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Introduction to Geology: The Layers of the Earth Lesson Plan

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Lesson Plan #:AELP-GLG001
Author: Laura Wilson, Hammon, OK Date: May 1994

Grade Level(s): 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


  • Science/Geology

OVERVIEW: This is an introductory lesson that can be expanded into the following areas: Geology, volcanoes, earthquakes, and archaeology. It introduces the layers of the earth and the basic composition and distance of each.


The purpose of the lesson is to introduce geology in its simplest form and how a rock is formed. It can also be used the sciences listed above with a few miner changes.


As a result of these activities the student will:

  • Identify the layers of the earth and the approximate distances of each.
    1. Crust 6-40 miles.
    2. Mantle 1,800 miles.
    3. Outer core 1,375 miles.
    4. Inner core 1,750 miles.
  • Identify and list the sciences that study the earth’s layers and the importance of the information gathered and how it is used.
  • Identify the basic composition of each layer.
  • Be able to web any subject in groups or individually.
  • RESOURCES/MATERIALS: Teacher materials: Blue, brown, yellow, black, and white construction paper marked with the appropriate diameter circle. An apple, knife, and The Magic School Bus inside the earth. Student materials: Scissors, glue, a black and white crayon to label with and a box of crayons to color the project.


  • Introduce the layers of the earth using an apple. Cut the apple in half across the core. Explain that the skin represents the crust, the heart represents the mantle, the seed coat represents the outer core, and the seed represents the inner core.
  • Read The Magic School Bus inside the earth by Joanna Cole. This explains the layers of the earth and the composition of each.
  • As a group web or brainstorm one or all of the sciences that study the layers of the earth and the importance of each. This can be general information or very specific.
  • Using construction paper have each student model the layers of the earth. Blue 8 1/2 circle labeled 6-40 miles. The crust is made of many plates which float above mantle. The crust is thicker and lighter at the continents and thinner and denser at the ocean floor. Brown 7 circle labeled 1,800 miles. The mantle lies below the crust. It is a thick layer of solid rock. Many scientists believe that the mantle transfers heat from the core to the surface. Yellow 6 circle labeled 1,375 miles. The outer core is made of melted iron and nickel. It is much denser than the rock layers above it. The temperature of the outer core can range form 4000 to 9000 F. Black 3 diameter circle labeled 1,750 miles. The inner core is made of solid iron and nickel. These materials sank to the center of the earth while it was still in a molten form. Use white construction paper for the background and label each circle at the top as it is glued to the background. Have each student decorate their projects as they now understand the earth. Layer information gathered form Mailbox Magazine June/July, 1991.

  • Review the importance of studying layers and begin in depth units on any of the following areas: Geology, Volcanoes, Earthquakes, and archaeology.
  • Have the students share their projects and explain the differences.
  • Have the students web as a group or individually one area of science that uses the layers of the earth that interested them most.

  • May 1994

    These lesson plans are the result of the work of the teachers who have attended the Columbia Education Center’s Summer Workshop. CEC is a consortium of teacher from 14 western states dedicated to improving the quality of education in the rural, western, United States, and particularly the quality of math and science Education. CEC uses Big Sky Telegraph as the hub of their telecommunications network that allows the participating teachers to stay in contact with their trainers and peers that they have met at the Workshops.