Grade 4 Science Unit 1

Earth’s Systems: Processes That Shape the Earth

Students learn about short and long term events/processes that shape our land.  They explore the varied shapes and kinds of land and bodies of water found on Earth.

Note: Lessons will vary in length, depending on the amount of time you have with students, the resources that you choose to accompany the unit, the level of rigor within each learning target, and any other factors that may contribute to the pacing of your learning progressions. It is recommended that you adjust the pace and length of each learning progression(s) accordingly in response to these factors.

Download the complete Grade 4 Science Unit 1 framework to customize for your own planning.


  • 4-ESS1-1. Identify evidence from patterns in rock formations and fossils in rock layers to support an explanation for changes in a landscape over time.
  • 4-ESS2-1. Make observations and/or measurements to provide evidence of the effects of weathering or the rate of erosion by water, ice, wind, or vegetation.
  • 4-ESS2-2: Analyze and interpret data from maps to describe patterns of Earth’s features.

Essential Questions and Big Ideas of the Unit

  • What has caused Earth’s land to change over time?
    • Local, regional, and global patterns of rock formations reveal changes over time due to earth forces, such as earthquakes. The presence and location of certain fossil types indicate the order in which rock layers were formed. (4-ESS1-1)
    • Rainfall helps to shape the land and affects the types of living things found in a region. Water, ice, wind, living organisms, and gravity break rocks, soils, and sediments into smaller particles and move them around. (4-ESS2-1)
    • The locations of mountain ranges, deep ocean trenches, ocean floor structures, earthquakes, and volcanoes occur in patterns. Most earthquakes and volcanoes occur in bands that are often along the boundaries between continents and oceans. Major mountain chains form inside continents or near their edges. Maps can help locate the different land and water features areas of Earth. (4-ESS2-2)
    • Living things affect the physical characteristics of their regions. (4-ESS2-1)
  • How can we protect ourselves from natural hazards?
    • A variety of hazards result from natural processes (e.g., earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions). Humans cannot eliminate the hazards but can take steps to reduce their impacts. (4-ESS3-2)
    • Testing a solution involves investigating how well it performs under a range of likely conditions. (secondary to 4-ESS3-2)

Download the complete Grade 4 Science Unit 1 framework to customize for your own planning.