Earth's Systems (ESS2)

Ocean Currents Change Our Earth

Ocean currents — the continuous, directed movement of ocean water — affect regional climates and alter the biological and chemical characteristics of seawater.

Painting With Soil

Soils are one of our most important natural resources — just think of where all the food you eat comes from. They also are important for the beauty the many soil colors add to our landscapes.

Most of us overlook this natural beauty because we see it every day. Often these colors blend with vegetation, sky, water, etc. Soil colors serve as pigments in bricks, pottery and artwork.  The color and texture of soil painting is fascinating and a creative opportunity for all ages of students.

Processes Below The Water

Geologic maps and Google Earth™ images provide images that are snapshots of the times they were made. Weathering, erosion, and deposition continue to break down and build up Earth’s surface. In this activity you will explore the channel of the Colorado River that is submerged by Lake Powell and look for evidence of change.

Properties of Fresh Water and Sea Water

The students will set up three demonstrations to observe the properties of water. They will explore the boiling point of water, the freezing point of water, and the ability of water to store heat. These activities can be done individually or as a set.

Rock Abrasion

Rocks break down into smaller pieces through weathering. Rocks and sediment grinding against each other wear away surfaces. This type of weathering is called abrasion, and it happens as wind and water rush over rocks. The rocks become smoother as rough and jagged edges break off. In this activity, you will model how abrasion works.

Sea and Ice Salinity

What is sea ice? It is simply frozen ocean water. Why is sea ice important? While it occurs mainly in polar regions, sea ice influences our global climate. Changing amounts of sea ice can affect ocean circulations, weather patterns, and temperatures around the world. Sea ice insulates the relatively warm ocean water from the cold polar atmosphere, except where cracks in the ice allow for the exchange of heat and moisture. The exchange of salt between sea ice and the ocean alters the density of ocean waters, thus influencing ocean circulation. Many animals, such as polar bears, seals, and walruses, depend on sea ice for their habitat. These species hunt, feed, and breed on the ice. Satellites provide the best way to observe sea ice, the factors that affect sea ice, and the ways sea ice affects global climate. Scheduled to launch in 2010, NASA’s Aquarius mission will measure global sea surface salinity with unprecedented resolution. Even small variations in sea surface salinity — the amount of salt present near the ocean’s surface — can have dramatic effects on sea ice, the water cycle, and ocean circulation.

Sinkholes in a Cup

In this activity, learn how sinkhole formations in rocks form and the danger they pose to communities.

Sky and Cloud Windows

In this activity, students will conduct experiments or participate in demonstrations to answer questions about sky and weather phenomena. Students also will analyze and present data.

Soil Color and Redox Chemistry

Are soils like M&Ms™? Yes! Find out more in this awesome activity provided by the Soil Science Society of America.

Soil Properties

Discover more about soil properties in this excellent outdoor activity from the National Park Service!

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