Children, at a young age, develop a curiosity about the world. It is this curiosity that eventually becomes the foundation of their knowledge and learning, setting a pace of what could be the very bedrock of child development.
This is why it’s important to nurture this insatiable curiosity early on and reward efforts in exploring and discovering the nature of their environment and the world around them. In recent decades, it has been found that the STEM method of nourishing young minds has yielded the most benefits in growing and progressing children’s problem-solving skills and ability to think critically.
To nurture this curiosity through STEM-fueled exercises, parents and educators utilize experiments that subscribe to the four pillars of STEM learning – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
These pillars are also a great way to quench the little scientists’ curiosity about the world. One particular question that parents and guardians encounter is about the earth, the ground beneath their feet, and what makes the planet what it is.
Through STEM experiments and a little bit of art, you can teach the kids about the planet they live on, and what makes up the rock that they call earth. Here are some experiments that will help you explain the many layers of the Earth.
Paper Mache Earth Model Bowls
These paper mache bowls are recycled and decorative. As this project is just as artful as it is scientific, there’s going to be a lot of arts and crafts involved. The project is divided into three main parts, creating the paper pulps that will constitute the mass of the project, the paste that will hold the materials together, and painting the actual bowl to portray the layers of the Earth.
To make the paper pulp, you will need shredded paper, a handheld blender, and a large bowl. The paper mache paste will be created by a cup of flour, two cups of water, a microwave. One more thing to take note of is that you’ll need a couple more things to maintain the shape of a bowl. To hold the shape of a bowl, you will need another bowl, some cling film, and some paint for coloring.
To start creating the bowls, you must first begin by preparing the shredded paper. Soak the shredded paper for a couple of hours; if you can, you may even leave it overnight. Once the paper has a soft, mushy consistency, run it through a hand blender to make it into pulp as smoothly as possible.
When you get a good consistency on the paper pulps, you can start making the paper mache paste. Mix one part flour and two parts water. Put it inside a microwave at full heat for a full 10-20 seconds. After lifting it out of the oven, give it a good stir and put it back in for another 10-20 seconds. You will know it’s ready when the consistency becomes thick. This may take about five repetitions to get right. Squeeze out any lumps if there are any leftovers.
When both components are prepared, combine one part of paper mache paste with three parts of the paper mache pulp. It is important that you squeeze out as much water as you can for the best results.
Now that you have a good paper mache going, it’s time to make the bowls. Line a separate bowl with cling film. The bigger the bowl, the bigger this design will be. Right on top of the cling film, start laying some paper mache on the cling paper and form a concave layer. The thickness should be about ⅓ of a centimeter.
Once you have a good concave layer of paper mache going, you may leave this out to dry. This make takes up to a week. Once dry, proceed to remove the cling film very carefully. If you feel like it’s still a bit wet for the painting session, pop it into the oven at the lowest temperature without the plastic.
With the solid paper mache now completely dry, it’s time for some art. Paint the outer part of the concaved object with the colors of the earth, greens and brown for the landmasses, white for the ice caps, and blue for the seas and oceans. On the inner side, the outermost part should be the thinnest, this will be representing the crust. The next layer is the mantel, divided into the inner and outer mantel, and this should be the thickest. The next later is the outer core, significantly thinner a layer than the mantel but thicker than the crust, still. At the very center of the model is the inner core, the hottest part of all the layers of the earth.
This experiment may take a long journey to overcome but it will surely provide your children with entertaining and lesson-filled playtime as paper mache provides a sensory play element. It also helps with enhancing the kids’ fine motor skills as they make the shape of the bowl and some artful amusement as they paint the actual layers of the earth. Once they finish the arts and crafts, there is a lesson to be learned when they study the final product; seeing all the layers and the discussion with you, the parents, or their teachers.
Layers of the Earth Using Clay
This science project is an excellent way to introduce the form of the earth and what it looks like inside to the kids using an experiment that will include helpful sensory play, drills for fine motor skills, and a visual stimulus that will guide them in acquiring a better understanding of the world they live in.
All you need is five different colors of clay that will represent the different layers of the earth and a waxed dental floss to create a cross-section of the finished product.
The first portion of clay you’ll be molding will represent the inner core. Choose an appropriate color and start molding it into a ball by rolling the clay between your palms. Once you have a good ball going, take a good amount of another shade of clay to make the outer core. Coat this next amount of clay over the first ball to create a shell of new clay to represent the layers of the inner and outer cores. Give it a good roll to refine the shape and repeat this process three more times to get five layers. Make sure that the next two layers after the outer core are the thickest as these are layers of the mantel – the inner and the outer. The last layer is the crust and should be the thinnest out of all the layers.
Once you’re done refining the shape of all the layers, use the waxed dental floss to cut into the ball you made and shape a cross-section to reveal all the layers of your clay earth model.
Layers of the Earth with Lego
Lego has always been one of the most entertaining and educational toys in history because of its ability to facilitate STEAM-fueled activities. Through its highly customizable nature that enhances creativity, problem-solving capabilities, and critical thinking affinity, lego has proven to be a product that enables learning and amusement simultaneously.
One particular project that lego can be used in is explaining how the Earth looks underneath our feet. Using four different colors, you and the kids can create an accurate representation of the Earth’s layers using these wonder blocks.
Create a single layer of lego – this will be the crust. The crust will only consist of a single layer of legos because it is the thinnest layer in the diagram. Allocate 5 stacks of lego for the mantel, as it is the thickest of all the Earth’s layers. There will be three layers of lego for the outer core then two for the inner core.
In this activity, you may opt to show the curvature of the Earth using special lego shapes or just make a straight structure to make a simpler yet equally educational and visual version.
Earth Sugar Cookies
Another way to conduct this experiment and study the layers of the Earth is through the creative art of baking. Through the creation of this sweet sugary pastry, the art of baking can be just as much fun as any science experiment.
In this activity, the model will only show the most basic part of the Earth’s layers: the crust, the mantel, and the core.
- ⅔ cup shortening
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 egg
- 4 teaspoons milk
- 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour – plain flour in the UK
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoons salt
- Red food coloring (for mantle layer)
- ½ cup cocoa (for core layer) – reduce flour to 1 ½ cups
The first that has to be done is to thoroughly mix the cream, shortening, sugar, and vanilla. This is the point when you may also add the food coloring. After a good mix, add the egg and beat until light and fluffy.
Use an available spoon to stir the milk into the rest of the ingredients. Once the milk is integrated into the mixture you may start sifting the other dry ingredients together. After a good sift, you may mix the dry ingredients with the creamed mixture until the dough finally comes together.
Drive the dough into two sets and form a ball out of both doughs. Wrap both balls in plastic and chill for an hour. Spread out flour on a surface and use your hand to press the dough out. Roll the dough to about ⅛ inches thick. Cut both doughs into circles to represent the different layers of the Earth and assemble the cookies. One option you have is to prepare the doughs from the get-go and customize their colors using food coloring.
Once you have the layers set, bake them on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper at 375° for six to eight minutes. When the cookie temperatures lower you may use them in your Earth science exhibit to show the class the three main layers of the Earth.
These activities range in a variety of difficulties, but ultimately they provide an entertaining way to educate your kids or the class about the world they live in.
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