Parks Past, Present, and Future

Activity Source: 

Adapted with permission by National Park Service.

Over Earth’s 4.5 billion-year history, tectonic upheavals and colliding plates formed mountain ranges and carved out basins. Forces of erosion and weathering have been at work to break down these landforms. Records of these processes are imprinted on the land and define distinctive landscapes around the United States and in its national parks.
The dynamic processes that formed the spectacular landscapes of many national parks remain active today. Volcanic eruptions and geothermal activity, earthquakes, landslides and other slope failures, mudflows, sinkhole collapses, snow avalanches, flooding, glacial surges and outburst floods, tsunamis, and shoreline movements are still occurring today ─ and will continue to occur in the future.
Over millions of years, these geologic processes change the land. In Zion National Park, the arid climate and sparse vegetation expose bare rock and reveal the park’s geologic history. Evidence of deposition (sedimentation), lithification, uplift, weathering, erosion, tectonics, and volcanic activity make Zion a showcase for changing landscapes.



1. Go online and find “Landscapes: Past, Present, and Future Activity Guide” (—a lesson that should take about 60 minutes—as well as other materials.
2. In this guide, find background information about how geologic processes and changes over millions of years continually shape the landscape, as well as directions for three activities that will help students better understand how these processes are still at work in Utah.
3. To prepare:

  • Download and review “Landscapes: Past, Present, and Future Activity Guide.”
  • Download and review materials for both “past” and “present” activities.
  • Gather images, maps, drawing materials, and computers as necessary.

4. Check out these additional resources:

NGSS 3-D Learning

  • Science and Engineering Practices—Planning and Carrying Out Investigations
  • Disciplinary Core Ideas—Earth’s Place in the Universe
  • Crosscutting Concepts—Stability and Change