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Chemical and Physical Weathering

Context for this Lesson


Focus Question: What is weathering? What is the difference between chemical and physical weathering? How do humans play a role in altering our environment?

Materials: Clipboards


Engage: Donkey

Players stand in a circle with the leader in the center. The leader points to a player and calls out a shape. That player, plus the two players on either side of him or her, rushes to make the shape before the leader counts to ten. For example, if the leader calls “Elephant,” the player pointed to makes a long trunk with one arm, while the peoples on either side each form an ear in a “C” shape. If they fail, the player pointed to switches places with the leader and calls the next shape. Besides shapes, the center player can also call “Donkey- one-two-three”, which simply means to freeze in place. If the player pointed to moves when “Donkey” is called, they switch places with the center player.

Processing - What happened? What did we do in the game? - What was successful in creating the images?

Transition: “Now let’s see if we can create some new images to use in our game.”


Explore: Creating Images of Weathering

1. “What do we remember about weathering? What are the two different kinds of weathering that we talked about?”

2. “I need 3 students who can come up and work together to create an image of Chemical weathering. They are only going to have 30 seconds to work together to do this.”

3. What do we see? What action could they do that might help us clarify? What sound?

4. “We are going to use this as our group image for Chemical weathering. Quickly, find a group of 3 and try to create the same image with the same sounds and actions.”

5. “Now, we are going to break up into groups of 3 and with your group of 3, you are going to create an image, kind of like the ones we just created in our game of donkey. This should be a stationary image, but if it helps to add a simple movement, gesture, or sound that will help us to understand what’s happening in your picture, that’s ok. The challenge is to create an image of physical weathering.”

6. Break students into groups of 3. “Once you have your image ready to share with the group, you can let us know by sitting on the floor with your other group members.”

7. “We are going to let each group share their image for about 5 seconds. As we are watching, be sure to look carefully and practice silent observation.”

8. Process Images - What did you see? - What did you see that was similar? What poses, actions, or sounds showed up more than once? - What does this tell us about physical weathering? - If we were going to create one image to in order to represent physical weathering to an alien from another planet that has no idea what it is, what qualities should that image include?

9. Play Donkey game as before, but with chemical and physical and physical weathering images.


Teacher in Role – Fredrick the Nature Detective

1. Teacher hears sounds in hallway, goes out to check it out and returns in role as Fredrick the nature detective.

2. “Excuse me, but I am looking for some bright young scientists. Have you seen any? It just so happens that I am from the Nature Detectives and I am in need of some help. You see, all of the Nature Detectives are away on vacation and I’m just a junior detective. While everyone was away I received a phone call about some strange loud noises and the ground vibrating. I believe the call actually came from someone at this very school. I was wondering, with me only being a “junior” detective and you being such bright young scientists, if you could help me do some investigating. I have trouble knowing the difference when something changes because of nature or human intervention, so we will be looking for clues. Do you happen to know anything about weathering? Great, I believe that information will come in handy.”

3. Pass out clipboards.

4. Working as detectives… “I have given you these special clipboards because while we are out investigating, I want to remind you that we will be working as nature detectives. What do you think this means? What kind of observation skills should we be using?How might we take notes as nature detectives? What are some things we can do to stay safe?”

5. “So remember we are looking for clues about where this noise and vibrations may have come from. I want to know if this may be due to weathering, whether that be chemical or physical or some sort of human intervention. Keep your eyes open and take notes!

6. While students are on hike. Encourage them to use the “detective skills” that we talked about to observe and take notes.

 Slide Show

1. Upon returning have students arrange themselves into tribe groups.

2. “Each group will show us 3 pieces of evidence by creating a slideshow of physical images, similar to how we created them before. You will show us one example of chemical weathering, one example of physical weathering, and one example of human intervention. Remember you can use simple movement and sounds to help illustrate your examples.”

3. Each group shares their slideshow of images.



- What were some of the examples of chemical and physical weathering that you saw? How could you tell whether they were chemical or physical?

- What were some of the examples of human intervention?

- Are there other examples that you can think of where humans change and impact the environment? How might this have a negative effect?