Layers of the Earth STEM


In this lesson, students will learn about the layers of the Earth. They will explore four layers and the lithosphere, learning about the thickness, temperature, and composition of each. Students will create their own Earth layers model and use their graphing skills to look at the layers. Students will enjoy this kinesthetic lesson.

Check out the “Options for Lesson” section of the classroom procedure page for suggestions of activities and ideas to add to the lesson plan. One idea, for example, is to bring in items made from the elements students will learn about throughout the lesson, such as iron.

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What our Layers of the Earth STEM lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: Layers of the Earth STEM teaches students about each of the four main layers that make up this planet. Students will discover information about the thickness, composition, and temperature of each layer. They will also create a model of Earth through a kinesthetic activity. This lesson is for students in 4th grade, 5th grade, and 6th grade.

Classroom Procedure

Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the yellow box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand. This lesson requires pencils, play-doh or clay in four different colors, plastic knives, and paper plates.

Options for Lesson

There are suggestions in the “Options for Lesson” section of the classroom procedure page for additional activities or ideas. As an additional homework assignment, you could have students graph the temperature of each of Earth’s layer. Another idea is for students to research how scientists have investigated and learned about the layers of the earth. To extend the lesson, one more idea is to bring in items made from each element that composes the earth, or samples of the elements themselves, for students to explore. It is a great bonus, for instance, for students to feel how heavy iron can be.

Teacher Notes

The paragraph on this page gives you a little more information on the lesson overall and describes what you may want to focus your teaching on. The blank lines are available for you to write out any thoughts or ideas you have as you prepare.



The Layers of the Earth STEM lesson plan has two content pages. Students will learn that there are four main layers of the earth: crust, mantle, outer core, and inner core. The lesson compares the earth’s crust to an egg shell. It’s easy to break the shell of a hard-boiled egg because it’s very thin. Similarly, the crust of the earth is thin and brittle, at least compared with the rest of the earth. It’s also the coldest layer.

Earth’s crust is not the same thickness throughout the planet. Some places are very thick, like under the continents. Other parts are very thin, which is the case under the oceans. The earth’s crust consists of several giant pieces, much like a puzzle. These pieces are called tectonic plates. They move very, very slowly, only about one to two inches a year, in fact. That’s less than the length of a person’s finger!

Tectonic plates sometimes slide by one another, and other times they bump into each other. This is what causes earthquakes and volcanoes. Scientists don’t fully understand what causes the plates to move, but they think it might have something to do with the heat currents deeper inside the earth.

Mantle and Core

People live on the lithosphere, which is made out of the crust and the top part of the mantle. It makes the outer, solid part of the earth. The mantle is the earth’s thickest layer. It begins just under the crust and comprises iron, magnesium, and silicon. This layer is very dense and super hot. It is so hot, in fact, that rocks turn to liquid in the mantle. This makes this layer semi-solid, kind of like caramel when it is heated.

Students will discover that the mantle circulates, which means it continuously moves around inside the earth. The tectonic plates sit on this hot, thick liquid. Scientists think this might be one reason the plates slip and slide around. The part of the mantle closest to the crust is usually cooler and much stiffer. It is this part, together with the crust, that makes up the lithosphere.

The outer core is the next layer in. It is made of iron and liquid nickel. This layer is so hot that it remains in liquid form. But what makes the inside of the earth so hot? Elements such as uranium and thorium break down and decay, which causes a lot of heat. The heat melts the rock and churns it in large currents. The flowing liquid metal generates electrical currents.

Because the earth tilts on its axis, the electrical currents can create a magnetic field. This magnetic field extends all the way around the whole planet! Without the magnetic field, life could not exist on Earth. This is because the magnetic field holds in our atmosphere and protects us from dangerously high radiation levels from the sun.

At the very center of the earth is a solid metal ball. It is about three-fourths the size of the moon! The inner core is very dense. It consists mostly of iron and nickel. Because it is so heavy, it spins a bit faster than the rest of the planet. In addition, the core of the earth is almost as hot as the sun. Some scientists think that there might even be a smaller core inside the inner core made only of iron.


The Layers of the Earth STEM lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. These worksheets will help students demonstrate what they learned throughout the lesson and reinforce the lesson concepts. The guide on the classroom procedure page outlines when to hand out each worksheet to your students.


Students will follow your instructions as they create models of the earth with clay. They will use four different colors of clay to represent the four major layers of the earth. Once they complete the clay model, they will draw a picture of their Earth in the box on the worksheet page and label the layers.


The practice worksheet has two sections. The first section requires students to label the four layers of Earth on the diagram. On the next section, they will fill in the blanks of several sentences about different layers. There is no word bank with terms they can pull from. You can choose whether or not you allow them to reference the content pages for help.


For the homework assignment, students will first research the thickness of each of Earth’s four main layers. They will record the numbers in the table at the top of the page. Then they will create a graph using the information they gathered from their research.

Worksheet Answer Keys

There are answer keys for both the practice and homework worksheets in this lesson plan. The correct responses are in red to make it easy for you to compare them to students’ work. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.

Additional information


4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade



State Educational Standards


Lessons are aligned to meet the education objectives and goals of most states. For more information on your state objectives, contact your local Board of Education or Department of Education in your state.