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Smithsonian Science for the Classroom™: What Is Our Evidence that We Live on a Changing Earth? 1-Use Module

(in stock)


Grade 4. Module Highlights: In 15 lessons over 20 class sessions, students identify, analyze, and communicate evidence that we live on a changing planet. In the first focus question, students analyze global maps to find patterns in the locations of Earth features and in the occurrence of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. They explain how these two processes cause specific hazards to humans and compare the structure of one of those hazards, tsunami waves, to wind-driven ocean waves. In the second focus question, students define problems associated with earthquake shaking. They read about engineering solutions to such problems and design and test models of earthquake-resistant buildings. In the third focus question, students investigate additional Earth processes that affect the landscape: weathering and erosion. They use models of mountains to test the effects of rainfall, vegetation, earthquakes, wind, and glaciers on landforms. In the fourth focus question, they consider what clues can be found in rock layers to serve as evidence of past landscapes. They use the stories of two locations to create a database of evidence-landscape connections. In the science challenge, students apply what they have learned to create a museum exhibit explaining that a variety of forms of evidence tells us that we live on a changing Earth.

This module includes a teacher guide, 10 Student Activity Guides, 16 Smithsonian Science Stories student readers, and enough materials for 32 students to use 1 time.

Correlation to the Next Generation Science Standards*
Performance Expectations

  • 4-ESS1-1: Identify evidence from patterns in rock formations and fossils in rock layers to support an explanation for changes in a landscape over time.
  • 4-ESS2-1: Make observations and/or measurements to provide evidence of the effects of weathering or the rate of erosion by water, ice, wind, or vegetation.
  • 4-ESS2-2: Analyze and interpret data from maps to describe patterns of Earth's features.
  • 4-ESS3-2: Generate and compare multiple solutions to reduce the impacts of natural Earth processes on humans.
  • 4-PS4-1: Develop a model of waves to describe patterns in terms of amplitude and wavelength and that waves can cause objects to move.
  • 3-5-ETS1-1: Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.

Disciplinary Core Ideas
ESS1.C: The History of Planet Earth

  • Local, regional, and global patterns of rock formations reveal changes over time due to Earth forces, such as earthquakes. The presence and location of certain fossil types indicate the order in which rock layers were formed.

ESS2.A: Earth Materials and Systems

  • Rainfall helps shape the land and affects the types of living things found in a region. Water, ice, wind, living organisms, and gravity break rocks, soils, and sediments into smaller particles and move them around.

ESS2.B: Plate Tectonics and Large-Scale System Interactions

  • The locations of mountain ranges, deep ocean trenches, ocean floor structures, earthquakes, and volcanoes occur in patterns. Most earthquakes and volcanoes occur in bands that are often along the boundaries between continents and oceans. Major mountain chains form inside continents or near their edges. Maps can help locate the different land and water features areas of Earth.

ESS2.E: Biogeology

  • Living things affect the physical characteristics of their regions.

ESS3.B: Natural Hazards

  • A variety of hazards result from natural processes (e.g., earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions). Humans cannot eliminate the hazards but can take steps to reduce their impacts.

PS4.A: Wave Properties

  • Waves, which are regular patterns of motion, can be made in water by disturbing the surface. When waves move across the surface of deep water, the water goes up and down in place; there is no net motion in the direction of the wave except when the water meets a beach.
  • Waves of the same type can differ in amplitude (height of the wave) and wavelength (spacing between wave peaks).

ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems

  • Possible solutions to a problem are limited by available materials and resources (constraints). The success of a designed solution is determined by considering the desired features of a solution (criteria). Different proposals for solutions can be compared on the basis of how well each one meets the specified criteria for success or how well each takes the constraints into account.

ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions**

  • Research on a problem should be carried out before beginning to design a solution. Testing a solution involves investigating how well it performs under a range of likely conditions. (3-5-ETS1-2)

ETS1.C: Optimizing the Design Solution**

  • Tests are often designed to identify failure points or difficulties, which suggest the elements of the design that need to be improved. (3-5-ETS1-3)

**Indicates a DCI that is addressed in the module but not summatively assessed.

Science and Engineering Practices

  • Developing and using models
  • Planning and carrying out investigations
  • Analyzing and interpreting data
  • Constructing explanations
  • Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information


  • Asking questions and defining problems
  • Using mathematics and computational thinking
  • Designing solutions
  • Engaging in argument from evidence

Crosscutting Concepts

  • Patterns
  • Cause and effect
  • Structure and function


  • Scale, proportion, and quantity
  • Stability and change

Concepts and Practices Storyline
Focus Questions and Lesson Summaries
Focus Question 1: How do volcanoes and earthquakes affect humans?
Lesson 1: Looking Down on Earth

Maps and globes represent major features of Earth.
Students use models of Earth to identify patterns in the locations of volcanoes.
Lesson 2: Patterns on the Surface
There are patterns in the locations of some features of Earth.
Students use models of Earth to identify and analyze patterns in the locations of several Earth's features.
Lesson 3: It's a Disaster
Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions can cause hazards for humans.
Students combine information from video and text and explain hazards caused by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
Lesson 4: Tsunami Alert!
The periodic motion of water waves affects objects differently in deep water and when coming ashore.
Students develop models of ocean and tsunami waves and identify patterns in wave motion and effects of these waves.
Focus Question 2: How can humans protect themselves from earthquakes?
Lesson 5: Shake It Up

Earthquake shaking hazards vary with distance.
Students develop and use a model of a landform to simulate earthquakes and analyze patterns in the effects.
Lesson 6: Designed for Survival
Earthquake impacts on humans can be reduced through engineering.
Students obtain information about earthquake resistant designs for structures and buildings.
Lesson 7: Resist This
Buildings can be designed to keep humans safe during earthquakes.
Students design solutions that use specific structures in model buildings to survive earthquake shaking.
Focus Question 3: How do Earth processes change the landscape?
Lesson 8: Agents of Change

Erosion by wind, water, glacier movement, and earthquake shaking can change landscapes.
Students use model mountains to investigate the effects of different erosion agents on sand and gravel landscapes.
Lesson 9: Break It Up
Weathering and erosion processes break up rocks and move the pieces around.
Students obtain information and construct an explanation that weathering causes rocks to break apart and erosion moves the resulting sediment.
Lesson 10: Plants—Friend or Foe?
Plants can both contribute to weathering and erosion and limit the effects of these processes.
Students carry out investigations to explain the effect of vegetation on sloped landscapes.
Focus Question 4: How do rock layers show that landscapes change?
Lesson 11: Picturing the Past

Rock layers hold evidence of past landscapes. Students use patterns connecting fossils in rock formations to past landscapes to explain the history of part of the Grand Canyon.
Lesson 12: Landscape Match Game
Rock layers hold evidence of past landscapes and landscape changes.
Students apply their understanding of patterns connecting fossils and rock features to past landscapes to a matching game and explain how evidence and a landscape description go together.
Lesson 13: Red Rock Story
Rock layers hold evidence of past landscapes and landscape changes.
Students explain that there are patterns in what rock layers can tell us about past landscapes and that landscapes change over time.
Science Challenge
Focus Question 5: How can we use evidence to tell the story of a changing Earth?
Lesson 14: Our Changing Earth Exhibit Part 1
Evidence of a changing Earth comes in many forms and can be found all around us.
Students apply their understanding of evidence of change to new locations. They communicate information about patterns of fossils and rock features and patterns in map locations to explain that landscapes change.
Lesson 15: Our Changing Earth Exhibit Part 2
Evidence of a changing Earth comes in many forms and can be found all around us. Students apply their understanding of evidence of change to new locations. They obtain information from peers' exhibits about patterns of fossils and rock features and patterns in map locations to explain that landscapes change.

*Next Generation Science Standards® is a registered trademark of WestEd. Neither WestEd nor the lead states and partners that developed the Next Generation Science Standards were involved in the production of this product, and do not endorse it.


What’s Included:
  • What Is Our Evidence that We Live on a Changing Earth? Teacher Guide
  • 10 What Is Our Evidence that We Live on a Changing Earth? Student Activity Guide
  • 16 Smithsonian Science Stories Literacy Series™: Rock Stories
  • 1 Digital Access to Teacher Guide and Student Literacy (for 32 students)
  • 32 Ball, Ping-Pong®
  • 36 Binder Clip, Small
  • 60 Block, Wood, 1 oz
  • 8 Card Set, Global Map
  • 8 Carolina® Writable Inflatable Globe, 12"
  • 8 Chain, Beaded Brass, 5 ft
  • 20 Chipboard, Fine, 8-1/2 x 11" Sheet
  • 40 Coffee Filter
  • 2 Concrete, 1-1/2"
  • 1 Container, Plastic, 1-3/4 x 6"
  • 4 Container, Plastic, 8 oz, with Lid
  • 1 Corn, Field, 1/2 lb
  • 30 Cup, Paper, 3 oz
  • 30 Cup, Plastic, 10 oz
  • 1 Gravel, Aquarium, 5-lb Bag
  • 1 Group Role Poster, 24 x 36"
  • 1 Hole Punch
  • 1 Inflating Pump
  • 1 Marker, Permanent, Fine-Point, Black
  • 1 Marker, Washable, Assorted Colors, Set of 8
  • 8 Mesh, Small Opening, 9 x 9"
  • 1 Modeling Clay Assortment 2 (blue, yellow, red, green), 1 lb
  • 15 Nail, 12D
  • 38 Newsprint Sheets
  • 5 Note Pad, Self-Adhesive, Yellow, 3 x 3"
  • 8 Pad, Absorbent, Large
  • 24 Pad, Cardboard, 8-1/2 x 11"
  • 2 Photo Card Set, Landscape Match Game
  • 8 Photo Card Set, SI Exhibits
  • 100 Pipe Cleaner, White, 30 cm (12")
  • 2 Rock, Angular, 2"
  • 2 Rock, Rounded, 2"
  • 16 Rubber Band, Large
  • 8 Ruler, Plastic, Metric (12")
  • 1 Sand, Black, 1 lb
  • 1 Sand, Marine, 1 lb
  • 2 Sand, Red, 1 lb
  • 2 Seed, Radish, 'Scarlet Globe', 1 oz
  • 8 Shoebox Base, 12 x 7 x 4"
  • 1 Soil, Potting, with Seed Starter, 16-qt Bag
  • 75 Sponge Square, Blue
  • 250 Stir Stick, Plastic, Green
  • 60 Straw, Drinking, Transparent, 7-3/4"
  • 1 String, Super Twine, 200-ft Roll
  • 6 Tray, Foam, 14 x 8-3/5"
Return Policy:

If for any reason you are not satisfied with this item, it is eligible for a return, exchange, refund, or credit up to 180 days from date of purchase. Restrictions may apply. Returns & Exchanges Policy.