Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Sinking in the Rain (or Drought)

Lisa Fenn


The students learn ways that sinkholes are formed as well as the effects of sinkholes on humans and the natural environment.


The student knows that the surface of the Earth is in a continuous state of change as waves, weather, and shifts of the land constantly change and produce many new features.

The student knows that a model of something is different from the real thing, but can be used to learn something about the real thing.

The student understands the processes of weathering and erosion.

The student uses sketches, diagrams and models to understand scientific ideas.


-Pictures and information on sinkholes
-Oblong balloons (one per group)
- Sand
-An empty plastic cup or mini house or building (one per group)
-Straight pins (one per group)
-Shoe boxes (one per group)
-Computer and Internet access


1. Obtain pictures of the sinkholes from websites listed or other media
2. Get shoeboxes, one per group and balloons
3. Get paper to draw sinkholes and large chart paper or chalkborad to write list.
4. Divide the students into groups of two or three


1. Introduce the topic of sinkholes. Compare sinkholes to other natural disasters. Devise a KWL chart. At this time, record what the students already know about sinkholes and what they want to know about the topic.

2. Discuss what it looks like underground in Florida. Show photos or pictures from the web sites. Discuss the causes of sinkholes and ways to determine if a house is beginning to sink.

3. Have the students take a piece of paper and fold it in half and draw what the underground looks like on one half of their paper. (save papers for later). As the students draw, the teacher should circulate through the room and add comments and feedback to assure that the drawing are correct.

4. Divide the class into small groups of two or three. The groups will then create a simulated sinkhole. Have each group cover the bottom of their box with two inches of sand.

5. Give each group a balloon and have one person blow it up and tie it.

6. Place the balloon in the center of the shoebox on top of the sand.

7. Fill the box with enough sand to cover the balloon and lightly pack it down. Place the cup or house/building on top of the sand, over the balloon.

8. Use a straight pin to pop the balloon. The results of this activity should be similar to what happens when a sinkhole is formed. However, the simulation occurs much faster than a real sinkhole.

9. Return to the papers of the underground that the students completed earlier. Have them illustrate, on the other half of the page, what the ground would look like if a sinkhole formed. Again, circulate around the room to check for accuracy in the student's drawings.

10. As a culminating activity, complete the KWL chart by listing the positive consequences of a sinkhole, and of the negative aspects as well. Have the students take notes to use in the assessment portion of the lesson.


1. Have the students turn over their illustrations of the underground and the sinkhole and write a paragraph about how and why a sinkhole is formed. The paragragh should include such information as: Sinkholes are formed from cracks in the layer of limestone that is under the soil. They often occur when the water level is either too high or too low. As the limestone cracks, the soil seeps into the crack, forming the hole on the surface. They usually happen slow and increase in size over a period of time. One thing to be aware of in a house, is doors and windows that suddenly won't shut correctly. Also look for indentions in the earth around the foundation of the house. The students should understand that the Earth is in a constant state of change, therefore, shifts in the land can produce many new features such as sinkholes.

2. The students will describe their models of the sinkhole and describe how it worked to members of another group. By doing so they can better understand how a model is not the real thing but can help you to better understand the real thing.


Writing Prompts can include

I woke up this morning, looked out my window, and saw this huge hole...

When I was walking through the woods one day, I saw the large hole in the ground. I started to investigate and I found...

We just found out that our house is going to sink into a sinkhole. I was told I have a half an hour to take out everything I want to keep...
Return to the Beacon Lesson Plan Library.