Landforms of Adams County, WI

Landforms of Adams County

Unit Title:

Landforms of Adams County, WI


Students will use hands-on models, maps, and the natural landscape to describe landforms in our area and and develop and understanding of the effects of water and wind on these landforms. Prior to these lessons, students will have had experiences with the use of "I Notice, I Wonder, It Reminds Me Of" protocols as well as field journaling.

Grade Level:

Grade 2

Lesson author(s):

Deb Clark
Melissa Osborn
Sam Stormoen

Instructional Materials Needed:

Student journals

Free online resources:

I Notice, I Wonder, It Reminds Me of Protocol

Nature Journaling Curriculum p. 36 "Zoom In, Zoom Out" Lesson

Watershed in a Box (For each model: 

  • Foil roasting pans or plastic boxes Aluminum foil squares (approx. 1’x2’, or double the size of the boxes)
  • Spray bottles containing water colored with blue food coloring 
  • Black waterproof marker (sharpie)
  • Substitute cocoa powder for the yellow Jello

United States Geological Survey (USGS) Streamer

Google Earth (Terrain View)

Wisconsin Glacial Lakes

Optional subscription-based resources:

Mystery Science-Works of Water (Mysteries 1, 2, 3, 4)

Discovery Education

Wisconsin Standards for English Language Arts Addressed (ELA Full Document or Literacy in All Subject Areas Full Document):

2.RL.7: Use information gained from the illustrations and words in a print or digital text to demonstrate understanding.

Wisconsin Standards for Environmental Literacy and Sustainability Standards Addressed (Full Document or searchable spreadsheet):

ELS.EX5.B.e: Identify changes that take place in natural systems (e.g., weather, water, day, length)

WI Standards for Science (page 59) Earth's Systems

SCI.ESS2.A: Wind and water change the shape of the land.

SCI.ESS2.B: Maps show where things are located. One can map the shapes and kinds of land and water in any area.

SCI.ESS2.C: Water is found in many types of places and in different forms on Earth.

Evidence of Need:

Students need to be able to read landscapes for clues to changes (both fast and slow) that have occurred to the earth's surface.

Evidence of Success:

When viewing maps or being present in natural areas, students will describe landforms and ways that changes  place on Earth's surface. Students can distinguish between fast and slow changes in Earth's systems. 

Inquiry Experience 1: Watershed in a Box (modified)

Setting and Estimated Time:  Classroom or Outdoors, 45 minutes

Learning Target:

I can use a model to explain how and where water moves and gathers on Earth.

Formative Assessment:

Student discussions as well as student science journal reflections will provide evidence of meeting learning target.


Invitation: Ask students to think about places in nature where they have seen water. Examples may include: a puddle, a lake, a river, dew on the grass, etc.  Lead the students to think about why the water was found in these places and not in other places.

State the learning target and tell students that they will be exploring the question, "How does water move and collect on Earth's surfaces?"

Exploration: Lead the students through these modified instructions.

Gently crumple the foil, which represents "land" to show mountains/hill and valley.

Fit the gently crumpled foil into the roasting pan.

Using the black water-proof marker to draw a line connecting the high points in the model. 

Use the spray bottle to "rain" on the model. 

With a partner practice "I Notice, I Wonder, It Reminds Me of" inquiry strategy. Observe how water travels through their watersheds, collecting as bodies of water.

Teacher is listening to students' discussions and asking probing questions. 

Concept Invention:

Ask a few students to share their thinking on what they noticed and why the water is moving and collecting where they find it in the models. Ask students to think about whether or not the rain and moving water changes the land. Tell students that they will test this idea with their models.


Sprinkle cocoa on the high areas of each model. Tell students that this cocoa represents soil and small rocks on the land.

Ask students to make it "rain" again on their models and use the the strategy of "I Notice, I Wonder, It Reminds Me of" to observe what happens to the "soil and rock as well as the water."


Remind students of the day's question: "How does water move and collect on Earth's surfaces?"

Ask students to create a journal entry with two sketches: viewing the model first from above and then  a second from the side view, using numbers, words, and sketches to show where the rain water is moving and collecting.

Students partners will share their journal entries. Ask two (2) student pairs to form quads to develop a better understanding of where the water flows and gathers, Noting that water moves to the lower areas and keeps moving until it gathers where there are bowl-shaped areas in the "land." Soil and rocks can be moved by the water.

Inquiry Experience 2: Learning About Landforms From Maps  

Setting and Estimated Time:  Classroom, 45 minutes

Learning Target:

I can use maps observe patterns on the shape of the land and where water is found.

Formative Assessment:

Student discussion contributions; journal reflections


Invitation: Ask students to turn and talk to review the previous lesson. What do we know about where water collects and where it flows across land. 

Share a few of the ideas: Water flows down hill; Water collects where the land creates a bowl; etc.

Say: Scientists are curious people; they ask a lot of questions. When scientists try to find answers to their questions, they sometimes look for patterns. Today we are going to look for patterns too. State the learning target and ask the question, "What patterns can we find for where water is found?"

We are going to use maps to help us look for patterns of where we might find water.

Exploration: Show students USGS Streamer

Guide students in turning to talk with a partner to "I Notice, I Wonder, It Reminds Me of" inquiry strategy. 

Teacher is listening to students' discussions and asking probing questions: Where do you think the rivers start? How does your learning from yesterday help you know that? Where are there no rivers? Why do you think that?

Concept Invention:

Ask a few students to share their thinking of what they noticed relating to the patterns of where water is found. 

Create a chart of the patterns that students share. Possible patterns: There are many rivers that join to form single rivers. The rivers flow to large bodies of water. Many rivers empty into the same large body of water.

Solicit questions and connections and record them on a chart as well.


Say: Let's see if the patterns are true for the rivers in Wisconsin and in Adams County.

Provide student pairs with a screenshots of Wisconsin  (use either Google Earth (Terrain View) or USGS Streamer

Tell students that they will continue using "I Notice, I Wonder, It Reminds Me of"  to look for patterns of where they find water on the land.

After a few minutes, provide students with screenshots of Adams County and have them repeat the process.


Bring the students together for a discussion of the patterns they noticed, questions they have, and connections (It Reminds Me Of).

Ask students to open their inquiry journals to and ask them to answer the day's question, "What patterns can we find for where water is found?"To encourage metacognition, ask students to write about how they learned what they now discovered.

Inquiry Experience 3: Roche A Cri State Park Mound Hike

Setting and Estimated Time:  Roche A Cri State Park, 1 hour

Learning Target:

I can analyze the land for evidence of fast and slow changes caused by water and wind.

Formative Assessment:

Student discussions; journal entries


Invitation: At the base of the stairs of the mound at Roche-A-Cri State Park, ask students to take a moment to observe the mound in front of them. Remind students that they have been learning about the ways that water (and wind in previous lessons) is found on land, that it moves from high areas to lower areas, and that both water and wind shape the land be wearing it way and taking bits of it with them. Some of these changes are fast, and some of these changes to land are slow.

Say: As scientists, one way we can really notice the evidence on the land is to use our journaling skills to help us observe. State the learning target and ask the question, "What evidence can we observe on the land that shows how water and wind have changed the land?" Today we are going to view the mound from different perspectives.

Right now, I would like you to pick up a rock that you think was once part of the big mound in front of you. With your partner, share why you think your rock was part of the mound. What is your evidence? How do you think it came to be at the bottom of the mound?

(Instructions from Nature Journaling Curriculum p. 36 "Zoom In, Zoom Out" Lesson): At the side of your page draw a view of your [rock] that is exactly life size.  

Model the process for students.

Say: Add some written notes. Think about how water may have shaped this piece of the land that is in your hands.

Give students time to journal and share.

Exploration: Say: We are looking from three levels of focus, small piece of the mound, a view of a section of the mound, and a more distant view, and are going to record them all on the same page. Now let’s see what you observe by changing your level of focus

Tell students that where we are all standing was once the bottom of Glacial Lake Wisconsin.  About 15, 000 years ago, there would have been 150 feet of water over this spot.  Where did this water go? We'll learn more about that when we get to the top, but on the way up, be on the look out for evidence that water has changed the rock. 

Be sure to give students time to be in awe of this idea and to think about how the land might have looked when it was covered in lake water.

Begin the hike up the stairs.  At a point midway, stop the group and ask them to find a section of the mound that is in front of them to sketch in the center of the page. Ask them to use their "I Notice, I Wonder, It Reminds Me Of" protocol to find evidence of how water has changed the land, particularly the mound in front of them. Set the boundaries of where students can move to make these observations.

Visit students as they work and comment on what they are noticing (Avoid making comments on how beautiful drawings are). State things like: I notice that you are using numbers to show how many holes you notice in the rock wall. I notice that you are labeling the cracks by what it reminds you of.

Concept Invention: Before students' attention wanders, bring them together to share their drawings and ideas with their partners. Invite a few students to share and discuss as a group.

Tell students that they will get a view from the top of the mound to continue thinking about the question, "What evidence can we observe on the land that shows how water and wind have changed the land?"

Hike to the top of the mound.


Say: Take time to view the land for as far as you can see from all sides of the viewing platform. 

Have students think about what happens when they run the faucet in a sink and then close the drain.  Make the connect to the land here. 

Say: Most of the land that you see in front of you was under 150 feet of water. The Wisconsin River which is close to here, was blocked by big chunk of ice,  sort of like plugging the drain.  The water covered the land sort of like filling up a sink. When the ice chunk suddenly broke loose, it caused a catastrophic flood which redirected the Wisconsin River and formed the Wisconsin Dells. This flood lowered the level of the lake from 150 feet to approximately 50 ft in a period of only a few days (from Wisconsin Glacial Lakes).

Find a spot that really interests you, stay there and sketch on the same page in the upper right corner. (Model this for student.) Sketch and write notes about what you observe. Can you see high points that may have formed the big "bowl" that held the water Glacial Lake Wisconsin? 

Repeat the process of supporting students and nudging them to make new observations.

Bring the students together for a discussion of  "What evidence can we observe on the land that shows how water and wind have changed the land?"


Ask students to turn to their partners to reflect on their learning and how they came to understand more about the ways that water changed land today.

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