Lesson Plan

Landscaping with Wind and Water

Picture of a Eagle Peak mountian againsts a blue sky
Eagle Peak
Grade Level:
Fourth Grade-Eighth Grade
Earth Science, Geology, Glaciers, Reading, Tectonics, Volcanoes
1 hour
Group Size:
Up to 36 (6-12 breakout groups)
National/State Standards:
Next Generation Science Standards: MS-ESS1-4., 2-ESS2-2., 4-ESS2-1., 5-ESS2-1., MS-ESS2-1., MS-ESS2-2.
earth science, erosion, geology, glaciers, reading, sedimentation, tectonics, uplift, volcanoes, weathering


Students demonstrate the destructive forces of erosion on small “mountains” and survey an area in the park, such as Lamar Valley, to identify evidences of erosion. Students interview a petrified tree in its natural setting to learn more about the changing landscape of Yellowstone.


  • Demonstrate how wind, water, and ice are major agents of erosion.
  • Identify erosion caused by wind and water in Yellowstone National Park. 


Landforms are created by constructive and destructive forces. In Yellowstone, constructive forces include uplift, volcanic eruptions, and sedimentation from inland seas and rivers. Destructive forces include weathering and erosion. Both types can change land forms dramatically.


Geologic event cards, erosion Investigation handout, plastic cups, plastic misting bottles, hand lenses, drinking straws, toothpicks, dirt, rocks, water, ice cubes, journals.


  1. Discuss background information. Geologic Event Cards from the Through the Ages activity are helpful for this purpose.
  2. Divide the students into small groups. Explain that each group will create a landscape using wind and water.
  3. Have each group build a "mountain" from a pile of dirt. The dirt should include a variety of soil, sand, and rocks.
  4. Distribute an Erosion Investigation handout to each group. Allow groups access to the materials listed so they can alter their mountain with landscape changing forces.
  5. Have students follow the steps listed on the handout. As groups investigate, they may wish to record predictions and observations.
  6. Have students as an assessment draw their mountains in their journals. They should include all signs of erosion and label the cause of each eroded area.
  7. Allow students to visit landscapes created by other small groups.
  8. Ask groups to remove a large cupful of soil from their mountains. Have them reconstruct a mountain using only the remaining dirt.
  9. Instruct groups to plant trees on the mountain using toothpicks.
  10.  Have students simulate a volcanic eruption by pouring the cupful of soil onto the mountain. Discuss the impact of trees and volcanic ash on erosion patterns. 

Park Connections

Erosion continues to shape the landscape of Yellowstone National Park.

Additional Resources

Good, J.M.M., Kenneth L. Pierce (1997). Interpreting the Landscape: Recent and ongoing geology of Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Moose, Wyoming: Grand Teton Natural History Association.

Hendrix, Mark (2011). Geology Under Foot in Yellowstone. Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing.

On the Scene of the Yellowstone Hotspot: Electronic Field Trip. This field trip is currently unavailable. 

Smith, Robert B., Lee J. Siegel (2000). Windows into the Earth: The geologic story of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Yellowstone Exposed: Mysteries in the Living Laboratory: Electronic Field Trip. This field trip is currently unavailable.


pplift, volcanic, sedimentation, weathering, erosion