Why Is It Important For Students To Learn About Weathering & Erosion In Science

The Grand Canyon demonstrates the effects of erosion.

Weathering and erosion are important concepts that are sometimes taught as young as the elementary school level and may be reintroduced in a physical science or geology class. Natural forces that break down rocks and minerals into smaller pieces are called weathering. Weathering elements include water and acid rain. Erosion takes place when rocks and minerals are broken down and moved to a new location. Gravity typically causes mass wasting, such as in the case of landslides, but movement can also be caused by water and air. It is important to understand the effects of weathering and erosion on our environment to understand how it affects us.

Crop Production

Crops can be grown on approximately 1/32nd of the Earth’s crust. This is a very small fraction of arable land that the billions of people on Earth rely on for food. Because land where food can be produced must be protected, it is important to learn how weathering and erosion affect our natural resource of soil. Destroying trees, for example, can open soil to the effects of wind and rain, causing it to be washed away due to erosion that wouldn’t have occurred without our interference.

Cave Formation

Caves can be formed by water underground that breaks down rock into smaller pieces, or carries it away to a new location. If students did not understand how caves form and locate them, they may risk building a structure on top of a plot of land that is not reinforced by rock. A house built on top of a cave or a place where a cave is likely to form due to erosion or weathering will inevitably collapse.

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Earthquakes occur when large pieces of rock are cracked completely through, and thus move independently of each other. Studying weathering and erosion can help children learn the potential causes of earthquakes, such as natural plate movement, or extensive drilling. By learning more about the causes, it should be easier in the future to predict earthquakes and for people to escape from an area before one occurs.


Landslides are a form of erosion where gravity literally pulls land masses downwards, often over existing structures. By understanding the effects of erosion and weathering, a child can grow up to learn avoid living in areas prone to landslides, and preserve the soil structure to help prevent some landslides from occurring.