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Modeling the Layers of the Earth Lesson Plan

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Lesson Plan #: AELP-GLG0206
Submitted by: Ashley Constantine
Email: ashleylynnconstantine@yahoo.com
School/University/Affiliation: University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown
Endorsed by: Bernard Poole
             University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown
Date: January 23, 2003

Grade Level: 4, 5, 6


  • Science/Geology

Duration: 30 minutes

Description: This activity will allow students to explore, first-hand, the layers of the earth! Students will make a model of the layers of the earth using clay, and they will also create 5 Layer Earth Cookies.

Goals: National Science Education Standards (NSES) :
Earth and Space Science Content Standard D: As a result of their activities in grades K-4, all students should develop an understanding of

  • Properties of earth materials
    • Earth materials are solid rocks and soils, water, and the gases of the atmosphere. The varied materials have different physical and chemical properties, which make them useful in different ways, for example, as building materials, as sources of fuel, or for growing the plants we use as food. Earth materials provide many of the resources that humans use.


  • Students will be able to list and identify the five layers of the earth.
  • Students will be able to construct a clay model of the layers of the earth.
  • Materials:

    • The Magic School Bus: Inside the Earth by Joanna Cole
    • definition cards
    • layers of the earth cards
    • modeling clay (red, yellow, green, blue)
    • knife (for teacher’s use only)
    • mason jars
    • spoons
    • measuring utensils
    • brown sugar
    • white sugar
    • chocolate chips
    • M&M’s
    • flour
    • baking powder
    • salt
    • index cards
    • decorative string
    • pencils


  • atmosphere – The outermost layer of the earth; composed of gases.
  • crust – Outermost layer of rock on the earth; the portion of the earth we are most familiar with.
  • mantle – The layer of the earth located below the crust.
  • inner core – Solid, inner most portion of the earth.
  • outer core – The layer of earth between the mantle and the inner core.
  • Procedure:
    Introduce the lesson by reading, The Magic School Bus: Inside the Earth . Next, present the five layers of the earth on the board, using the layers of the earth cards. (The layers of the earth cards are pieces of poster board displayed in front of the class. They act as visual aids. Each card is labeled with one layer of the earth; the teacher displays them from atmosphere to inner core.) Introduce the terms atmosphere, crust, mantle, inner core, outer core. Pass out one definition card (vocabulary term) to each group of students. Each group must match their definition card to the correct layer of the earth on the poster board.

    For the next activity, choose one student from each group to come to the front of the room to pick up a clay packet. Instruct the class how to create a hands-on clay model of the layers of the earth. First, each student will roll a small, red piece of clay (inner core). Then on top of that they will roll a blue piece of clay (outer core). Then on top of that they will roll an orange piece of clay (mantle). Finally they will roll over a green piece of clay (crust). Next, go around to every group and dissect their earth so that the students can explore the layered effect. (To dissect the model, the teacher cuts down the center of their model with a knife). The students will then have a visual representation of the layers when they open up the dissected model!

    Then designate certain students to pick up the mason jars and the appropriate materials for making the 5 Layer Earth Cookies. Have students construct the cookie jars by layering each ingredient separately. Each group will layer the ingredients in the following order:

  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup of M&M’s
  • 1/2 cup of milk chocolate chips
  • 1-3/4 cups flour mixed with 1 tsp. baking powder and 1 tsp. salt
  • (Students should press each layer firmly in place before adding the next ingredient.)

    After the students layer the ingredients into the mason jar, they will receive an index card. They will write the ingredients and the baking instructions (shown below) on the index card and attach it to the top of the mason jar with decorative string!

    Baking Instructions: Empty cookie mix into large mixing bowl; stir to combine. Add 1/2 cup softened butter, 2 eggs slightly beaten, and 1 tsp. vanilla; mix until completely blended. Roll heaping tablespoonfuls into balls. Place 2 inches apart on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375º for 13 to 15 minutes until tops are very lightly browned. Cool 5 minutes on cookie sheet; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Yield: 2-1/2 dozen.

    Assessment: Informally observe students as they are constructing the clay model and 5 Layer Earth Cookies. Students should be able to verbally state the five layers of the earth.

    Useful Internet Resources:
    * Illustrating the Layers of the Earth

    * Enchanted Learning – Inside the Earth

    * Layers of the Earth WebQuest

    * National Science Education Standards (NSES)

    Other Reference: Essentials of Geology by Fredrick K. Lutgens and Edward J. Tarbuck, Prentice-Hall, Inc.