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Teaching through trade books

Humans and the Earth: A Relationship

Science and Children—March/April 2022 (Volume 59, Issue 4)

By Christine Anne Royce

When students think of the Earth, they often think of just the land. However, we know that there are multiple interacting factors that influence how people live, where people live, and what they need to survive in those areas. In these investigations, younger students investigate ways that water is used and how water is obtained in different areas. Older students look at a particular historical event where human’s choices and the interaction of different Earth systems created a dire situation.

Water’s Children: Celebrating the Resource That Unites Us All By Angele DeLaunois Illustrated by Gerard Frischeteau ISBN : 978-1772780154 Pajama Press 32 pages Grades K–2

Water’s Children: Celebrating the Resource That Unites Us All

By Angele DeLaunois

Illustrated by Gerard Frischeteau

ISBN : 978-1772780154

Pajama Press

32 pages

Grades K–2


Twelve children who live in 12 different locations on Earth share information about what water is used for and why it is important to them. Since the locations are in different geographical areas, water is shown in many forms from snowflake to monsoon rain. The phrase “water is life” is also shared in different languages.

How Hugh Bennett Saved America’s Soil and Ended the Dust Bowl: Erosion By Darcy Pattison Illustrated by Peter Willis ISBN: 978-1-62944-150-4 Mims House 32 pages Grades 2–5

How Hugh Bennett Saved America’s Soil and Ended the Dust Bowl: Erosion

By Darcy Pattison

Illustrated by Peter Willis

ISBN: 978-1-62944-150-4

Mims House

32 pages

Grades 2–5


The Dust Bowl is explained through a historical vantage point but also a scientific one. Hugh Bennett was a scientist who studied the soil and helped to establish the Soil Conservation Service and explain the effects of different elements.

Grades K–2: Water Is Life


Students will describe how humans use and obtain water at different locations on Earth and why water is important at that location.


  • Water’s Children: Celebrating the Resource that Unites Us All
  • chart paper, markers, paper, drawing materials, round sticky dots

Supplemental Resources (

  • image of Earth
  • decision chart
  • All About the Water Cycle Video
  • Photos of How People Transport Water
  • Remarkable Rice Video
  • Map of the United States
  • Card Set, Story Cards


Begin by reading Water’s Children: Celebrating the Resource that Unites Us All. As you share the book with the students, ask them to consider where the water shown in the book photos is located and how that fact affects how people use it. Additionally, ask the students to make connections between what they are hearing in the story and their own experiences with water in different places. The first few points to discuss are:

On the dedication page, the phrase “water is life” is introduced to the students. Ask the students to describe what they think the author means. Additional questions to engage students in discussing this statement include: Do people need water to live? Do all people have access to the same amount of water? Where do we find water?

pp. 2–3 Brainstorm a list of answers to the introductory statement: “Tell me about the water you see, the water you drink, the water that bathes you” by asking the students to list places they see water, places that people get water to drink, and places where they can be surrounded or immersed in water and record these on the board.

As each two-page spread is shared with the students, ask them to discuss if the information in the text could be about their location. After discussing the text language, place a check mark in the yes/no column on the decision chart (see Supplemental Resources). Also, as you share each two-page spread, ask the children to make observations about where the water might be located. For example, on pages 2–3, it could be a lake or a pond.

Once students have had a chance to discuss the different places and information about water in the book, explain to the students that they are going to dive into ideas about how water is used.


After sharing the book and discussing with students if the location described could be where they are located, ask them to look at an image of Earth (see Supplemental Resources) and describe what might be water (to include ice) and what might be land. Is there more water than land? How do they know? Once students have shared their ideas regarding what on Earth is water, ask them to think about all the ways that people use water. Revisit the following pages and engage the students in facilitated whole-group instruction about the concepts.

Big Idea #1: Water Is Transported Through the Water Cycle: Pages – Girl in Snow, Child with Outstretched Arms, Girl in Mountains with Llama. As you reread these three sections, ask the students to consider the following: What are the words used to describe the water in each of those locations? Do they think that all places have snow? Rain? Once students begin to discuss ways that precipitation can occur in different locations, ask them to draw a picture that starts to explain how water is replenished in their location. This drawing is a basic model of their understanding of the water cycle based on their own experiences and prior knowledge as well as what they may have learned from the book. After students have had a chance to illustrate their models, ask them to indicate if they had snow in their pictures? Rain? Ice? Did their pictures show clouds? If they had precipitation in any form, did it fall in the mountains? On flat land? In what ways does their picture show water on the Earth moving like in the waterfall in the picture? Engaging the students in these types of discussions will help them consider what information they might be missing. After discussion, share the first 22 seconds of the video All About the Water Cycle (see Supplemental Resources) and ask the students to explain the statement “The water on our planet is always moving from the sky to the ground” from the video and point to specific examples in the text. Encourage the students to return to their drawings and include arrows to show how the water moves.

Big Idea #2: People Need to Find Ways to Obtain Water: Pages – Boy with Submerged Building, Child in Desert, Girl with Tents. Begin by pointing out that students discussed that water is always moving and ask them to consider if all places on the Earth have the same amount of water available from water in the water cycle. Ask them to explain their thinking. Share the photos (see Supplemental Resources) that illustrate how some people need to transport water from far away to where they live. Ask the students to think about ways they might have moved water from one location to another, which might include through a barrel or a hose. Using the images and clues found in those images from the book, introduce the terms dam, oasis, and reservoir. Ask the students to describe where on Earth each of these might be located. Finally, discuss what a dam does and why a reservoir is important. If there is a local reservoir, point that out to the students. Ask the students to list reasons that the people in those locations might need to find ways to obtain water.

Big Idea #3: Water Helps Things Grow: Pages–Children in Rice Paddy, Child with Orange Trees, People with Umbrellas. Connect these photos to the first two discussions. Do students think that water is easily found in these places? Why or why not? Ask them to carefully look at the picture of the rice paddy. How is it similar to the picture where they saw the dam? Share the Remarkable Rice Video (see Supplemental Resources) from :26 to :51 to help students understand that rice paddies are purposefully flooded. Ask students to think about how the water is different in a reservoir (large, deep, holds water to generate electricity, helps to contain water) and a rice paddy (shallow, used to help food grow, water not always permanent). In the photo with the orange groves, ask students to describe how this location is different than the rice paddy. How does water get to these plants?

Big Idea #4: People Rely on Water for Many Different Reasons: Pages – Girl with Fish, Boy in Canoe. Pose the questions, What are ways that water helps these two children, and their families survive? How are they using the water? Help guide students to the idea that water can help people move from point to point to obtain food or supplies or even be the source of food. Using an image of just the United States (see Supplemental Resources), ask the students to place sticky dots on areas where they see water and think it might be used to help people move food or supplies. Ask the students to explain their thinking.


In this book and these discussions, two main concepts are covered: the availability of water or ability to obtain water influences where humans live, and humans use water for different things. Using the set of cards (see Supplemental Resources), which explain HOW humans use water and WAYS water is found at different places, model for the students by selecting one of the cards and explaining what they know and understand about that part of the concept. For example, if a student selected a card that had a fish on it, they could explain that humans need water such as the oceans or lakes because fish live in the water and humans eat fish. As students are explaining their thinking, ask them to also consider the IMPACT of what would change if the availability of water or ability to obtain water changed. Encourage them to make connections back to the book and to the explore discussions that they had.


Once students discussed all of the ways that water is used by humans and moved to different places, break them into small groups or pairs and explain that they are now going to tell the story about one of the situations in the book and act out the statement “water is life” for that location.

Share the story cards (see Supplemental Resources) with the students and explain that each of these help to show what water is used for, how humans get it in that location, and what would happen if water wasn’t available. For example, if the story card states, “Water here is collected for people in the village or local area to use,” they would act out or explain where different places are on Earth (to include the ones shared in the story) that require people to collect water for their use through either rain barrels or even water being collected naturally in an oasis (how humans get water). They will also explain that if people were unable to obtain water though this process, they might need to move to a different area where water was available or if water was further limited, they would need to cut back on how much water they use. As they work to consider how to act out these different scenarios, encourage them to consider not only the locations in the book but other possible locations on the Earth as well.


This lesson allows students to discuss their initial ideas about where water is found, how it gets there, and why it is important. As they refer to the book, they identify ways people in other parts of the world use and obtain water before demonstrating the ability to identify what could happen without water. Finally, they apply that understanding through participation in a story skit about different uses of water.

Grades 3–5: Uncovering the Causes of Erosion


Students investigate causes of erosion, which contributed to the Dust Bowl, by explaining interactions between the geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and/or atmosphere.


  • How Hugh Bennett Saved America’s Soil and Ended the Dust Bowl: Erosion
  • paper
  • drawing materials
  • three 6-inch pots
  • two plants (one larger than another)
  • three 6-inch deep aluminum pans filled with soil, one where grass seed has already grown, one where grass seed has just started to grow
  • spray bottle
  • two 6-inch deep aluminum pans with sand/soil/small pebbles mixture
  • plastic bin full of very dry soil or sand
  • goggles for students
  • straws
  • potting soil as needed

Supplemental Resources (

  • Spheres Chart
  • Unearthing Clues Student Sheet
  • Solving the Soil Problem Student Sheet


Share the cover of How Hugh Bennett Saved America’s Soil and Ended the Dust Bowl: Erosion with the class and ask them to consider what the book is about. Have they heard about the Dust Bowl? What was it? What about erosion? Once students have had a chance to begin thinking about these two ideas, ask them to consider the following question: How is the Dust Bowl an example of an interaction between the geo, bio, hydro, and atmospheres? If necessary, refresh students’ understanding of what each of these systems are by sharing the Spheres Chart (see Supplemental Resources). After allowing time for students to think about their answer, ask them to pair up with a partner and create a drawing that illustrates their thinking.

Once students have finished their models, share the entire book with the students and discuss the following points.

  • p. 3 Explain what you think the author means when she says the “Earth is a rock with a thin covering of soil”? What sphere of the Earth would this be?
  • pp. 4–5 Why do you think that without soil, there are so many things that people won’t have? How does soil help to produce these things?
  • pp. 8–9 Why do you think Hugh was trying to explain how much soil had been eroded using comparisons to cities and states?
  • pp. 14–15 What were some of the problems that the Dust Bowl caused? Before going further, what are some reasons that the wind was able to blow that much dirt/dust around?
  • pp. 18–19 What did Hugh Bennett name as some of the reasons for the Dust Bowl?
  • pp. 26–27 Why do you think the dust storm that occurred while Hugh was in Washington, D.C., was referred to as the black blizzard?


Once the story has been shared with the students, ask them to revisit their models and revise or add anything they want based on what they know about the story. Now once they have reconsidered what they know, introduce the following question to the students, which they will be answering through demonstrations and stations: Why does the Dust Bowl help illustrate an interaction between the hydrosphere, atmosphere, geosphere, and biosphere? Ask students to also record their observations on their Unearthing Clues student sheet (see Supplemental Resources).

Station #1: Biosphere – Materials needed include a small plant in a 6-inch pot, a larger plant of the same type in a 6-inch pot, and a 6-inch pot with no plant. Each pot should have approximately the same amount of soil, lightly compacted. Ask students to make observations about the soil and plants and to consider what they know about both plants and soil. After students have made observations, ask them to predict what would happen as you tip the pots? Slowly tip the pots and allow the students to make observations.

Station #2: Geosphere, Biosphere, and Hydrosphere – Materials: Three six-inch-deep aluminum pans filled with soil, where one of these has grass seed that has only started to grow and another one with grass seed already grown and a third with soil only. Ask the students what each part of the pan represents in terms of the different spheres of the Earth. How do they think water will impact the soil? Begin with the pan with the full-grown grass and tip it so that it is at a 45-degree angle. Using a spray bottle to represent rain, begin to have it “rain” on the pan and do so for two to three minutes. Ask the students to make observations of what is happening to the soil. Repeat this for the pan with newly started grass seed and then the one with just soil allowing students to make observations for each.

Station #3: Geosphere and Hydrosphere – Materials: two six-inch-deep aluminum pans filled with a mixture of sand, soil, and small pebbles. Tip one pan at a 15-degree angle and slowly pour water across the top of the pan and ask students to make observations about how the soil mixture moves. Repeat this with the second pan, but tilt that pan at a 30-degree angle. Ask the students to compare and contrast the pans at two different angles.

Station #4: Atmosphere and Geosphere – Materials: Goggles for students, very dry soil or sand, straws, plastic bin. Ask the students to make observations about the soil/sand mixture that is provided by feeling it and record that on their student sheet. After they have put on the goggles, ask a student to pick up a straw and stand at least one foot away from the pan and at first gently blow across the mixture. After recording their observations, ask the students to blow with more force and observe what happens.


After students have had a chance to conduct or observe the different stations, ask them to convene in groups of three and develop an explanation to the following questions that Hugh Bennett might have described as reasons for the Dust Bowl. Using their Solving the Soil Problem student sheet (see Supplemental Resources), have the students provide statements supported with evidence that help to illustrate some of the causes of the Dust Bowl and how the different spheres interact.

Once they have completed their group work, lead the students in a class discussion around the following questions.

  • What material do you think represents the geosphere? Hydrosphere? Atmosphere? Biosphere?
  • What investigation helped to illustrate what was happening to the soil during the Dust Bowl? How is this investigation an example of what the black blizzard in Washington might have been like?
  • In which situations did you observe that soil moved or eroded away? What helped keep soils in their place? What do you think the farmers could have done on their land to help keep soil in place?

Refer to the book and explain which investigation helped to illustrate the problems that Hugh Bennett identified, which included:

  • Water was allowed to run off the fields, taking soil with it.
  • Farmers needed to contour plow (change the shape of the land)
  • Different kinds of plants needed to be planted.

Ask the students to finally explain why at least two of the different spheres were involved in each type of problem. For example, soil being blown away includes the atmosphere (wind) and also the geosphere (land).


After the discussion of the different investigations and questions, students should rejoin their groups. Tell the students that they have been asked to help Hugh Bennett update Congress on what soil erosion is and what can cause it. Ask them to create an infographic or poster that they could give to farmers and others who want to learn more about what caused the Dust Bowl. The information that they should include is: What is erosion? How do plants help prevent erosion? What role does water have in erosion? When would wind be something that they need to consider? They should also include a drawing that illustrates their understanding about erosion.


Events such as the Dust Bowl have an important role in the history of our country but also play an important role in helping students learn about erosion. In this lesson, students first construct a drawing which is a model of their thinking about how erosion might happen and return to the drawing of a model after they participate in a series of investigations. Throughout the investigations, they are making observations, recording their thinking, and explaining how plants, wind, water, and the shape of land can contribute to erosion.

Online Resources

All About the Water Cycle:

Remarkable Rice:

Christine Anne Royce ( is a professor at Shippensburg University in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, and past president of NSTA.

Earth & Space Science Instructional Materials Literacy Teaching Strategies Elementary

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