Earth and space science activities may help children better understand abstract concepts.
To children, the evolution of day to night can be a mysterious concept. Beginning in the elementary grades, kids are taught earth and space sciences that help them better understand how the earth and solar system work. Fortunately, you can teach many of the more difficult concepts of earth and space science, such as rotation and revolution, using activities that keep the children engaged.
First- & Second-Grade Planet Actions
This activity helps make the concepts of planet rotation and revolution more realistic and easier to understand for younger children. To prepare, the teacher will need one large yellow ball and nine balloons of different colors. Assign each child a balloon, or “planet,” and ask them to stand on a pre-drawn course that resembles the rotation of the planets. Instruct children to begin following their course to demonstrate how planets orbit around the sun. Students should also spin as they walk to illustrate the planets’ rotations. Follow up the activity with a classroom discussion about the solar system.
Third-Grade Earthquake Demonstrations
As students study the cause and effect of earthquakes, help them better comprehend the effects of earthquake motions on the environment. Instruct students to fill an aluminum tray halfway with wet sand. Place a layer of dry sand on top and have students lightly shake or “shimmy” the pan back and forth to make an “earthquake.” Tell them that the wet sand rising to the top is an illustration of “liquefaction”; discuss the concept with the class. In another activity, have the third-grade students fill a tray with gelatin and build sugar cube “structures”; they can then simulate another earthquake and observe the damage to their buildings.
Fourth-Grade Fog Chamber
Fourth-grade students studying the meteorological aspect of earth and space science can better understand how clouds are formed by making a fog chamber. To conduct the activity, place 1/8-inch water in the bottom of a 1-gallon glass jar. Stretch the opening of a rubber glove over the top, with the fingers facing down. Instruct a student to place his hand in the glove and quickly remove it. Next, help each group of students drop a lit match into the jar and place the glove back over the top. As students slip their hands in and out of the glove, fog will form inside of the jar. Discuss how the activity mimics moist air cooling and forming fog or clouds.
Fifth-Grade Sundial Construction
As students build their base of earth and space science classes throughout elementary school, instructors can introduce more in-depth activities in later grades. For example, fifth-grade students may enjoy creating sundials individually or in groups. Use the activity as an opportunity to discuss that sundials must be built according to latitude and that readings may vary by season, based on the placement of the sun. Turn this activity into a long-term project to take note of the difference in sundial accuracy throughout the school year.