Layers of the Earth Clay Models

Do you remember studying the layers of the earth when you were in elementary school? Yep, me neither. If I had made a clay model of the earth that was later cut open to expose the layers, that might be a different story…

This project came about after talking to the third grade classroom teacher and the art teacher, we all worked together to incorporate our areas of expertise into one cool experience for our kiddos. The students have been learning about the earth for a few weeks now so the kids have a great deal of background knowledge.

Before this project even began, I bought (lots) of Crayola Model Magic, this stuff is great to work with, dries over time and comes in lots of fun colors. I bought six colors, one for each of the layers of the earth the students were asked to represent:


I then divided the clay into individual bags, one for each student. I also included handouts for all of the tables and made my sample earth model: 
After a very short period of instruction, students set to work on making their models:
I purposely did not give the kiddos much direction, they discovered that if they make a ball for the very center of the earth and then wrap the remaining colors around that ball, it works well:
They loved this project!
The earth models looked great, they wanted to immediately cut them open to expose the layers, but I made them wait until the clay had a chance to dry.
Sadly, because we had a few weeks without library time, the earths got a little too dry and the seams started to crack. Fortunately, the models still held together and looked good:
After meeting with the art teacher, we decided these models should go on display for the entire school community. Therefore, we needed backdrops… What a great opportunity to re-visit the layers of the earth. The art teacher worked with the kiddos to create a diorama (of sorts) that both held the model and showed the layers of the earth:
Next step, cutting the models open, yaaay! And, yes, I let them wield the knife (brave, I know, but I watched them closely and they were so careful knowing this was a big responsibility):
It was so fun to see the variations in the layers!
After cutting open the models, the students made labels of the different layers of the earth using sticky envelope labels and toothpicks (the simplest supplies are sometimes the best option):
 
The models turned out GREAT and the kids were so proud!

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