There is so much more to the earth than the crust we walk on! While we often think of planets as big hunks of rock, our earth is actually made up of several layers, or what scientists call the geosphere. Let’s break down the earth’s layers with this hands-on felt puzzle.
What you need:
- 8×12 sheets of felt (light blue, dark blue, green, dark brown, red, orange, yellow, light brown)
- paper + access to a printer (don’t have one? we like this model)
- our earth’s layers template
- black marker
How to make it:
Start by printing our earth’s layers template. Cut out the earth image and the circle.
Use the earth image to trace and cut out a dark blue circle. Freehand the continents onto green felt. (They don’t need to be exact—just make it clear enough that this is the earth.) Glue the continents onto the dark blue circle.
Next, use the circle template to start cutting out the layer circles. The biggest circle should be light blue, then the next biggest should be dark brown, then the next biggest should be red, then orange, then yellow, then light brown.
Finally, cut out the layer labels.
How to play:
Now, let’s learn about the layers! If you purchased The Street Beneath My Feet by Charlotte Guillain and Yuval Zommer, turn to the page that reviews the layers. You can also watch this video to learn more about the geosphere. Here are the basics of what you can share with your child about each layer:
Atmosphere: The atmosphere is a combination of gases between the surface of the earch and outer space. Our atmosphere protects the surface of the earth and provides air to breathe. (source)
Crust: The crust is the outmost layer of the geosphere where you find the continents and oceans. It is a relatively thin layer, ranging in thickness from 5 to 30 kilometers (3.1 to 18.6 miles).
Upper mantle: The upper mantle begins below the crust and ends at the lower mantle. The thickness is between 200 and 250 miles. The temperature ranges from 900 and 1600 degrees fahrenheit. The top part of the upper mantle is connected to the crust and called the “lithosphere,” and this is where you find the earth’s tectonic plates. Below that is fluid rock called magma. (source)
Lower mantle: The lower mantle begins below the upper mantle and is about 1,400 miles thick. It is incredibly large, and takes up most of the volume of the earth—a little more than half! The temperature can be over 7,000 degrees Fahrenheit, The lower mantle is liquid magma. (source)
Outer core: The outer core is 2,200 kilometers (1,367 miles) thick. It is extremely hot and made up of melted metals iron and nickel. The churning metal of the outer core creates and sustains Earth’s magnetic field. (source)
Inner core: The inner core is a hot, dense ball of (mostly) iron. It has a radius of about 1,220 kilometers (758 miles). Temperature in the inner core is about 5,200° Celsius (9,392° Fahrenheit). Even though this temperature is well above the melting point for iron, inner core’s intense pressure—the entire rest of the planet and its atmosphere—prevents the iron from melting. (source)
Encourage your child to build and label the puzzle as you go over these details. Don’t worry if your child doesn’t grasp all of these details—some of the numbers may be simply too big for them to fully comprehend right now. The mainm takeaway is that the earth is not a solid ball of rock, but actually a mixture of solid and liquid rocks and metals broken up into layers. Rock on!
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