Earth Science – Hands-On Activities

Earth Science ActivitiesEvery few years, we have learned about Earth Science.  Each time we cover this material, we’ve added in new hands-on activities to help the kids understand some of the Earth’s processes. Today, I thought I’d share some of the photos from the first time we studied Earth Science since they’re buried here on the blog.

We talked about the layers of the Earth and did a cute hands-on activity with play dough to demonstrate those layers:

Earth Science Layers of the Earth Activity

When we did this activity again, I made a couple of interactive notebook activities to go along with our discussions of the layers of the Earth:

Layers of the Earth interactive notebook page

The mantle is hotter than the crust. The next activity helped the kids see that heat rises. We took ice cold water and poured it into a jar.  We dyed some water red and heated it up. The kids sucked up some of the hot water with a turkey baster and slowly let out the hot/red water.

The kids could see the red water streaming upwards toward the surface.  This helped the kids understand why magma/lava from the mantle would move up/out of the crust and/or shift about to affect the earth’s plates.

Earth Science Heat RisesWe also did the opposite, placing red/hot water into a glass. Then we slowly added cold water (which we dyed blue). The cold/blue water remained as a layer at the bottom of the glass.

Earth Science - Heat Rises Activity

We talked about how convection currents actually cause the tectonic plates to move. Here’s a worksheet the kids did (it’s included in our Earth Science Packet).

Convection Currents in the Mantle Worksheet

Another activity we did was to help the kids understand how the continents can move and shift around. We talked about Pangaea.

We talked about how scientists theorize that the continents were once connected as one giant super-continent, Pangaea. I cut out South America and Africa from foam and asked them to fit them together as best the could.

We placed a piece of play dough on the foam blocks to weigh them down a bit. Then placed those on paper that had been folded accordion style. As the kids pulled on the paper and straightened it out, they watched as the continents moved around. We talked about the plates moving and shifting, causing the continents to drift away (or towards one another).

PlateTectonics-withPaper1-675x300We did this activity again another time we studied Earth Science with several of the continents and of course the kids took turns “moving” the continents apart over and over! PlateTectonics-2-675x263

We added some new pages to our science notebook like these (which are included in the Earth Science Packet):

PlateTectonicNotebookPages-675x330Plate-Boundaries-Worksheets Convergent Divergent Transform xxThe tectonic plate map, puzzle and flip cards are included in our Earth Science Packet below.

Plate-Boundaries-PangaeaWe also did another activity to show plate movement and convection currents: Plate Tectonic Activity


We put two crustal plates  directly onto the red “mantle.”  Then I pulled the plates apart and asked the kids what they saw.  Obviously they saw the red “lava” and I talked about how new rocks are being formed all the time under the oceans (the Mid-Atlantic Ridge).  I read that section from one of our science books. As Gardner’s book put it, “When two plates separate, there is a weakness in the Earth’s crust. Hot magma from the Earth’s mantle may come up between the plates. As the liquid magma cools, it adds new crust to the plates.” (p. 32, Earth Shaking Science Projects About Planet Earth)

Next, we pushed the plates together and showed how at times the magma is forced up between the plates… ie forming volcanoes.  We looked at a map that shows the Pacific Ring of Fire (the ring of volcanoes in the Pacific Ocean region). Here’s an example of the Ring of Fire.

We took two graham crackers and placed them on a plate with a bit of water.  Before they became too soggy, LD and I pushed our crustal plates (ie graham crackers) together.  This, I told him, is what is happening in India as it pushes into Eurasia.  “COOL!  Mountains!”  LD exclaimed! And do you know what mountains this would be? the tallest ones in the world?  “Oh yes, the Himalayas.”  What a terrific teaching moment!

This final activity helped the kids see how earthquakes shift and move the earth around.

We dyed rice different colors and used these to create “layers” similar to sedimentary rocks.  (ED who was little at the time, enjoyed spooning the rice into her jar!)

We looked a bit more closely at what happens at fault lines where slight shifts in the crust cause earthquakes.

First the kids all made their own layered crust.
earth-layers-hands-on-earthscienceThen we placed an index card in a larger container and created layers on both sides of the paper.

plate-movement-earth-science-activityWe moved the index card back and forth and watched as the grains of rice shifted and moved.


earth-movement-sedimentary-layersThe kids really found it fascinating to see how much the rice shifted around. Of course, as you can imagine, the earthquakes became a bit violent as they moved the index card back and forth. We had to reinsert the card a couple of times.

Here are some of the books we used at the time for this unit. They had some wonderful ideas! These are affiliate links:


Several years later, when the kids were in Grades 1, 4, and 6 and it was time to do this unit again.  The second time around, we talked about many of the same topics, but went into much more depth. And, we covered terms we really didn’t talk about when they were younger.  I made a series of notebook pages that they filled out and added to their science notebooks.

Some of the topics we covered (when they were in Grades 1, 4 an 6) included:

  • the solar system
  • layers of the Earth, Earth’s axis
  • compass directions, compass rose, how to use a compass
  • Earth’s geologic timeline
  • equator, latitude, longitude  — Using a globe to determine latitude and longitude
  • Pangaea and continental drift
  • understanding convection currents
  • tectonic plates
  • 4 types of mountains
  • 3 types of faults
  • earthquakes and faults
  • volcanoes – volcanic terms, types of volcanoes
  • earthquakes and building construction, earthquake shake table

We did a lot of new hands-on activities the second time around.  For example, when we talked about Pangaea, we did it with water and candles.  We made an earthquake shake table.  And we did a gelatin volcano activity that helped the kids understand how/why magma chambers form. We talked about latitude and longitude and much more.   You can find out more about our 50+ page Earth Science Packet at this post: Earth Science Packet or you can purchase it with the link below.

We did hands-on activities on the layers of the earth, volcanoes, earthquakes, plate movement and more.

Volcano Activity

In all, we did over 15 different hands-on activities in this unit. Instructions and photos are included in the packet! 🙂

Be sure to check out our 150+ page Earth Science Packet! Our Earth Science Unit (post) is here to find out more!!

Learn how to make a earthquake shake table, more than a dozen hands-on activities on the layers of the earth, volcanoes, earthquakes, plate movement, convection currents and more!

Topics include: Solar System, Layers of the Earth, Earth’s Axis and the Seasons, Latitude and Longitude, Plate Tectonics, Faults, Earthquakes, Volcanoes, 4 Types of Mountains

Earth Science Unit

The Earth Science Packet is $9.99. (Be sure to check out the Earth Science & Atmosphere BUNDLE option below as well.) Our units are PDF downloads.

Purchase the Earth Science Packet

Cost: $9.99

Earth Science Unit (175+ pages)

Don’t forget to check your PayPal email address for the download link.

Here are the instructions for how to pay with a credit card (on the PayPal platform). They don’t make it clear, but you don’t need to create a PayPal account.

If you have any questions just email me at — liesl at homeschoolden dot com! ~Liesl

Earth Science Unit - Layers of the Earth Activities Types of Volcanoes Worksheets - Interactive Notebook Pages

Earth-Science-Packet 150 page - worksheets hands-on activities and moreLayers of the Earth - Interactive Notebook Activity

Earth Science Worksheets

Earth Science - Earthquake VibrationsEarth Science Activities

Earth Science Unit - Layers of the Earth Activities Types of Volcanoes Worksheets - Interactive Notebook PagesVolcano Worksheets and Notebook PagesVolcano Worksheets-Notebook Pages- Volcanic Hazards

Earth Science BUNDLE Options

Are you interested in checking our our other Earth Science and Physical Science Units?  Click over to the Earth Science Page. Our units are sold in a bundle or sold separately.
Earth Science and Physical Science BUNDLE of 10

There are several Earth Science BUNDLE options which include the Earth Science Packet above. These units can also be purchased separately.

See the Earth Science Page for more details (and lots more pictures)!

Purchase the Layers of the Atmosphere Packet ($6.99) and the Earth Science Packet ($9.99) together in a BUNDLE with the option below.

Layers of the Atmosphere Printable ActivityClick here to find out more about the Layers of the Atmosphere Packet. It is well over 50 pages and has lots of hands-on activity ideas, worksheets, interactive notebook pages and more. Our Layers of the Atmosphere Packet introduces kids to some of the basics about Earth’s atmosphere. It starts with a review of Earth’s systems: the geosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere and atmosphere and spends  time talking about the different layers of the atmosphere (the troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, thermosphere and exosphere). It has sorting cards and interactive notebook projects on objects & phenomena in the atmosphere. Students will learn about the Sun’s harmful rays — what they are (EM radiation) and how we are kept safe. Finally, this packet touches on satellites and the GPS system.

Layers of the Atmosphere Packet  Layers of the Atmosphere Packet - Worksheets Hands-On Activities Notebook Pages

Purchase the Earth Science BUNDLE with the link below:

Earth Science BUNDLE of 2


Don’t forget to check your PayPal email address for the download link.

When you click on the Buy Now button below, it will take you to Paypal. Upon receipt of payment you will immediately get a link to download this pdf in your browser. You will also receive an email from SendOwl Downloads which will give you a link to download. (Check the email linked to your PayPal account.) Of course, if you have any issues just email me at — liesl at homeschoolden dot com.  You can also reach me by using the contact form. ~Liesl

Earth Science BUNDLEEarth Science Unit - Layers of the Atmosphere Unit

Other Earth Science Bundle Options:

See this Earth Science Page for details!

Earth Science Units

We did several units that all relate to each other. For younger students, there is a Where I Live Activity packet (My galaxy, solar system, planet, continent, country, state, town, and home!).  One year, we went on to talk about the Layers of the Atmosphere. We also talked about Earth’s magnetosphere (and did fun activities related to magnets). After we talked about the layers of the atmosphere we did a unit about clouds and weather… and learned about global and local winds, weather fronts, the jet stream, monsoons, el Niño or la Niña, and more. Note: These packets are also available separately in Our Store.

Again, click here to see the various Earth Science Bundle options! (Units can also be purchased separately!)

Earth Science Bundle Earth Science Bundle of 5Earth Science & Physical Science Bundle of 10:Earth Science and Physical Science BUNDLE of 10

Again, if you have any questions just email me at — liesl at homeschoolden dot com.  You can also reach me by using the contact form. ~Liesl

You might also be interested in these related posts: 

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