What our Grand Canyon lesson plan includes
Lesson Objectives and Overview: Grand Canyon explores the history and creation of one of the seven wonders of the world. Students will learn about canyons in general and how they form. They will also discover cool facts about the Grand Canyon and its characteristics. This lesson is for students in 3rd grade, 4th grade, 5th grade, and 6th grade.
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 colored pencils, markers, construction paper, and scratch paper. Students will also need access to the internet.
Options for Lesson
In the “Options for Lesson” section of the classroom procedure page, you will see some suggestions for additional activities or ideas to add to the lesson if you want to. Students may work alone or in groups for the activity. They could vote on the best Grand Canyon poster, most persuasive, most colorful, etc. Assign students other canyons throughout the world to research and later present to the class. Conduct a hands-on activity showing how erosion and can result in the development of a canyon. Invite someone who has visited the Grand Canyon to speak to the class about their experience.
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. It suggests you take advantage of the video about the Grand Canyon to supplement the lesson. The blank lines are available for you to write out any thoughts or ideas you have as you prepare.
GRAND CANYON LESSON PLAN CONTENT PAGES
Types of Canyons
The Grand Canyon lesson plan contains four pages of content. Some of the most interesting geologic features we can find on the earth are canyons. A canyon forms over time when rivers make deep cuts within the terrain of the earth’s surface. Cliffs surround a canyon because erosion has cut through them. Usually, canyons are deep, narrow valleys in Earth’s crust.
Rivers are often the major force that leads to the creation of the canyons throughout the world. One can also find canyons on ocean floors where currents dig underwater grooves. There are four main types of canyons that we categorize by their various features. These are slot, plateau, submarine, and box canyons.
Flash floods create slot canyons, which are not very wide but can be hundreds of feet deep. Each time a flash flood occurs, they cut the previous depressions deeper. Fast-moving rivers that cut deep into the river bottom create plateau canyons over time. Plateau canyons are deeper the harder the rock is.
You would find submarine canyons at the surface of the ocean floor. Ocean currents cut into the ocean floor to create these canyons. Some even begin at shore. Box canyons are generally small and both shorter and narrower than a typical river canyon. They also have steep walls on three sides, so you can only access the canyon at its mouth.
The Grand Canyon
Many canyons throughout the world have names. The deepest canyon in the world is at the confluence of the Gilgit and Indus Rivers in Pakistan. The Indus Gorge from the river to its peak is about 23,360 feet deep. Other canyons in the world include Horseshoe Canyon in Canada, Copper Canyon in Mexico, Rio Grande Gorge in New Mexico, and Zion Canyon in Utah. But one of the most well-known and famous canyons is one of the seven wonders of the natural world—the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
One of the most powerful forces in nature is a moving river. Rivers are an erosive force that can wear down tall mountains and carry away the sediments with ease, eliminating the evidence of a once-tall mountain. The Grand Canyon—with the help of the Colorado River’s erosion, volcanoes, and a hot and dry climate—formed over millions of years in the state of Arizona.
It is 277 miles long. In some areas, its width reaches up to 18 miles. In all, the Grand Canyon’s area is approximately 1,904 square miles. Its depth averages about one mile or 5,280 feet. But in some places, it is much deeper. The Grand Canyon is so large that we can see it from space. It is in the northwest corner of Arizona, close to the borders of Utah and Nevada. Most of it lies within Grand Canyon National Park. The National Park Service (NPS) and the Native American Tribes—Hualapai Tribal Nation and the Havasupai Tribe—manage the canyon.
How the Grand Canyon Formed
Water is mainly responsible for this massive canyon and most of the erosion that carved a valley into the earth’s surface. The Colorado River has flowed through the canyon for many years. But when it rains in the area, the baked dry dirt cannot hold the moisture. The rainwater then begins to run down toward the river, resulting in flash flooding.
Flood water moves so fast that it knocks over boulders and easily carries rocks in its path. As the dirt sweeps along, only hard rock formations remain behind. Then, during the severe winters, water seeps into the crevices of the hard rock. The water freezes, the cracks get bigger, and the rocks further crack and break apart. Water then continues to move these rocks and sediment along its path.
The wind has also added to the erosion process of the Grand Canyon. Even now, it is still slowly changing every year as it has done as long ago as six million years. However, some scientists and geologists believe the canyon formed in just a million years. Recently, though, scientists determined that the western canyon was as old as 70 million years.
Features of the Canyon
Since there are different types of rocks forming the earth, they are on display along the walls of the Grand Canyon. Each layer is easily visible, as the strata (layers atop of layers) are obvious. The layers of rock rise more than a mile above the Colorado River.
Erosion has taken place over time, and the rivers carry the soil, pebbles, and rocks downstream, depositing them in a new location. Some of the deposits form at bends in the river, or where the rivers dump into lakes, seas, and oceans. New land results from the many tons of debris that the river has carried.
The climate in the region of the Grand Canyon is semi-arid. Some sections of the upper plateau are dotted with forests. And the bottoms exhibit a series of desert basins. There is a wide variety of species in the canyon as well. There are 355 bird species, 89 mammalian species, 47 species of reptile, 9 amphibian species, and 17 species of fish in the national park.
Grand Canyon Facts
Over 5 million people from all over the world visit the Grand Canyon each year. They come to view this spectacular site. Many of them walk across the Grand Canyon Skywalk, a horseshoe-shaped glass walkway 4,000 feet above the canyon floor. The lesson offers a list of additional interesting facts:
- It is a massive canyon made mostly of red rock.
- The rock at the bottom of the canyon is a type of metamorphic rock that may be about 2 billion years old.
- No dinosaur bones have been found in the canyon; however, archaeologists did find the bones of an 11,000-year-old sloth.
- In 1540, the Grand Canyon received its first European visitors, led by García López de Cárdenas from Spain.
- John Wesley Powell was first to use the name Grand Canyon when he traveled the Colorado River in 1869.
- The ancient Pueblo Indians first moved into the Grand Canyon over 3,000 years ago and used the caves for shelter.
- In the summer, the temperatures can reach 100°F, but winter temperatures can drop to 0°F.
The Grand Canyon, though it formed between 1 million and 70 million years ago, will continue to be a natural wonder of the world. In the next million or more years, the canyon will continue to evolve and change as the Colorado River cuts its way through the deep gorge below the high ledges of the canyon’s walls.
GRAND CANYON LESSON PLAN WORKSHEETS
The Grand Canyon 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.
TOURISM POSTER ACTIVITY WORKSHEET
Students will work with a partner for the activity. Each pair will create posters that encourage people to visit the Grand Canyon as a tourist or for scientific reasons. Posters should include words, logos, images, slogans, etc. to persuade people to explore or spend time at the Grand Canyon. Students should also include a catchy title. They can use the box at the bottom of the worksheet to sketch a rough draft. After your approval, they can create their final copy.
THREE-PART PRACTICE WORKSHEET
The practice worksheet divides into three section. First, students will review 10 statements and decide if they are true (T) or false (F). The next section requires students to identify the incorrect statements and rewrite them to be true. Finally, students will fill in the blanks of five sentences. There is no word bank with the correct terms, so students must use their memory to complete the section.
GRAND CANYON HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT
For the homework assignment, students will first match canyon types to the descriptions they correspond to. The second section requires students to answer eight prompts based on what they learned throughout the lesson.
Worksheet Answer Keys
There are answer keys for both the practice and homework worksheets at the end of the lesson plan. All the correct answers are in red to make it easy to compare them with your 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.