Lesson Plan

Earth's layers

In this lesson, students begin to learn about the Earth's composition.
Denis K.
District 75 Special Education Science Instructional Coach
NYC Department Of Education
New York, United States
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My Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
My Subjects Math, Science

Students will be able to... identify the layers of the Earth and describe how the use of models can be used to represent a concept.

Grades 2 – 8
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Materials

Activity: Other — Materials & Preparation


  • Rocks, gravel, sand
  • Clear plastic cups, 1 per student and 1 for demonstration
  • Illustration of Earth's layers
  • KWHL chart
  • Safety Rules for Science Class poster


  1. Prepare one bag of rocks, gravel, and sand per student and one for yourself, by placing a small amount of each in zip-tight plastic sandwich bags.
  2. Cut Post-it notes into thirds so each student has 3 and you have 3.
  3. Using Post-it notes, prepare labels that say Layer 1: core, Layer 2: mantle, and Layer 3: crust.

2 Engage

Step 1:

Engage students by telling them:

Today in science we're going to learn about the Earth and what it is made of. Since the Earth is so big, we'll use a model of the Earth to learn about it.

Show the Google Earth model and tell the students the model represents the Earth because the whole Earth is too big to hold and the layers are too hard to see. Point out the layers on the Earth Primer resource.

Place the materials and labels in front of the students. Invite students to examine the materials for a few moments, make comments, and ask questions.

Step 2:

Hold up each bag and have students make a guess what they think is in each one.

Praise correct answers / give a brief reason why a choice isn't the best response.

Explain to students: The materials are all from the Earth. 

Step 3:

Point to the rocks and ask: What do you know about a rock?

Have students tell something they know about a rock, gravel, or sand. Students can use Plum's Photo Hunt to take a picture of the rocks / gravel / sand and write about their findings. 

Use Popplet to create a KWHL chart. On the KWHL chart, record correct answers in the "Know (K)" column. Draw a line to separate the responses for each: the rocks, the gravel, and the sand.

Step 4:

Have students tell anything they might want to know about the materials.

On the KWHL chart, record this response in the "Want (W)" column.

Student Instructions

Step 1:.
Students explore a model of Earth using Google Earth

Students explore Earth's layers using Earth Primer.

Students investigate materials at their desks. 

Step 3:

Students use Plum's Photo Hunt to take a picture of the rocks / gravel / sand and write about their findings.

3 Investigate and describe relationships

Activity: Investigating

Step 1

While pointing to the "W" column on the KWHL chart, restate: How can we find out what the materials look like in the Earth?  Preferred response is making a model of the Earth.

 On the KWHL chart, record this response in the "How (H)" column. Circle "Make a model of the Earth."

Step 2  (Review science safety rules)

Distribute one cup; one set of bags of rocks, gravel, and sand; and the labels to each student. Keep one set of materials to make your own model for the students to see. Say: We'll each make a model of the Earth by pouring these materials into a clear cup. We'll pour the Earth materials from these bags one at a time into our containers. Then we'll look at the materials and decide if they are mixed together or are in layers. Do you think the Earth's materials will be mixed or will be in layers?

Tally the students' answers and record them in the open area at the bottom of the KWHL chart to refer to at the end of the lesson.

Step 3

Say: You each just made a prediction. Some of you said the materials will be mixed together, and some said the materials will be in layers. Let's find out.

First demonstrate constructing the model. Pour the sand into your plastic up and add the label "Layer 1: core." Have the students do the same with their sand. Then pour the gravel into your cup and add the label "Layer 2: mantle." Have the students do the same. Repeat for rocks. 

Step 4

Hold up your cup and say: Here are the 3 layers of the Earth. The Earth has layers just like this. We call the layers the core, the mantle, and the crust. How are they the same? How are they different?

Student Instructions

Step 3

After making predictions, students pour the Earth materials from their bags one at a time into their clear cup containers.

Step 4

Students answer questions about the layers they constructed, how are they the same / different?


4 Explain & Report

Activity: Assessing

Step 1

Say: Let's review what we learned. Point to the predictions on the KWHL chart. Did the Earth's materials mix or stay in layers? Why do the Earth's materials stay in layers?

Step 2

On the KWHL chart, record student responses in the "Learned (L)" column.