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Activity: How does weathering affect natural landscapes over time?

Make science come alive in your classroom with this free hands-on activity aligned to middle school NGSS standards.

Activity: How does weathering affect natural landscapes over time?

Imagine you are in the high desert, standing under a sandstone arch. You look up and take note of the arch's rough texture and interesting shape. You can’t help but wonder, “How did this beautiful structure form?”
Sandstone arches, along with many other amazing land formations, formed as a result of weathering. In this activity, students will learn about different types of mechanical and chemical weathering. Students will then use this knowledge to construct explanations for how some of Earth’s most fascinating landscapes came to be.
A sandstone arch in Utah. Image credit: “Delicate Arch, Arches National Park" by Robbie Shade, CC BY 2.0.


This activity is designed to be completed in two 45-minute class periods, with additional time required for follow-up creative projects. The activity consists of the following parts:
  • Setting the stage—Students read and demonstrate understanding of mechanical and chemical weathering. (15 minutes)
  • Investigation (Part 1)—Students construct an explanation for how weathering likely led to the formation of an iconic landform. (15 minutes)
  • Investigation (Part 2)—Students create models by drawing their landform at three stages of its development, showing how it likely changed over time. Students then update their models based on research-backed explanations for how each landform formed. (15 minutes)
  • Let's get creative!—Students create a poster about their landform, then share it with their classmates. (45 minutes)
  • Keep creating!—Students can choose from additional project ideas. Each project encourages students to combine scientific knowledge with creativity to produce something new.

Download the worksheets and get started today!

You can print out this activity or upload it to a digital classroom.

NGSS performance expectations

MS-ESS2-2. Construct an explanation based on evidence for how geoscience processes have changed Earth's surface at varying time and spatial scales.

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This activity is brought to you with support from Adobe, our official creativity partner.

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