Teaching young children about the geological aspects of our earth’s crust and the tectonic plate movements can actually help remove some fear of earthquakes, volcanoes and/or landslides. Safety drills and preparations will also help your preschoolers feel more in control of their circumstances, as it does for most of us when we have taken all the necessary precautions.
Emergency Expedition Packs
Allow little ones to take charge of their safety by creating a classroom back-pack consisting of individual packets each child brings from home. Supply each child with a gallon freezer-sized clear baggie labeled with each child’s name along with a list of suggested items to include from home.
In the event children are forced to stay in class for any length of time due to an emergency like an earthquake, suggested items might include; a toothbrush and toothpaste, a family photo, small stuffed animal, favorite book, snack, comb, etc. Once collected, combine into a classroom backpack ready for any emergency or geological hiking expedition.
Field Work Expedition
What preschooler doesn’t appreciate a good rock hunt? Geologists never outgrew their fascination with rocks, turning it into a profession and so may your students one day. Studying rocks in the field (on your playground) can be very exciting for little ones, a junior-geological expedition.
Supply a paper cup to each child for rock collecting. When full combine them all together on a tabletop. Allow the children to sort rocks according to colors and type such as speckled or rippled. It doesn’t have to be scientific but you do have to make it fun.
Earth History Layers
Have your young scientists roll out layers of play-dough at least an inch thick and apply rocks from one of the categories above. Press another layer of play-dough over those rocks, adding another layer of rocks on top. Repeat stacking about three or four layers and press firmly together, allowing to dry in the sun or bake in the oven on low for an hour and cool.
Allow your students to examine the layers of pressed earth they’ve created. Have them guess which layers were caused by volcanoes, floods, sand storms or landslides while allowing kids to pull apart the rock layers and examine with magnifying glasses.
Plate Movement – Earthquakes
Earthquakes occurring along continental plate subduction zones can be easily demonstrated by sliding two kitchen graters together. You hold one grater and have the kids take turns holding another grater, carefully sliding theirs under yours.
Explain that continental plates move around each other causing bumpy rides as rocks slide over other rocks, just as the kitchen graters scratched against one another. When the rocky plates move around and bump into each other, earthquakes happen. Earthquake drills can be practiced at this time, by hiding under desks and tables, according to your facility’s emergency protocol.
Volcanoes and Landslides
Inside a large plastic container like a dish pan with high sides, build a volcano from play-dough mixed with rocks. Mold the rocky clay up and around a glass or plastic cup (removable) in which you will pour red food coloring, white vinegar and baking soda to foam up and over the sides of your volcano.
The homemade lava should be repeated as often as necessary to weaken the sides of the volcano, to demonstrate erosion. The plastic container will hold the excess liquid, representing lava flow, flooding and landslides.
With these hands-on geological projects your young students will become fascinated as they experience the earth they live on. Using rocks and clay you will be helping your preschoolers understand what happens during an earthquake or other natural disaster and remove some of their fears.