4th 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: 4


Content Statements

Students will describe how sunlight affects air temperature and how temperature is measured.  Students identify landforms on the earth and describe how volcanoes and earthquakes change the earth’s surface.  Students learn how scientists explore and map the ocean depths and floor. Students earth’s rotation and revolution and explain seasonal differences in the northern and southern hemisphere

Cumulative Progress Indicators (CPI):












Common Core Literacy Standards:







Overarching Essential Questions

How does the earth change?                       

Overarching Enduring Understandings

The Earth changes due to volcanic action, erosion, weathering, heat and pressure.


Unit Essential Questions

How does the sun heat different parts of the earth?    

How does this heating affect weather?

What is the earth’s surface like and what resources does it hold?

How do we affect the consumption of resources?

Unit Enduring Understandings

There is a relationship between the Earth and the sun.

Air temperature affects the weather.   It affects the air’s ability to absorb water vapor. More water vapor in the air means the air can become warmer and this will cause weather conditions like  thunderstorms and hurricanes.

The way in which cold and warm air interacts is what makes us get different weather conditions.

Seventy per cent of the Earth is water.

Thirty percent of the Earth is made up of seven continental land masses. Rock is underneath everything. 

How we use, replace and respect Earth’s resources impacts their quality and viability.

Unit Rationale

Understanding that the Earth is a like a living organism is the foundation for the conservation and care of our natural resources.

Unit Overview

In this unit, students discover how to measure and predict the weather.  Students identify landforms of the earth and describe how volcanoes, earthquakes, weathering and erosion affect the earth’s features.  Students investigate the characteristics of the oceans and learn about plants and animals that live in aquatic environments.  Finally, students compare earth with other planets in the solar system

Authentic Learning Experiences

Students use inquiry based group activities to study the effects of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions on the earth.  They research natural resources and determine where they come from.

Students will be able to measure the weather using hand made instruments and will be able to predict the weather looking at a weather map and will track and keep record of daily forecasts over a period of time.

Students will be able to identify the basic elements of weather such as temperature, wind speed, barometric pressure, and humidity and relate it to a weather prediction.

Integration of 21st Century Skills and Themes

Learn to investigate through inquiry based assignments how weather changes and how those changes effect the earth.

Learn to use simple weather instruments to aid in obtaining data to use in predicting future weather.

Global Perspectives: Students will begin to see how temperatures are affected by bodies of water and compare climate in other parts of the world based on proximity to water.

Civic Literacy: Students will understand the importance of exploration of ocean reefs and coastline for preservation of life throughout all the oceans. Students will learn about jobs related to this research in this scientific field.

Unit Learning Targets/Scaffolding to CPIs

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 approximately spherical in shape.  Objects fall toward the center of the earth because of the pull of gravity.

Earth is the third planet from the sun in our solar system which includes seven other planets.

Fossils provide evidence about the plants and animals that lived long ago including whether they lived on the land or in the sea as ways species changed over time.

Rocks can be broken down to make soil.

Earth materials in nature include rocks, minerals, soil, water, and the gases of the atmosphere.  Attributes of rocks and minerals assist in their identification.

Land air and water absorb the sun’s energy at different rates.

Weather changes that occur from day to day and across the seasons can be measured and documented using basic instruments such as a thermometer, wind vane, anemometer, and rain gauge.

Clouds and fog are made of tiny droplets of water and, at times, tiny particles of ice.

Rain, snow and other forms of precipitation come from clouds; not all clouds produce precipitation.

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.

Properties of water depend on where the water is located (oceans, rivers, lakes, underground sources, and glaciers).

Key Terms

Anemometer – a tool that measures wind speed

Asteroid – A rocky object orbiting the sun between the planets

Barometer – a tool that measures air pressure

Comet – a frozen chunk of ice and dust that orbits the sun

Constellation – a group of stars that form a pattern

Continental shelf – the shallow part of the ocean at the edge of the continents

Continental slope – the edge of the continental shelf that extends deeply downward to the ocean floor

Coral reef – a platform or ridge of coral at or near the ocean surface

Current – a river-like flow of water in the ocean

Dark zone – the ocean water where sunlight does not reach

Ellipse – the shape of a flattened circle

Erosion – the moving of weathered rocks by wind, water or ice

Fault – a crack in the earth’s crust along which rocks move

High pressure area – a place where cool air sinks and pushes down on the earth’s surface with more pressure

Humidity – the amount of water vapor in the air

Hygrometer – a tool that measures humidity

Light zone – the sunlit waters of the ocean

Low pressure area – a place where warm air rises and pushes down on the earth’s surface with less pressure

Meteor – a piece of rock or dust from space burning up in earth’s air

Meteorite – a rock from space that has passed through earth’s air and has landed on the ground

Meteorologist – a person who studies weather

Mineral – nonliving, solid matter from the earth

National Weather Service – a government agency that collects information about weather

Ocean basin – the floor of the deep ocean

Ridge – the highest part of a chain of underwater mountains

Satellite – an object that revolves around another object

Trench – a deep narrow valley in the ocean floor

Weathering – the breaking and changing of rocks

Instructional Strategies

Give opportunities for students to model the earth’s place and rotation in the solar system with respect to its relative position to the sun throughout the year.

Allow students to perform weather broadcasts using prediction for the next few days.

Create a model of a volcano – analyze the difference between the lava of the real thing and the model.

Explore surface temperatures using black and white paper.

Field trips to the ocean to observe erosion after a severe storm.

Create tools to record weather data. (wind sock, barometer, rain gauge)

Inquiry based lessons on rocks, minerals, or other investigative problems.

Collect photographs or pictures of landforms

Research some natural landforms and investigate how they were formed.

Customizing Learning/ Differentiation

Special Needs

Students are engaged in small group work, where students of differing abilities and learning styles should be grouped together. Students act as peer coaches to support students with special needs.


Allow English Language Learners to play a very active role in selecting their landforms to study. Many students’ families may have immigrated from countries or regions that feature landforms.

Gifted Learners

Offer scientific journal articles as sources for research to gifted students. The vocabulary and writing style is very advanced, but gifted students might be able to garner the needed information and data from these primary sources.

Mainstream Learners

Throughout the unit during class time, plan and hold small learning sessions/work groups where students can selectively attend to learn more about a specific topic.  Hold these sessions often, changing the topic every week. Topics can include, but not be limited to using maps, planning an interview, interpreting scientific data, reading graphs and charts, etc. Allow students to select the sessions they would like to attend, based on their perceived need, and they should plan the sessions into their research schedule ahead of time.  

Formative Assessments

Journal- Students maintain a project journal throughout the unit, which includes research, data, and reflections. These journals are reviewed regularly.    

Guiding questions- At the close of each work session, groups submit a list of questions they have about their research and discussions. These questions can be used to guide topics appropriate to address in the small learning sessions/work groups.

Model of the solar system including other objects in the atmosphere.  Research the position and role of satellites in our world.

Compare and contrast the accuracy of the Disney movie Finding Nemo with regard to descriptions of the ocean and ocean life.

Interdisciplinary Connections

Collect data and chart the weather numbers including temperature, pressure, humidity and find mean, mode, median and range for their area.

Discuss the route of the explorers and the relationship with ocean currents.

Investigate weather conditions at the cape of Good Hope and learn about nautical failures in that area.

Read literature that describes various events of precipitation and drought, Night of the Twisters, The Dust Bowl, and Blizzard of 1812.


Social Studies text with map of early explorers’ trade routes, Internet to research current and past ocean and space exploration projects, National Geographic Kids Magazine, novels, www.YouTube.com – videos of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, Disney Movie Finding Nemo , Picture books, leveled readers, textbook, reference books.

Suggested Activities for Inclusion in Lesson Planning

Track the movement of the sun and moon daily.

Create a daily weather report and log for the school, visual (filmed) or written.

Track the movement of the sun and moon seasonally.

Plan a nighttime viewing of the sky identifying the stage of the moon and the visible constellations.

Report on a major earthquake in the world and the effects on the environment. Convince the reader, with arguments cited from informational text, that the effects are directly related to earthquakes.

Unit Timeline

Lesson            Measuring Weather?                           Inv. Air Pressure                           Learn about Resources?        How do people map the ocean floor?                 

Time                           5 days                                     1 day (observe over  5 days)                       2 days                                             2 days

Assessment    journal : description of observe-.        Journal: analysis of data                interview of a person who         create a model with clay of a relief

                         vations                                                                                                       works at a recycling plant./         map of the ocean floor                                                                                      

                                                                                                                                             report on visit to plant


Lesson         How can scientists explore the       How does ocean water move?     Where do organisms live in the    What are the effects of earth’s

                        Ocean depths?                                                                                                          Ocean?                             Movements?


Time                             1 day                                                           1 day                                             2 days                                        1 day

Assessment      research and report on the            compare the ocean current maps     Write a critique about the      Discuss how our time is based

                        Equipment used to explore the         and explorer routes.  Explain           accuracy of Disney’s             on the movement of the

                                  Ocean depths                                  what you find.                                Finding Nemo                        earth.  Give examples


Lesson            What are the effects of  moon’s         What have scientists learned about     What other objects are

                                  Movements?                                  Other planets?                                    Seen in the solar system?


Time                               2 days                                                         2 days                                               2 days

Assessment      track and chart the movement           Explain in writing why Pluto is             Locate and draw the big

                          Of the moon in relation to the             not considered a planet .                        dipper in the sky and on a

                          Earth.                                                                                                                       Constellation map.