Teacher Site Map
5th Grade Core
USOE Science Home Page

A Weathering Wonderland!

From a geological standpoint, Utah is truly a weathering wonderland. Geology is the branch of science that deals with the crust of Earth. Geological means "having to do with geology." So in short, if you're looking for some cool crust features, this is the place!
Beautiful Bryce

Many people are surprised to learn that ice plays a very important role in the weathering of the rocks in Bryce Canyon.

In the winter, snow falls in Bryce Canyon. During the day the sun melts some of the snow and water gets into small cracks in the rocks.


  1. At night, the temperatures get colder and the water in the cracks freezes. When water freezes it expands or gets larger.
  2. The ice pushes against the sides of the cracks and makes the cracks wider.
  3. The next day, the ice melts and a little more water gets into the cracks.
  4. This process repeats itself day after day, winter after winter.
Eventually the cracks in the rocks get so big that a piece of the rock breaks off. It may take thousands of years for this to happen. Watch the rock at the right. See an example of how this process happens.

A more beautiful world - by making less of it!

When you think of nature's wonders, geological images come to mind: valleys, canyons, buttes, arches, and sandy beaches. Each is crafted through weathering and erosion.
Canyon - a narrow valley with steep sides, usually with a river in the bottom. They can be cut by river action, or frost and ice wedging. A v-shaped one is cut by river action (running water again!) A u-shape, like the photo of Little Cottonwood Canyon, indicates a valley cut by a glacier. A glacier is like a river of slow-moving ice.

Little Cottonwood Canyon

Valley - a lowland between hills.

Butte - a steep, flat-topped hill created by erosion. Buttes and their larger brothers, mesas, are found in dry climates. Because of this, they are eroded more by wind and gravity action. They have soft rock layers topped by a harder cap.
Arch - over time water seeps into cracks in the sandstone. The water freezes, pushing apart the surrounding rock. Pieces may break off. Winds clean out the loose particles. The process repeats.
Beach - a collection of sand, pebbles and small rocks. These beach materials come from weathered / eroded from materials on the land or are washed up by waves from sea bottoms.

Start it!

Create a landforms field guide. Each page should have a small sketch, the name of the landform, and how it was created. You can add pages throughout this unit of Sc-iber text! If you would like to make a mini-book, here's how:

Figure A

Figure B

Figure C

Figure D

Figure E

Figure F

Figure G

Figure H

Figure I

Figure J

Figure K

Figure L

Figure M

Figure N

Figure O

Figure P

  • Fold an 8 1/2" X 11" piece of paper lengthwise (Figures A and B)
  • Fold it in half again the other way. (Figures C and D)
  • Fold it in half again. (Figures E and F)
  • Open out two folds. (Figures G and H)
  • You'll see a "plus" sign created by folds. (Figure I)
  • Cut from the folded edge of the "plus" to the center. (Figure J and K)
  • Open the "legs" of the paper and "crack" the egg. (Figures L and M)
  • Fold flat. (Figure N and O)
  • You should have eight pages. (Figure P)


Get the plug-ins: Get Adobe Acrobat Reader , and Get Quicktime Player. (The QuickTime plug-in is needed to play sounds and movies correctly.)

Want to share photos of you or your friends doing this activity? Send it in an e-mail with the following information:

  1. The title of the activity
  2. The URL (Internet address)
  3. Your name.
Remember that no pictures can be used that show student faces or student names on it. 

Teachers should view the Teacher Site Map to relate Sci-ber text and the USOE 5th grade science core.

Updated October 24, 2008 by: Glen Westbroek

Science Home Page | Curriculum Home Page | 5th Science Core Home Page | USOE Home Page

Copyright Utah State Office of Education.