Retrieving the Core





Name of Activity

Retrieving the Core




core, earth, magnetic, sample, NXT, invention, earth’s core, magnet



Grade Level

K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


2 Hours Total

Brief Description

Students will use their NXT vehicles they built in lesson 1 to retrieve a sample of the magnetic core of the Earth.

Lesson Objectives:

– To learn about the layers of the Earth.

– To build a retrieving device.

– To travel to the “Core”, retrieve a sample and travel back.

Materials Needed:

– Engineering Design Sheet

– Pre-constructed NXT vehicles (from lesson 1)

– Computers running MINDSTORMS software

– Additional motors

– LEGO building pieces

– Pre-built model of the Earth’s core with magnets dispersed around

– The Magic School Bus: inside the Earth by Joanna Cole

– Lego Reflection Response Sheet

Preparation and Set Up:

– Create and set up a model Earth (ideas and photos attached).

– Collect materials

– Make copies of activity worksheets

– Engineering Design Sheet

– Engineer’s Programming Sheet

– Programmer’s Icon Sheet

– Arrange students in groups of two

– Give each group their NXT vehicle, an extra motor, extra LEGO pieces (you can also give them a magnet and tape for their retrieval device)

Necessary Background

Attached is a sheet with references that have information about the layers of the Earth.



Earth’s core




  1. Start by reviewing the inside of the Earth and it’s layers. Questions you might ask are:
    1. What are the layers inside of the Earth called? (crust, mantle, outer core, inner core)
    2. What is the crust made of? Who can name the 3 types of rock found their? (igneous, metamorphic, sedimentary)
    3. Who can tell me about the mantle? The core?

  • Read The Magic School Bus: Inside the Earth to the students to facilitate discussion on the layers of the Earth and connect to previous activities.
  • Discuss the core of the Earth, explaining the difference between the outer core and inner core. Review what the children know about magnets.
  • Divide the class into groups of 2 students. Explain that they will use the “School Bus” they made in lesson 1 (the NXT vehicle) for this challenge.
  • Tell the students that the design challenge is to build and program your “School Bus” to collect a magnetic sample from the core of the Earth.
  • Write the challenge on the board:
    1. Using the model of the core, explain that the NXT car must travel to the core.
    2. Once in the inner core, the collecting invention must collect a sample from the core.

  • Explain to students that they will be allowed to use another motor for this challenge.
  • Brainstorm some ideas of what might work to retrieve the rock sample. Write ideas on the board for future reference.
  • Distribute the “Engineering Design Sheet” (attached) to each student.
  • Model how to fill out these worksheets. Let the students complete their designs before they can begin to build.
  • Allow students to build their inventions.
  • Note: If this lesson is going to be taught in 2 class periods, this is a good time to stop.

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