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The Layers of the Earth Lesson Plan

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Lesson Plan #: AELP-GLG0051
Submitted by: Jason Scott Kurtz
Email: jskst28+@pitt.edu (email address no longer valid)
School/University/Affiliation: University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown
Endorsed by: Bernard Poole
             University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown Date: February 1, 2000

Grade Level(s): 2, 3


  • Science/Geology

Duration: This lesson could be done in two 40-minute sessions. Description: Through literature, multiple overheads, an egg, the Internet, and styrofoam balls, the students will become more familiar with the four layers of the earth and also make a model of the earth from the styrofoam balls to keep for themselves.

Goals: Students will be able to learn different features of our earth.

Objectives: Students will:

  • identify the four layers of the earth.
  • differentiate between the size of each layer.
  • create their own model of the earth from the styrofoam balls and label the layers accordingly.
  • Materials:

    • A globe
    • 2 two hard-boiled eggs and a butter knife
    • Layers of an Egg/Layers of the Earth transparency
    • Book by Cole, Joanna (1989).  The Magic School Bus Inside The Earth.  Scholastic Trade; ISBN: 0590407600
    • Crayons and colored chalk
    • “Label the four layers of the earth” transparency
    • Science Horizons. (textbook) Morristown, NJ. Silver Burdett Ginn. 1993.

    Procedure: Extra note – the students will be seated in groups of four.


    Begin by focusing on the globe and ask the students: Does anyone know what this is?
    *Expect a globe as the answer and discuss the globe as being a model of the earth.
    Then hold up the egg and ask if anyone knows what it is. Have the extra egg already split into the correct layers in case there may be a problem.
    *Most likely they will say an egg, but discuss how the egg will serve as a model of the earth.
    Split the egg, have the Layers of an Egg/layers of the Earth transparency on the overhead, inform the class that today we’re going to be discussing the layers of the earth, and then explain:

    *The shell represents the crust of the earth.
    *The egg white represents the mantle of the earth.
    *The outside of the yolk represents the outer core and the inside of the yolk represents the inner core.

    You can use a butter knife to cut a wedge out of the yolk to show the inner core.
    For a classroom with only one computer and a projection screen, the teacher can bring up the Layers of the Earth Web site to show the students another picture of the earth and other related information. Focus:

    Have the students sit in a circle and read The Magic School Bus Inside The Earth to the class. This explains the layers of the earth and the composition of each. (Since we’re dealing with a lower grade level, the composition of each layer shouldn’t be stressed as much as the size of each layer.)
    Briefly discuss the book and ask for questions.
    Draw a big circle on the board and use colored chalk to separate the layers inside of the big circle.
    Tell the students a little bit more about each layer and label them with four different colors of chalk on the board as:

    *Crust – approximately 6 to 40 miles in thickness.
    *Mantle – approximately 1,800 miles in thickness
    *Outer Core – approximately 1,375 miles in thickness.
    *Inner Core – Approximately 1,750 miles in thickness.

    You can have the link still on the projection screen for the students to look at.
    Then tell the students they are going to make their own little model of the earth.
    Give each student one styrofoam ball and explain that it represents the earth and the wedge is cut out so they can get an idea of where each layer fits inside the earth.
    The wedge should be pre-cut for the students to keep them from using a knife.
    Then have each student draw four circles on the inside of the styrofoam ball with any four different color crayons they choose to show the relative thickness for each of the four layers.
    Then use the four crayons of choice to color in the sections they divided up before.
    Finally, you can instruct the students to write the four layers on the outside of the styrofoam ball. Make sure to tell the students to label the layers the same color as they colored them on the inside. Closure:

    Have each student place their model of the earth on their desks.
    They can use their model as a reference during the final evaluation of the class.
    Put the “label the four layers of the earth” transparency on the overhead and as a class, ask for volunteers to raise their hand if they think they know the answer. Then ask for a class agreement for each answer by using Thumbs up/Thumbs down?
    Gather materials and congratulate them on the fine job they did today!


    Cole’s book talked a lot about the different rocks in the layers of the earth. Your next lesson could be about the different types of rocks found in each layer.
    You can discuss more in depth material on the layers of the earth once the basics are finished. You may include the details of what makes up each layer.
    You can have the students write a story about a journey they took to any of the four layers of the earth.
    Have an out of class assignment and have them make a clay model of the earth, including each layer.
    You can begin in depth units on volcanoes or earthquakes and how they relate to the four layers of the earth.
    Once the units are finished, you can play a Jeopardy game with questions generated from all the following areas: the layers of the earth, volcanoes, earthquakes, and any other important concepts learned during the unit.


    A visually impaired child can benefit from the discussion, the book being read aloud, and the styrofoam ball representation of the earth.
    The teacher can even make a model of the earth and use yarn or clay to separate the layers so the visually impaired student can feel the different layers.
    A hearing impaired child can benefit by having a written set of instructions to make their model. A second copy of the book can be given to the child to follow along as the story is being read aloud. They can also be placed next to a reliable student or even a gifted student for further help.
    The activity is rather simple. A child at a lower level should have no problem except possibly when it comes time to write the names of each layer on the model of the earth they made from the styrofoam balls. A gifted student can be of help. Also, a gifted student may find this activity too easy, so you can plan accordingly for them.


  • You can assess the participation of each student while they make the model of the earth from the styrofoam balls by walking around and observing.
  • Check to see if they labeled each part correctly on their model.
  • Assess the students when they label the four layers of the earth and check to see group agreement concerning the transparency at the end of the lesson.
  • Internet Resources: The Earth Crust