazing. It is engaging and can help teacher a very helpful fact about the earth with such simple game. 

Veronica Rivera Veronica Rivera 605 Points

This is a great idea to get students on their feet and participate. This activity could be a great ice breaker and science lesson all in one. 

Quyen Han Quyen Han 9875 Points

I like this! It's an engaging activity to introduce Earth Science and to compare and contrast the amount of ocean vs landmass while getting to know each other.  It helps them have fun while they're learning (though they may not realize it!)

Aileen Trevino Aileen Trevino 230 Points

This is such a fun and helpful idea! I will definitly want to try this out in my future classroom. It helps the students learn the concept get to know their peers. It even incorporates some math. Thank you for sharing!

Aileen Trevino Aileen Trevino 230 Points

This is such a fun and helpful idea! I will definitly want to try this out in my future classroom. It helps the students learn the concept get to know their peers. It even incorporates some math. Thank you for sharing!

Ashley Ledesma Ashley Ledesma 240 Points

This is an awesome activity that I remember doing in a math class. (The inflatable balls are a great activity for many other subjects and are a great way to get the quiet kids to participate). 

Jamie Breen James Breen 943 Points

I really like this idea!

Jake Schulke Jake Schulke 1035 Points

What a fun idea! You're covering mathematics & computational thinking, analyzing & interpreting data, plus getting them all giggly and kinesthetically stimulated. I love it.

Kelsea Hector Kelsea Hector 1085 Points

What a great idea! I will have to put this in my toolbox for my future classroom. 

Brendan Trache Brendan Trache 1395 Points

That's an awesome idea! Thanks!

Asya Ammons Asya Ammons 1065 Points

Hello, The first day can be challenging but in all a great day for everyone to get to know each other. You could have the students write down where there are from and an earth science fact about the area( your topic). Since a lot of the students are going to be from the same area you have some students do the same for a place they may have visited before. Then have start to randomly toss around a ball and have the student stand up give 1 fact about themselves and their science fact. I hope this helps !

George Mehler George Mehler 1575 Points

Hi Brendan, I think I may be able to help. I have been developing a YouTube Channel called FunScienceDemos which is home to hundreds of free science demonstrations for young learners. They are all common core aligned and can easily be recreated in the classroom. They cover a variety of topics and any of these demonstrations would catch your students' attention and get them engaged in the science lesson. Check it out and subscribe to our channel. Best, Dr. George Mehler Ed.D., Temple University

Leslie Bolton leslie bolton 405 Points

great post

Melissa Leal Melissa Leal 1465 Points

Great idea about the inflatable globe!

Janelle Sardinas Janelle Sardinas 1840 Points

What a great way to start a lesson. This is great for a Set to get the student's thinking about the topic as well as engaged and using prior knowledge about the topic. I really enjoyed reading this and it is a great little way to encourage students. 

Janelle Sardinas Janelle Sardinas 1840 Points

What a great way to start a lesson. This is great for a Set to get the student's thinking about the topic as well as engaged and using prior knowledge about the topic. I really enjoyed reading this and it is a great little way to encourage students. 

Danielle Bergstrom Dani Bergstrom 1160 Points

Great Post!

Adriana Castillo Adriana Castillo 1015 Points

This is a great way to access students prior knowledge and to engage them in the lesson. 

Frieda Lamprecht Frieda Lamprecht 1555 Points

We do this activity also, but actually figure the percentages mathematically. We toss the inflatable globe 100 times and record whether the thumb hits land or water. The percentages are really easy to figure for elementary students. They always seem to work out! About 70% water and 30 % land. Afterward students really want to spend time researching and adding more information to what they thought they knew about water and land on Earth. You can do this in small groups and compare data as well.

Jonathan Marin Jonathan Marin 435 Points

Wow! I should really try and see if I can get those same results with the inflatable globe. I want to see how many repetitions it would take to start getting those results. 

Lily Walden Lily Walden 65 Points

I really like that globe idea! It really would make them think about how much of the Earth is composed of water!

Becky Cady Becky Cady 1575 Points

Hi! I really like the globe idea as well. It's very informative, yet it keeps the students attention because it requires that they pay attention to where the globe is being tossed in the classroom. Perfect for all of those little active learners :)This is a great class activity for a lot of grade levels, especially the second graders that I hope to teach one day!

Benjamin Golan Benjamin Golan 10 Points

Agreed, this is definitely something I can teach my students when they get back to class. gamble her med spilleautomater og bli en vinner.

Athena Matte-Breaux Athena Matte-Breaux 415 Points

I'm a new science teacher (third grade). I'm looking for ideas for hands on activities for teaching the 3 types of rocks.

James Johnson James Johnson 95308 Points

Hi Athena!  Try out this link

One of the things I've done is to take the kids on a field trip to a local hiking trail that uses stone hiking surfaces or even a stone quarry if you have one or some place where there are fossils and ask them to bring back pretty rocks or a pet rock.  Once they have their treasures, you can tell the kids the story of their rock.  They can write their own stories, glue on little eyes, or make a diorama.  You can identify the fossils and see what geologic period they came from and why they showed up in you neighborhood and what geology you have where you live.  I have a friend in Hawai'i who asked me to send fossils to her because they have none.  I did a 'If it fits it ships' and it was cheap.  I've swapped rocks this way for geodes out of Utah before which the kids can break open for a treasure.  Your state geologist will help you if you find the home page or facebook page.  Most of us have a USDA NRCS Soil Scientist in our areas.  Of course, a clever teacher can get a lesson in with these opportunities...

Jennifer Rosales Jennifer Rosales 830 Points

What a great idea Cris!! It's a fun and entertaining way to learn the bodies of water and any other features of the world!

Emily Puttock Emily Puttock 125 Points

Once my niece, who is only six years old, asked me: "Emily, tell me, please, is that truth  the earth is round?" I was surprised and confused, what to answer to my little Interested in the world girl. Then she wanted me to prove this is true! It was very stiff tast for me. I even think now about science that is more hard and complicated to explain everything to little children then to make dissertation or soon.

Hunter Pugh Hunter Pugh 10 Points

Teaching Earth Science for the first time is such an exhilarating experience for a teacher like me. I really enjoyed reading this and it has great tips to encourage students to learn more about the subject.

Malkova Mali Malkova Mali 20 Points

long sought this site, thanks to the author, I am pleased to join your community!

Bad_account Bad_account Bad_account 20 Points

useful information, thanks to the author!

Valerie Southgate Valerie Southgate 170 Points

I do this lab with my 8th graders in Iowa. Enjoy!

Rebecca Blumenthal Becky Blumenthal 170 Points

This activity comes from (or at least one source for it) Project Wet, which includes an impressive collection of activities for teaching about water. You have to be certified from a training to access the whole curriculum, but even without you can find some interesting ideas.

Kia Shields Kia Shields 3432 Points

Hi! I have heard about Project Wet and looked at an activities book from one of their conferences. One activities I have done is the path of a water drop. Stations are set up around the room such as Ground Water, River, Cloud, etc. Students are given a pipe cleaner and roll a dice at each station to determine which path they will go. At each station, students will pick up a bead and put it on their pipe cleaner. Students can have 5-10 mins to go to each station. At the end, students will have a pipe cleaner full of colorful beads. The goal of the lesson is for students to understand that no one water drop has the same path.

Chien Hui Chen CHIEN HUI CHEN 850 Points

There are some activities that I found online. I hope the website can give you some ideas.


Pamela Dupre Pamela Dupre 92369 Points

Thanks so much!

Kia Shields Kia Shields 3432 Points

This website is very helpful and does offer engaging experiments and activities for students. Thanks!

Thank you very much for the link. I love the activity for Products from Petroleum. It has a twist where some teachers forget to mention when covering Energy types.

Cara Cook Cara Cook 5795 Points

Now that the first day is well over, how did it go? How are you feeling about it now?

Lorena Solis Lorena Solis 820 Points

Hello there!! Congratulations on teaching 8th graders! I am sure you are doing a great! Earth Science is such a fantastic subject with endless possibilities of hands on activities!

Yoksiana Zacarias yoksiana zacarias 775 Points

I am too nervous about teaching this topic in early elementary when they are fresh to the topic, but I saw some great ideas on here to help. Thanks ya!

Avory Abordonado Avory Abordonado 485 Points

With our Hawaii State Standards I started out our 3rd grade Water Cycle with that activity. We'd sit in a circle and toss the inflatable globe around and when the students caught it, where ever their right thumb is on the ball (you can use whatever fingers you choose, but keep in mind it needs to be a constant variable), we'd keep a tally mark of land or water. Usually the results should end of with 70% more water. The next thing I do is come up with a list of places on Earth that fresh water can be found (atmosphere, glaciers & icebergs, ground water, soil, rivers & streams, lakes (from the top of my head I can't think of the last one if there is Anyhow, we do a visual experiment of how much fresh water is in each of those places (there is a resource online if you search water cycle or fresh water on Earth). This teaches the students: 1) how much fresh water is actually available to us, 2) Why we need to take care of Earth and not waste water. The next activity I do is a water cycle game in which the students pretend to be a single water drop and they travel through different water cycles depending on the luck of the draw (they roll a dice and the number tells them where to go next or remain in the same place). This game teaches them how water moves around earth through the water cycle steps: Evaporation, Condensation, Precipitation, Collection, etc...

Kia Shields Kia Shields 3432 Points

Hi! I have played a similar game to your second activity. Instead of the steps of Evaporation, Condensation, etc, the stations were Ground Water, Cloud, River, Animal, etc. Students were to roll a dice to see which location them as a water droplet would go to. The goal is for students to understand that no one water droplet travels the same path.

Cecelia Romero Cecelia Romero 2379 Points

Another great way to integrate sciences is to do activities on sand. I'm from Hawaii, so we are surrounded by sand, but there are many different components that make up the sand, some of which are living, and some not. Dissecting microscopes can be used to separate out different components. Magnets are good too. And of course, vinegar reacts with the calcium carbonate. Concepts in physical science, biology, chemistry, physics, marine science and earth and space science can all be learned utilizing sand! While listening to NPR last week, I learned that next to air and water, SAND is the most used natural resource, and that due to the explosion of construction in places like India, China and Kenya, we are facing a global sand crisis. Sand is used to make all concrete, glass, and also computer chips. However, not all sand is alike. The sand in Hawaii is not granite sand, so isn't used to make glass or computer chips. Engineering questions can also be tackled using sand. In my science department, as we are finally moving toward full implementation of NGSS, we are considering using the formation of sand as a "phenomenon" to be investigated across all science disciplines in some way.

Mary Bigelow Mary Bigelow 10275 Points

Thanks for the suggestion Cecilia!

Maybe I'm wishing I was back on the beach, but your comment about sand reminded me of a few resources.

Start with Sciencedescribes how sand became the focus for many investigations. This was published in Science & Children, but I think there are ideas for secondary classrooms, too. Especially if students think that sand is only found at the ocean.

The Science of Sandis a collection of images and data from sand samples submitted by people from around the world! It was started by a teacher and his students. (Several of the samples from DE beaches are mine!)

Mary B.

Vanessa Gonzalez Vanessa Gonzalez 755 Points

Hi Brendan, Good luck with your first year as a teacher! NSTA has a lot of cool resources you could look into, such as their SciPacks. They have one dedicated to the Universe and one dedicated to the Solar System. Both seem very insightful to what you will be teaching and can hopefully help out a lot.

Johnatan Gonzalez Johnatan Gonzalez 370 Points

Its a great idea and a perfect way to start or even end a lesson, I know that most students will really enjoy that lesson.

Alex Stammen Alex Stammen 570 Points

This is such a great idea. The students are engaged with a topic in Earth Science and telling something interesting about themselves. The students will not even realize that they are learning material.

Diane Teriaky DIANE TERIAKY 340 Points

Such a a great idea! If you have any ideas for lunar phases activities please share. 

Kennedy Carber Kennedy Carber 3755 Points

I have been learning about different "icebreaker" activities to do with my future students through my education classes. One idea I remember learning about is to have all the students take out a blank piece of paper. Tell them NOT to write their name on it.Give the students a few questions to answer on their pieces of paper that are both science and non-science related. Questions such as; What is one thing you did over the summer? How many siblings do you have? When you think of Earth Science, what do you think of? What is your favorite part about science? After the students have their answers, tell them to crinkle their papers into a ball, much like a snowball. When you say go have the students throw their snowballs around the room, much like a controlled snowball fight. When you say stop have the students all pick up one snowball that is not their own. The students will silently read the snowball they have found and try to figure out whose snowball they have. Once they figure out whose snowball they have, everyone will sit back down and then everyone will share at least one thing written on their new snowball. This is a great way for the students to get to know each other, but also you to get to know the students and some of their thoughts and feelings about science!

Elizabeth Meyer Elizabeth Meyer 2495 Points

I love this idea? Because it's the whole earth it can be incorporated into several geography lessons. Students could, as said before, toss the ball around and see how many fingers reach the water. The game could also work with countries, such as which country is closest to the student's finger would be the one they would briefly discuss. Or, in older grades, it would be a very unique way to assign a project about countries. Whatever country was closest to what the student's finger was on would be the country that they would do their project about. Blow up beach balls will always be a fun and cheap way to get students excited and attentive! 

George Mehler George Mehler 1575 Points

Hello fellow science teacher,
I am replying you behalf of Funsciencedemos YouTube Channel that is home to hundreds of free videos for ideas for teachers and students to recreate in the classroom. Science is our passion and we are so excited to share our engaging, kid-teacher-parent friendly, and interactive lessons with you to use in the classroom or at home. Our videos adhere to the common core science standards, encompass a wide variety of science concepts, and are specifically geared toward younger learners. All videos on the FunScienceDemos channel come with an English subtitle that can be translated into almost any language, making science lessons accessible virtually any place in the world.  
We encourage you check it out and spread the word! We post new science videos once a month, please subscribe our channel.
The FunScienceDemos Team

Emily Thompson Emily Thompson 215 Points

I really love the idea of having a game that allows the students to collaborate and discuss amongst themselves and sharing why they think they are the right group. A way you could you do this is by creating a game with the preferred ammount of questions on life science- whatever unit you are in and having the students have four options. Each option will be represented by a corner or location in the room. Whatever option they think is the answer to the question asked, they will go to that corner and discuss with the other people who chose that option on why they think they are right and come up with evidence. Then they will share and the correct answer will be shown and explained. 

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