3rd Grade - Earth Science

Audubon Public Schools

Engaging Students ~ Fostering Achievement ~ Cultivating 21st Century Global Skills

Written By: Claudia Kirby and Beth Canzanese

Course Title: Science                          Unit Name: Earth Science                              Grade Level: 3


Content Statements

Objects in the sky have patterns of movement. The sun and moon appear to move across the sky on a daily basis. The shadows of an object on Earth change over the course of a day, indicating the changing position of the sun during the day. Earth is the third planet from the sun in our solar system which includes seven other planets. Rocks can be broken down to make soil.  Earth materials in nature include rocks, minerals, soils, water and the gases of the atmosphere. Attributes of rocks and minerals assist in their identification. Most of Earth’s surface is covered by water. Water circulates through the crust, oceans and atmosphere in what is known as the water cycle.

Cumulative Progress Indicators (CPI)










Common Core Literacy Standards






Overarching Essential Questions

How does the sun affect Earth?

What is the position of the planets?

How is soil formed?

What is a rock?

What is a mineral?

What is the water cycle?

Overarching Enduring Understandings

Earth’s rotation on its axis causes day and night.

Earth’s revolution around the sun causes seasons.

Soil is made of rock and decayed matter.

Planets orbit in a set order.

Water moves in a cycle.


Unit Essential Questions

What causes day and night?

What causes seasons?

How many planets are there?

What is soil?

What is the difference between a rock and a mineral?

What are the steps in the water cycle?

Unit Enduring Understandings

Earth spins on an imaginary line called an axis, resulting in day and night. 

Seasons are caused by the angle of light from the sun as it hits the Earth.

The planets in order from the sun are: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.

Soil is formed from rock and decayed matter.

A mineral is a material that forms in Earth from non-living matter.

Rocks are made from two or more minerals. 

Water moves through a cycle: evaporation, condensation, precipitation.

Unit Rationale

Students need to know how the solar system works in order to understand their place in the universe. Understanding what Earth is made of makes students more environmentally responsible. 

Unit Overview

Students will learn that the relationship of the sun and Earth cause day and night and the seasons.  Students will learn that there are eight planets that revolve around the sun in a set order. Students will learn that rocks are composed of minerals. Soil is made of rock and decayed matter. Water is constantly moving through the water cycle. This will be learned through experiments, videos and focus lessons.

Authentic Learning Experiences


Model day and night and the seasons using a flashlight and globe.

Observe and record length and location of shadows to tell the time of day.

Record and graph length of day over the school year

Observe rocks using a magnifier. 

Create a model to observe how soil is formed.

Observe a model of the water cycle made with a hot plate, pot of water, cookie tray and ice cubes.

21st Century Skills and Themes


Students work cooperatively to conduct experiments

Oral Communication

Students use science vocabulary in discussion.

Critical Thinking

Making predictions and formulating hypothesis and interpreting data

Written Communication

Students write their predictions, observations and/or interpretations using science vocabulary.


Using lab equipment, Internet, Kidspiration and Word for research and reporting.

Unit Learning Targets/Scaffolding to CPIs 

Students will apply their newly acquired knowledge of the basics of earth science – interconnectedness, cycles, growth and change; they will more deeply examine the earth’s elements and its major cycles.  This will prepare them for future studies of landforms and weather events.

Key Terms

Axis - an imaginary straight line through the center of Earth around which Earth rotates

Decay – to slowly break down or rot

Mineral – material that forms in the earth from nonliving matter

Nutrient – a material that plants and animals need to live and grow

Orbit - the pat an object follows as it moves around another object

Planet - a large body of matter than moves around the sun

Revolution - movement of an object in an orbit around another object

Rock - a rock is made of two or more minerals

Rotate - to spin on an axis

Solar system - the sun, planets and their moons, and other objects that move around the sun

Star - a very large mass of hot glowing gases

Instructional Strategies

Facilitating, monitoring, and modeling

Customizing Learning/ Differentiation

Special Needs

Students are engaged in partner or small group work.  Students support one another with their own abilities and learning styles.


English Language Learners will be encouraged to illustrate vocabulary cards with appropriate clues to meanings.  Conversation using scientific vocabulary will be stressed.

Gifted Learners

Offer more challenging texts and the opportunity for independent research. 

Mainstream Learners

Small group focus lessons to address needs as they arise during the unit.  Whole group focus lessons.

Formative Assessments


Lab reports

Observation of students

Students written responses

Interdisciplinary Connections


-illustrating observations on lab reports

-illustrating planet

Language Arts

-writing observations and descriptions

-view videos

-creative writing

-nonfiction supplemental reading

-read biographies of scientists


 -read and write multi-digit numbers

 -determine elapsed time

 -basic understanding of difference between F and C measurements; between US and metric measurements

Social Studies

-read how people have reacted to changes in Earth and the seasons over time

-read how people have reacted to changes in scientific learning over time


-use Word, Power Point and Kidspiration to write reports

-use Internet for research


Scholastic News

Scott Foresman Science textbook

Reasons for Seasons, Gibbons

Trade books

SMART Notebook Lesson:  Rocks and Minerals

Web Sites:








Magic School Bus Blows Its Top 

Magic School Bus at the Waterworks

Magic School Bus Gets Lost in Space

Reasons for Seasons

First Look: Earth

Rotation and Revolution (segment)

Getting to Know Soil

Suggested Activities for Inclusion in Lesson Planning

Vocabulary practice

View videos

Lab reports

Shared reading  

Guided reading of earth science texts

Use of multi-digit numbers – distances of planets, etc.

Determine elapsed time – length of day

Write a report Using PowerPoint

Read text about the difference between rocks and minerals.  Write a claim about one rock or mineral, citing arguments to back your assertion that it is either a rock or a mineral.

Unit Timeline

To Be Determined