Friday, August 24, 2012

Third Grade Earth Studies: Mountains and Volcanoes

Update on July 23, 2017 - I'm preparing for our third child to do this study and am pleased to say the Mater Amabilis™ ™plans have been updated. Many of the links work now. Leaving out the visits to a local mountain (since we still don't even have a substantial hill), we'll be doing those plans pretty closely this year.


Within Geography and Earth Studies, Mater Amabilis™™ recommends a study of Mountains and Volcanoes in third grade. There's a schedule of lessons based on Mountains and Volcanoes (Young Discoverers: Geography Facts and Experiments) by Barbara Taylor.

I noticed as I went through the lesson plans that some of the links no longer work. More worrisome were the number of lessons during which we should go visit a mountain. Honestly, I think we'd have to drive a couple of hours to even find something close to a "hill" so that's not really an option on a regular basis. I reworked the lessons to fit our Kansas homeschool and thought I'd share. I expect First Son to read nearly all of these lessons aloud to me, though perhaps by the end of the year he'll be reading them independently and simply narrating to me. We'll have to see how it goes.

Again, most of these lessons are based on the schedule at Mater Amabilis. Mainly I've added a few resources.

Lesson 1
- I Wonder Why Mountains Have Snow On Top: and Other Questions About Mountains pp. 4-5
- Mountains and Volcanoes (Young Discoverers: Geography Facts and Experiments) pp. 4-5
- Print a blank map of the world. (I found one here.) Add the major mountain ranges (draw mountains) and name them.

Lesson 2
- Mountains and Volcanoes p. 6

Lesson 3
- How to Dig a Hole to the Other Side of the World (This book is one of my favorite picture books.)

Lesson 4
- Mountains and Volcanoes p. 7 (demonstration on the movement of magma)
- In the book basket: Volcano and Earthquake (DK Eyewitness Books)

Lesson 5
- Mountains and Volcanoes p. 8
- Print another copy of the world map (above) and draw the tectonic plates on it.

Lesson 6
- Mountains and Volcanoes p. 9 (demonstration to see how Africa and South America may have fit together)

Lesson 7
- Mountains and Volcanoes pp. 10-11
- Make an earthquake with wooden blocks.
- In the book basket: Earthquakes (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2)

Lesson 8
- Compare the map of major fault lines with a world map. Which major cities are most at risk of earthquakes? Mark them on your map. Talk about the need to build carefully in earthquake prone areas. Simulate an earthquake and see its effect on buildings. (Or watch a YouTube video of an earthquake on buildings.)

Lesson 9
- Make a page on the Richter scale for our notebook. Use Great Shakes: The Science of Earthquakes (Headline Science)
- Print another world map and show most recent earthquakes 5.0 or higher using this site.
- Note for teacher - consider discussing tsunamis.

Lesson 10
- Mountains and Volcanoes pp. 12-14
- Make a notebook page on fold, block and dome mountains.
- Make a model of fold mountains using colored play dough, modeling clay or plasticine.
- Add the Great Rift Valley and the Appalachians to your mountain map.

Lesson 11
- I Wonder Why Mountains... pp. 6-7
- Add the highest mountains to your map.
- Mountains and Volcanoes p. 15
- Learn about how the Himalayas were made. Demonstrate with ice cream and cookies (biscuits).

Lesson 12
- The Top of the World: Climbing Mount Everest

Lesson 13
- I Wonder Why Mountains... pp. 14-17
- Make a notebook page on glaciers and plant life on mountains.

Lesson 14
- I Wonder Why Mountains... pp. 18-19
- Make a list of animals that are found in mountainous areas. Make a page about one type of animal for your notebook.
- Use these books for research: Mountain Mammals (True Books: Animals), Animals of the High Mountains (Books for Young Explorers), and Draw Write Now, Book 8: Animals of the World, Dry Land Animals (Draw-Write-Now)

Lesson 15
- Mountains and Volcanoes pp. 16-17
- Explain erosion.
- Demonstrate the effect of the acid in rain on rock – put a piece of limestone or natural chalk in a jar and pour vinegar onto it.
- Look at pictures of Bryce Canyon (Utah) and the Giants Causeway (Ireland) to see examples of erosion.

Lesson 16
- Mountains and Volcanoes pp. 18-19
- Make fossils with Plaster of Paris and modeling clay.

Lesson 17
- Mountains and Volcanoes pp. 20-21
- Talk about how volcanoes are made. Demonstrate how lava flows and sets by making toffee. (Maybe.)
- I Wonder Why Mountains... pp. 8-11

Lesson 18
- Mountains and Volcanoes p. 22
- Discuss and draw three different kinds of volcanic types.
- Check Volcano World or other online site for pictures/videos of three types forming.

Lesson 19
- Learn about the six eruption types: Icelandic, Hawaiian, Strombolian, Vulcanian, Pelean and Plinian from Volcano World. Make a page on eruption types for your notebook.

Lesson 20
- Choose a symbol for volcanoes and make a key for your mountain map. Mark the following volcanoes: Mount St.Helens, USA (composite cone); Mount Fuji, Japan (composite cone); Mauna Loa, Hawaii (shield cone); Mount Vesuvius, Italy (cinder cone), Mount Etna, Sicily (composite cone).
- Look at pictures of as many of these volcanoes as possible, either online or in a book.

Lesson 21
- Mountains and Volcanoes p. 23
- Build an erupting volcano.

Lesson 22
- Mountains and Volcanoes pp. 24-25
- Read about undersea volcanoes and volcanic islands. Add Krakatoa, Surtsey and Mauna Kea to your map. Add pictures of volcanoes to your notebook.
- I Wonder Why Mountains... pp. 12-13

Lesson 23
- Volcano: The Eruption and Healing of Mount St. Helens Chapter 1

Lesson 24
- Volcano Chapter 2

Lesson 25
- Volcano Chapter 3

Lesson 26
- Volcano Chapter 4

Lesson 27
- Volcano Chapter 5

Lesson 28
- Mountains and Volcanoes pp. 26-27
- Learn about igneous rocks. Look at a diamond and a piece of pumice stone and examine them with a magnifying glass.
- Mark Le Puy (France), Giant's Causeway (Northern Ireland) and Staffa (Scotland) on your map.

Lesson 29
- Mountains and Volcanoes pp. 26-27
- Make crystals.

Lesson 30
- Mountains and Volcanoes p. 28
- Explain geysers and look at pictures.
- Add geysers to your map key and mark Yellowstone National Park (USA), Iceland, New Zealand and Honshu (Japan).
- Make a page on geysers for your notebook.
- View webcam of Old Faithful.

Lesson 31
- Mountains and Volcanoes p. 29
- Make a geyser.

Lesson 32
- Mountains and Volcanoes pp. 30-31

Lesson 33
- I Wonder Why Mountains... pp. 20-23

Lesson 34
- I Wonder Why Mountains... pp. 24-27

Lesson 35
- I Wonder Why Mountains... pp. 28-31

And that's it! I think First Son is going to love this course!


  1. Wow, what a huge help this will be! We also have no mountains nearby, here in Coastal Georgia. Were you able to implement this as planned? Did you and DS enjoy it?

  2. Lini, I think it worked really well for us! Shortly after I posted this, the MA site was updated with fixed links for everything, so be sure to check that out, too. Are you anywhere near Stone Mountain? That would be a great family field trip for this study. (And just in general. We lived near there when I was young and I have many fond memories of the park, the streams, the light show, and climbing to the top! I'd love to take my kids there.)


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