Journey to the Earth’s Core





Name of Activity Journey to the Earth’s Core
Author Kristen Burns and Sarah Halpert
Keywords sturdy car, rock, travel, ramp, layers, earth, crust, mantle, core, axles, bushings, car, density, plate tectonics, mass, friction
Subject Simple Machines
Grade Level 4, 5, 6
Time 1 Hour Total
Brief Description The kid’s needed to design a sturdy car that will hold a rock (small pebble). The car will then
travel down a ramp that is labeled with the layers of the earth. The upper half of the ramp
was the crust and the lower half of the ramp was the mantle. The floor directly after the ramp
was labeled the outer core and following the outer core was the inner core section. The kids
had to adjust the axles and bushings on the car to allow it to travel farther. Once the cars were
finished we tested them on the ramp to see how far into the “earth” they went.
Lesson Objectives: Review density and how to measure the mass of an object

Build a sturdy car and tweak it to allow it to travel the furthest down the ramp

Learn the layers of the earth

Materials Needed: Simple Machine Kit

Materials for a ramp

Paper to cover the ramp that depicts the layers of the earth

Small rocks


Preparation and Set Up: Get a large piece of paper and cut it down to fit the ramp while allowing some extra to account
for the outer and inner core section. Design the paper with fun facts about each layer
(temperature, thickness, etc.).
Necessary Background Vocabulary:

Plate Tectonics


Axle and Bushing


Procedure 1. Explain density and the theory of plate tectonics. Also, review how to measure the mass of an object. 2. Have them start building the cars. Make sure that the cars have a spot to hold the rock and that they are sturdy. Explain how to adjust the bushings to account for less friction. 3. Take the mass of the rock. 4. Test the cars on the ramp and see how far into the “earth” they were able to travel. 5. Fill out the worksheet.
Extensions: If a group finishes early ask them if they can make the car go further.

Cracking the Crust





Name of Activity Cracking the Crust
Author STOMP
Keywords school bus, crust, earth, rock, NXT
Subject NXT
Grade Level K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
Time 2 Hours Total
Brief Description Students will use their “School Buses” that they built in lesson 1 to complete a tour through the crust of the Earth.
Lesson Objectives: - To identify the crust and recognize there are three distinct layers of crust: sedimentary rock, metamorphic rock, and igneous rock.
- To learn the order of the layers and specific features of each later of crust.
- To correctly program the “School Bus” to stop at each layer for a given period of time.
Materials Needed: - Pre-constructed “School Buses” (from lesson 1)
- LEGO NXT kits
- Magic School Bus: Inside the Earth by Joanna Cole
- Simulated Earth crust material:
– wooden base
– sandpaper (sedimentary rock)
– bubble wrap (metamorphic rock)
– gravel (igneous rock)
- Saran Wrap
- ‘How Will We Crack the Crust?’ Planning Worksheet
- ‘Cruising Through the Crust’ Programming Worksheet
Preparation and Set Up: Set up the layers of the crust:
– There should be a layer of saran wrap as the outer crust that the vehicle will need to break through. You can support this with popsicle sticks/pencils.
– The NXT will drive over the other material, so make a track with each layer farther away from the saran wrap starting with the sandpaper and ending with the gravel.
- Collect building materials.
- Photocopy one worksheet for each student.
- Arrange students in groups of 2 – 4.
- Distribute materials to groups.
Necessary Background Vocabulary:
Sedimentary rock
Metamorphic rock
Igneous rock
Earth’s crust
Limestone Cave
  1. Students must design a car that can take people on a tour of the Earth’s crust. They must transport passengers through the three layers of the crust: sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous. They must first break through the soil and move through the crust.
  2. The students will use their cars from lesson one. Students must add an extension that will cut through the soil (move/break the saran wrap).
  3. Students should plan their design on the ‘How Will We Crack the Crust?’ Worksheet.
  4. Check students plans.
  5. Have students build their attachments.
  6. When the attachments are built, have students begin programming their vehicle. Based on time intervals, they need to stop at different points to drop-off and pick-up passengers. The following are their programming tasks:
    1. Before entering Earth, the Magic School Bus will pick up a father and daughter. After cracking the crust, the bus will continue to the first layer of sedimentary rock (sandpaper). The two passengers will get off here to explore limestone caves.
    2. After dropping the passengers off the bus must continue to the metamorphic layer (bubble wrap) where it will pick up two new passengers.
    3. The bus must move onto the gravel (igneous rock). The bus must stop here to pick up two more passengers
    4. Finally, since the rock is getting very hot, the but must transport the passengers back to the surface of the crust and stop once it leaves the crust.
Extensions or Modifications: - Have students design and attachment to scoop up samples of each rock type.
- Have students create a brochure for the Magic School Bus Inside the Earth tour.
- Describe the vehicle and what you might observe on the tour.
- Send a postcard from a layer of the crust incluiding an illustration of what you saw and written explanation of your experience.
Reference 1
Reference 2
Reference 3

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