Beacon Lesson Plan Library

What On Earth

Cheryle Borsos
Santa Rosa District Schools


What on Earth Is Earth science? That is what students discover in this lesson through concept mapping, discussion, and self-discovery.


The student knows that the disciplines of science provide in depth study and information that becomes available for all to share and use.


-One K-W-L Chart for each group of 4 (See Associated File)
-Class K-W-L on chart paper
-Concept Map of Science (See Associated File)
-Four Xerox boxes
-Books, magazines, and learning material about Oceanography, Astronomy, Geology, and Meteorology
-Colored construction paper
-Crayons and/or colored pencils
-Goal 3 Standards Checklist (See Associated File)


1. Gather books, magazines, and learning material for each discipline of Earth Science and place the material into boxes by content. Box #1 Oceanography, Box #2 Geology, Box #3 Meteorology, Box #4 Astronomy
2. You may want to check the local library for additional reading material at various reading levels. (The children’s science section can often be a good resource area.)
3. Create a class K-W-L Chart on large poster paper or chart paper.
4. Copy the K-W-L Chart on Earth Science for each group of 4 students. (See Associated File)
5. Make an overhead of the Concept Map of Science. (See Associated File)
6. Copy the Goal 3 Standards Checklist. (See Associated File)


This is a good lesson for the start of the year.

1. Group students into heterogeneous groups of four.

2. Activate student interest by asking the students if they have ever used or heard the phrase “What on Earth?” Ask students to think of different examples of how one might use the phrase, “What on Earth?” Call on students to share their ideas with the class.

3. Next, excite the students by informing them that they are going to be finding out the answer to the phrase...“What on Earth is EARTH SCIENCE?”

4. Pass out one K-W-L Chart to each group of four students. (See Associated File) Begin by asking students to work with their group to write down all the things they think they know about Earth Science in the K section of the K-W-L Chart. Remind them that all answers are to be recorded, not debated or discussed at this stage. (You may need to assign a recorder if students are having difficulty selecting a person to write for the group.)

5. After students have recorded their ideas, ask groups to share their ideas with the class. Record student ideas on a class K-W-L Chart. (In this process, the teacher does not adjust student ideas, or provide input at this time. The teacher is simply recording what the students think they know about Earth Science, misconceptions and all!)

6. The next part of the activity involves the students thinking of things they wonder about Earth Science. Allow students time to brainstorm and record things they want to know about Earth Science in the W section of the K-W-L Chart.

7. Invite the groups to share their questions and record student questions on the class K-W-L Chart.

8. Now that the K and the W sections are complete, you can begin to teach the various areas of science using a concept map to graphically organize the information. (See Associated File)

9. To begin the discussion using the concept map, start at the top with Science. This is where you inform students that science is the process of observing, explaining, and understanding the world in which we live. Also, it is key to mention that all of the disciplines of science are alike in that they provide in depth study and information that becomes available for all to share.

10. Continue to discuss the concept map with the students. Provide some background information on each topic and give the students examples of each. Save the Earth Science section until the end so that you can elaborate on each of the four disciplines.

11. After you have talked about each component on the concept map, ask the students to think about all the different subcategories of science. Ask them to consider why it is important to break science down into the different categories. (This allows for people to specialize in one area and to discover all that can be learned about that area to improve our understanding of the larger picture.)

12. Ask students to think about reasons why it is important to share information and new discoveries. Ask them to think about what might happen if science information was not shared. After a brief discussion, have the students write down and respond to the following journal question: “Why is it important to be able to share information made available to us by science? Give one example to support your answer.”

13. For the next activity, divide the students into four groups by having them count off 1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4, etc. Then instruct the students to move to the area of the classroom that is designated by number. (Note: This will not be the same grouping as the K-W-L.)

14. Once students have circulated to the correct area of the room, pass out a box to each group. Explain to the students that each box contains learning information about one area of Earth Science. They should look through the material to gather information and ideas for a follow-up poster project and the L section of the K-W-L Chart. (The poster project is an individual activity, but the remaining K-W-L Chart is done with their original group and shared as a class.)

15. Allow groups 5-8 minutes to check out the material in the box, then rotate the groups until each group has viewed all four boxes.

16. After the activity, have students return to their K-W-L group to complete the L portion of the K-W-L Chart by naming at least five things that they learned about Earth Science. The students can discuss things they have learned with one another as they record the information on the chart.

17. Invite groups to share their ideas with the class and record them on the L section of the class chart. At this time, you should address any misconceptions that were mentioned in the K section. Guide students to understand why something was or was not an example of Earth Science. This is a good opportunity to provide feedback and to formatively assess student understanding.

18. Now it is time to explain the poster project to the students. Pass out a rubric to each student and read it with the students so they know what criteria will be assessed. (See Associated File) Make sure students understand that the poster must include all four disciplines of Earth Science (Geology, Astronomy, Meteorology, and Oceanography). Caution them that when drawing pictures to support each category, they should not include other sciences. For example, the oceanography drawings should not include marine animals because oceanography is not the study of marine animals. That would be a life science called marine biology. Remind students that they can use their concept map as a tool and/or revisit the boxes around the classroom for ideas. Inform the students that each person must complete his or her own poster.

19. Pass out poster paper and crayons so that students can get started. They will not finish the poster in this time period. You may want to assign it as a homework assignment or allow them time to finish the following day.


1. The K-W-L Chart is used as a diagnostic tool as well as a formative assessment tool during the lesson.

2. As a summative assessment, the students create a poster containing all four disciplines of Earth Science (Astronomy, Oceanography, Geology, and Meteorology). There is a Poster Project Rubric to assess if students have met the criteria. (See Associated File)

3. The students construct a response to a journal question that is used as a summative assessment for this lesson. (See Associated File for further details)

4. A checklist is used to assess the Goal 3 Standards. (See Associated File)


1. This would be a great opportunity to incorporate Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligence. In addition to the poster project, you could allow students to create another model or display of the four disciplines of Earth Science. For example the Logical/Mathematical student could create a PowerPoint slide show, the musical/rhythmic student could create a musical interpretation, the bodily/kinesthetic student could act out the four disciplines, the naturalist student could gather real samples to display, etc.
2. To modify this lesson if you do not teach Earth Science as a yearly curriculum, but rather teach an integrated curriculum, you could use the concept map as a kick-off and have the students choose which branch of science they would like to investigate. This might help them distinguish between the sciences and recognize them during the integrated studies.
Return to the Beacon Lesson Plan Library.