Clay Model Of the Earth’s Layers

Making a 3D model is an easy hands-on way for kids to learn what the Earth is made of.

We read about the Earth’s layers, to begin with, in The Magic Schoolbus – Inside the Earth.

Then we grabbed some clay and the children used the pictures from the book to make their own models. (I was going to make one too, until I realised how much plasticine we were going to get through!)

First roll a small ball of clay for the solid metal inner core.

The inner core is about 1,500 miles in diameter. We used an atlas to calculate that this is equivalent to the distance from London to Madrid (or San Diego to Memphis).

Next the melted metal outer core.

Then the solid rock mantle.

Followed by the Earth’s crust (one layer in our models, but in reality, layers of sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous rock).  We looked at these when we simulated the rock cycle with crayons.

And finally, the oceans and continents.

When you’re done, use a sharp knife to cut your Earth in half to reveal it in cross-section.

C(9) used a toothpick to label the layers.

Top Tips For Making A Clay Model Earth (What We Might Do Differently…)

• Use play dough rather than plasticine, especially in winter. Cold plasticine takes a long time for little hands to mould.
• If you do use plasticine (we did), warm it up in the microwave – this makes it much easier to work with. On the plus side, our clay Earths will last as long as the real one!
• Don’t make your inner core too big. We were surprised how much more clay was required to make each successive layer. (Good learning!)

Hat Tip

My original inspiration for this came from Meet the Dubiens – Jill’s lovely photo was one of my very first Pinterest pins.

Further Resources

History and Geography Meme at All Things Beautiful

Science Sunday at Adventures in Mommydom

Hobbies and Handicrafts at Highhill Homeschool

Collage Friday at Homegrown Learners

Look What We Did at Hammock Tracks

Weekly Wrap Up at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

Money Saving Monday at Life’s Little Adventures

How to Simulate the Rock Cycle with Crayons

We’ve done two hands-on earth science projects this week – on Monday we made model planet Earths out of clay, and on Thursday we simulated the rock cycle using wax crayons.  Both were great fun, and both reminded me that these kind of projects take more time and effort than I anticipate when I read about other people doing them!

This post is about our experience doing the rock cycle. I hope my usual “what we might do differently next time” section will benefit you!

Before the Activity

We’ve been learning about the rock cycle and different types of rock over the last few weeks. We’ve watched Brainpop videos about weathering and erosion, and discussed how we might simulate weathering if we were using crayons to represent rocks.  I’ve also been strewing rock samples from the collection I bought – just one or two at a time.

By now, all of us have Mr Lee’s Rock Cycle Rap stuck in our heads (highly recommended. I was so vociferous in my appreciation of this 6th grade teacher that J(7) asked me “Are you in love with him, Mummy?”). We also enjoyed this Song of the Rocks.

Just before we did the activity we watched the Rock Cycle Brainpop video and looked at pictures of the cycle in National Geographic Kids Everything Rocks and Minerals.

I strewed three rock samples on the table and told the kids one was sedimentary, one metamorphic and one igneous. They examined the rocks and correctly identified the smooth, glassy one as igneous rock Obsidian. (Cue much speculation about whether they could create a Nether Portal.) We didn’t say much more about the rocks – we’ll come back to them when we explore rocks in more detail.

What We Used

• wax crayons in 3 contrasting colours (we used two of each colour, which made plenty of “rocks”)
• sharp knife or grater (or pencil sharpener – see below)
• tin foil (or metal cupcake cases)
• very hot water
• rolling pin or heavy book
• candle (optional)
• iced water (optional)
• kitchen paper (optional)

Simulating the rock cycle – What you do

1. Grate or chop the crayons into small pieces, keeping the colours separate.

This represents weathering and erosion.

2. Sprinkle a layer of each colour crayon into a small piece of tin foil.

This is the laying down of sediments.

Fold up the foil (or put another piece on top) and press down on it very hard.

This simulates the pressure that creates sedimentary rock.

3. Rewrap your squished crayon (sedimentary rock) and heat it by dunking it in very hot water for a few moments, then squish it some more. You could also use other metamorphic crayon-rocks or igneous crayon-rocks to make your metamorphic rock.

This represents heat and extreme pressure inside the Earth, which creates metamorphic rock.

4. Rewrap your heated, squished “metamorphic rock”. This time dunk it in the very hot water for long enough for the crayon to melt completely.  Alternatively, briefly hold your foil packet in a candle flame which will melt your crayon more quickly. (Again, you can also use sedimentary or igneous crayon-rocks to make igneous crayon-rocks.)

The melted then cooled crayon represents igneous rock.

We let some of our melted crayons cool slowly, as would happen when magma cools slowly inside the Earth to  create intrusive igneous rocks.  We dunked other melted crayons (in their foil packet) in icy water to represent the fast cooling that takes place when lava cools outside the Earth, creating extrusive igneous rocks.

What We Might Do Differently Next Time

• Use metal cupcake cases as recommended by Phyllis (whose post I only just found, unfortunately!). This would be much easier than unwrapping the tinfoil packets (we ended up using fresh pieces of tinfoil at each stage, and sometimes our “rocks” broke as they were unwrapped). Plus you’d get to see the melting process.
• Use a pencil sharpener to “weather” the crayon pieces (another hat tip to Phyllis). This sounds much easier than messing around with knives and graters!
• I like to involve the children at every stage, but I think next time I’d have a pre-prepared stash of weathered crayon pieces to add to the bits they make. “Weathering” takes a long time!
• You need to apply a lot of pressure to make sedimentary crayon-rocks. To keep up the pace (especially after all that weathering) I’d have ready some big books the children could put on their foil packets and then stand on.

Sources

Momma Owl’s Crayon Rocks

The Crayon Rock Cycle

All Things Beautiful’s Demonstrating the Rock Cycle

Crayon Rock Art

Artist Laura Moriarty compiles sculptures inspired by geology textbook illustrations of cut-aways of terrain.  Isn’t this gorgeous?

For more fun educational projects head over to:

Hobbies and Handicrafts at Highhill Homeschool

Homeschool Review and How-To at Hammock Tracks

Collage Friday at Homegrown Learners

Weekly Wrap-Up at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

Science Sunday at Adventures in Mommydom

A Day In The Life of a British Homeschooling Family

Like many homeschoolers, there is no “typical” day in our household.  Our week is loosely structured around external activities like sports classes and our weekly homeschool group, and there are certain subjects that I aim to cover in a week, but other than that,  I like the flexibility of a routine rather than a fixed schedule.

Having said that, here’s an example of a typical, non-typical day!

530am I get up.  I’m not normally this early!  But it’s such a beautiful morning already  I decide I’ll enjoy some quiet time to myself.

645am I go back to bed and meditate/play Words with Friends until 730. I love how my iPhone lets me have a permanent scrabble game going with my mum who lives in Wales!

830am We’re having poetry tea with friends later, so I bake some gluten free/sugar free cookies with the children.  J has been so much calmer since we reduced his dietary sugar, gluten and dairy five months ago (on the advice of a complementary health professional) .  Since most bought products are either sugar or gluten free, I find myself baking a lot.  I’m not an experienced cook, so the recipe substitutions I make can be a bit random, as can the end products. Luckily the children are very forgiving.

850am As we put the eggs away, J asks if we can make pancakes.  I promise him that if he gets on with his maths and English without any fuss, there’ll be time to make some before we set out for our friends’ house.

855am Incentivized by pancakes, J physically drags me into my office, where C and J do most of their individual schoolwork. He does copywork from “Fox In Socks” and we practice phonics and spelling using The Wand.  For today’s maths we look at negative numbers in Primary Grade Challenge Math.

915am  J makes pancake batter. He and C got very good at making pancakes shortly after we changed his diet – gluten and sugar free English pancakes, made with goats’ milk, work really well!

10am We arrive at our friends’ house.  C and J run off to play with the other children (aged 12, 10 and 9)  while I catch up with my friend.  Later we sit at a beautiful table and eat cookies, drink tea from fine cups and saucers, and take turns reading poems aloud. These are the friends who introduced us to the Brave Writer lifestyle, and I love sharing Poetry Tea with them; it’s such a pleasure hearing the poem each person has chosen.

I read “A Summer Morning” by Rachel Field, because even though it’s only May, temperatures have been in the 80’s today.  After the weather we’ve had in England recently, it definitely feels like summer!

1130am On the way home we stop off at the park to enjoy the sunshine.

12pm We make another stop, this time at the garden centre, to pick up some compost: it’s finally safe to put the tomato and pepper plants outside!

1230pm Lunch.  J learned how to make cheese and ham tortilla flatbreads at our homeschool centre yesterday; he decides to make them again today. It requires a brick, apparently.  C obligingly finds one in her den at the end of the garden.  J teaches C how to make his new dish.  I do the bit at the hob, involving flattening the tortilla between the griddle pan, a saucepan and a tea towel-wrapped house brick!

1pm C waters her vegetable patch while I plant out the tomatoes. J bounces on the trampoline then retreats from the heat inside.

145pm C and I go to my office for her English and maths. We continue our discussion of literal versus metaphorical meaning using The Arrow and our novel, The Phantom Tollbooth. We discuss what clichés are and pick out a few from a list I had printed out; then we start an exercise from The Arrow, creating a story taking metaphoric meanings literally. It’s about a king standing on the tip of an iceberg.  C enjoys this so much that when I suggest finishing, she begs to do a bit more! Always a good sign 🙂  We finish by reading aloud a chapter of The Phantom Tollbooth.

We use Primary Grade Math Challenge for maths and C answers the level 2 questions on negative numbers.

245 pm Science: we continue our space travel project. The children make edible space shuttles following directions in this NASA Educators’ Guide.

We watch a You Tube video of the shuttle taking off and look at a printables of the parts of the space shuttle and the sequence of take-off, orbit, and landing.  C and J then assemble their own shuttles using bread, carrot, celery and hummus.  I video them “narrating” their own take-off to landing sequences on my iPhone.  C leads the narration but J contributes a piece of information he remembered from our recent visit to the Kennedy Space Centre – something I hadn’t even realised he’d taken in at the time – I love it when that happens!

J follows his space shuttle snack with a plum from the fruit bowl, and then asks me to point out to him the plum tree in our garden. We look at the hard, grape-sized plums on the tree and I tell J how I ate the sweetest, juiciest plum from it on the day we moved into our house on 31 July 2007.  He said he is going to keep an eye on the plums’ progress. Sometimes I wish I made more time for formal nature study in our homeschool; then I realise that thanks to the huge amount of free time they have to spend outdoors, C and J are actually quite in tune with nature and the seasons.

4pm History: I decide to squeeze in a bit of The Story of the World before swimming classes. J groans (he never likes the idea of history) but he soon joins C pleading for more when I stop after half a chapter on the Celts.  Half a chapter is all the Celts get in The Story of the World, but as they are our bit of ancient history, we’re spending a bit longer on them than our curriculum suggests. I read from our living book on Boudicca while C spontaneiously makes a Boudicca “doll” from a feather the cats brought it.

5pm C and J go to their swimming classes while I squeeze in half an hour in the gym. When the children were at school, exercising often felt like a chore.  Now I cherish my gym time!  We eat dinner at the sports centre cafe, and C and J have some time jumping around in the soft play area.

7pm We go straight from the sports centre to take C to Cub Scouts (where she is one of only two girls). Normally this signals the end of my day’s “work”, but Big J’s commuter train is delayed tonight so J and I go back out to collect C from cubs at 830.

930pm I’m relaxing with an alcohol free beer and watching The Vampire Diaries.

A good day!