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Discussion Questions

  1. Have you seen an interesting geological formation? Where did you see it? What did it look like? What was it called (arch, bridge, cliff, bluff, gorge, cave, rock shelter, etc.)?
  2. How was the sand at the bottom of the inland sea that once covered Kentucky changed into sandstone?
  3. How did sedimentary sandstone that was at the bottom of an inland sea end up on the top of a mountain?
  4. How were the valleys and gorges in the Appalachian Mountains formed?
  5. What happens when water seeps into cracks in sandstone and freezes?
  6. Have you ever seen a plant sprouting from a crack in a rock surface? How do you think that plant might affect the rock as its roots develop?
  7. How were the Big South Fork arches formed?
  8. What do you think the landforms in the Big South Fork area might look like 1 million years from today?
    (Feel free to use your imagination.)

Use the video segments and discussion questions to explore erosion, weathering, the rock cycle, and changes in Earth’s landforms. Excellent lesson plans with hands-on activities on weathering and erosion can be found at the Utah Education Network Web site and the Mammoth Cave National Park Web site.


SC-4-EU-S-4—Students will describe and compare the processes, factors involved and consequences of slow changes to earth’s surface (e.g., erosion and weathering);
SC-6-EU-U-2—Students will understand that the total amount of material that makes the solid Earth is relatively constant (excluding impacts), even though rocks and minerals often change properties through a variety of processes that transform them (rock cycle);
SC-6-EU-S-1—Students will use observations, models and evidence to explain the cause and effect relationships in the rock cycle and to make predictions about constantly changing Earth materials;
SC-6-EU-U-3—Students will understand that the Earth’s surface is not uniform due to a number of constructive and destructive forces that constantly reshape it. The past effects of these processes can be inferred, and the data these inferences are based upon can also be used to predict future changes;
SC-6-EU-S-3—Students will investigate constructive and destructive forces at work on the Earth’s surface and the landforms that result from them;
SC-8-EU-S-2—Students will identify a variety of landforms on the Earth’s surface that have undergone changes (both fast and slow) and investigate the forces responsible for those changes.


Connect to the Big South Fork Web site, and under Big South Fork/Regional Features, select “Arches, Waterfalls, and Features.” Demonstrate how Google Earth can provide topographical or road maps of individual arches as well as satellite images. Demonstrate how you can zoom in and out to show larger or smaller areas (with more detail). Compare the topographical and road maps. Experiment with the layers you can view and with Google Map and “street level” view. Note: Be sure to try this first before demonstrating to ensure that you have Google Earth on your computer and that the program will open properly and within a reasonable time. Extension: Enter the coordinates of your school to explore it on Google Earth.


T-I-RIPSI-U-1—Students will understand that technology assists in gathering, organizing and evaluating information from a variety of sources to answer essential questions;
T-I-RIPSI-S-R5—Students will use content-specific tools to enhance understanding of content (e.g., environmental probes, sensors, robotics, simulation software and measuring devices);
SS-8-G-S-1 (same standard applies 4th-8th) —Students will demonstrate an understanding of patterns on Earth’s surface using a variety of geographic tools (e.g., maps, globes, charts, graphs, photographs, models): locate, in absolute or relative terms, landforms and bodies of water.


Show students the beautiful photos of the arches at the Big South Fork Web Site and have students brainstorm alternative descriptive names. Assign them to create one name with a strong noun and verb combination that has a literal meaning and one that has non-literal meaning. Have them create names using alliteration and personification.


EL-6-WV-S-1—Students will choose precise and descriptive language for clarity, richness and/or its effect on the reader (words with multiple meanings, words that imply different shades of meaning, words with literal and non-literal meanings, strong nouns and verbs, concrete and sensory details, figurative language – metaphors, similes, alliteration, personification)


Ask each student to select one process in the formation of the landforms in the Big South National River and Recreation Area and write a brief, scientific description. (For research sites, see the Links section.) They might choose sedimentation, deposition, compression, concreting, plate tectonics, uplifting (isostatic adjustment), biological weathering, mechanical, weathering or erosion. Ask them to write 1-2 paragraphs to explain how the process contributed to the creation of the Big South Fork landforms.

Next, have students write poems expressing the same process in figurative language. Encourage them to use metaphors, similes, and/or personification. Share the resulting works. Discuss the experience, comparing transactive writing to literary writing.


EL-6-WV-S-1—Students will choose precise and descriptive language for clarity, richness and/or its effect on the reader (words with multiple meanings, words that imply different shades of meaning, words with literal and non-literal meanings, strong nouns and verbs, concrete and sensory details, figurative language – metaphors, similes, alliteration, personification);
EL-6-WV-S-2—Students will use specialized content vocabulary and words used for specific contexts, as needed;
EL-6-WC-U-2—Students will understand that different forms of writing are appropriate for different purposes and audiences across the content areas and have different features (e.g., personal narrative, informational reports/articles, poetry, response to text);
EL-6-WC-S-3—Students will write for a variety of authentic purposes and audiences: communicate through authentic transactive purposes for writing (e.g. informing, describing, explaining, persuading, analyzing)


Review the elements of dance (space, time, and force) with students. Discuss the difference between locomotor and non-locomotor movement. Divide the students into small groups. Each group will choreograph a movement sequence representing one of the processes that formed the landforms of the Big South Fork. You may assign the process each group is to represent or allow them to select their own, but the groups should not tell other groups what their processes are. Groups may also use sound effects, but not narration.

Have each group to perform its movement sequence for the class. Ask the students who are not part of the performing group to identify the process being represented. Ask students to justify their identification in terms of the elements of dance (space, time, and force) and the geological processes. Then have the performance group explain how their movement sequence used the elements of dance to represent a geological process.


AH-6-SA-S-Da1—Students will use appropriate terminology to identify and analyze the use of elements in a variety of dance (space, time, force) to express thoughts, ideas, and feelings;
AH-6-SA-S-Da2—Students will observe, describe, and demonstrate choreographic forms in dance;
AH-6-SA-S-Da3—Students will apply elements of dance and principles of movement (e.g., balance, initiation of movement, weight shift) when observing, creating, and performing patterns of movement independently and with others;
AH-6-PCA-S-Da2—Students will create new, observe, choose and perform dance to fulfill a variety of specific purposes.


Provide students with the following background information: Two of the most striking arch formations at Big South fork are known as North Arch and South Arch. They are considered “twin” arches as they are connected by one lintel. (A lintel is the horizontal “bridge” across the top of the arches).

Provide students with the height and clearance of the two arches in metric form and ask them to convert that measurement to U.S. Customary: In most dimensions, South Arch is the larger of the two. At one point, the deck is 103 feet (31.4 meters) high with a clearance of about 70 feet (21.3 meters). North Arch, in contrast, has a height of about 62 feet (18.9 meters) with a 51 foot (15.5 meter) clearance.

As teams, have students determine the height of your classroom, your school building, or various playground equipment pieces in U.S. Customary form. Have the teams create a visual representation showing the relationship between the sizes of the classroom, school building and playground equipment and the arches. Ask them to create a scale for their visual representation expressed in metric units.


MA-6-M-U-1—Students will understand that there are two major measurement systems (U.S. Customary and metric) and either may be used to solve problems;
MA-6-M-U-2— Students will understand that measurable attributes of objects and the units, systems and processes of measurement are powerful tools for making sense of the world around them.

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