Erosion is the wearing away of landforms by water, wind, and ice. Before understanding erosion and how it works, students must study different types of landforms. Young children learn best when the material presented is relevant to their lives. When discussing landforms for the first time, start with landforms that the students are familiar with and possibly exist in their own backyards.
Sand Dunes - Wind
Have each child wear safety goggles for this activity. Explain to children that sand dunes are formed by the wind blowing sand. Sprinkle a bit of sand in the bottom of a shallow cardboard box. Give each student a short drinking straw and ask him to attempt to blow the sand into a mountain shape. Discuss the time it takes for the wind to create tall sand dunes.
Canyons - Water
Use a large sensory table for this activity. Fill the table with damp sand and small rocks. Show children pictures of the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and the Columbia River Gorge. Explain how thousands of years of running water created the deep canyons. Allow children to build a canyon using the wet sand and rock mixture. When children are satisfied with their canyon land form, slowly pour water through the middle of it, creating a canyon and showing the effects the water has on the rock and sand mixture.
Hills - Ice
In a sensory table, create a thick mud using potting soil and a little bit of water. Have children create mud hills in the sensory table. Add a few blades of grass if you would like. Place ice cubes at the top of each mud hill and allow them to melt. If children do not have the patience to wait for the ice to melt, use a hairdryer to speed the process along. Have children record their observations of the mud as the ice melts.
Butte Block Building
Collect pictures of buttes such as the ones in Monument Valley, Arizona. Allow children to freely create buttes and other landforms with unit blocks after observing the characteristics of such landforms in pictures.
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