Landform Detectives Lesson Plan: A Weathering and Erosion Game

Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8, 9-12

In this lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades 3-12, students use BrainPOP resources to explore and compare the processes of weathering and erosion through a digital lab and online game play. Students analyze how weathering and erosion affects Earth’s changing face and how it forms the soil that supports life on Earth. They also examine landforms and identify the processes that may have created them.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Explore and compare the processes of weathering and erosion through a digital lab and online game play.
  2. Analyze how weathering and erosion affects Earth’s changing face and how it forms the soil that supports life on Earth.
  3. Examine landforms and identify the processes that may have created them.


  • Class set of photocopies for the downloadable resources listed below
  • Computers for pairs of students to use
  • Internet access for BrainPOP
  • Interactive whiteboard


erosion; weathering; landforms; ice; glaciers; volcano; glacier; tectonic; deposition; canyon; chemical reaction; river; ice wedging


Landform Detectives is a game which functions as a "digital lab" in which students take a fascinating virtual trip through the processes of geology. Students will look at mountains, valleys, rivers, canyons, and glaciers in a whole new way as they solve the puzzle of how they got to be that way and how long it took to happen.

You can use this lesson at any time during your geology study. Younger students, English Language Learners, and others who need basic background knowledge on the topic may want to explore BrainPOP Jr.'s Landforms and/or Slow Land Changes movies. Use the various related BrainPOP topics (Continents of the World, Earth, Earth's Structure, Erosion, Geography Themes, Geologic Time, and Plate Tectonics) to help develop student understanding of plate tectonics and the earth's structure. You can also tie in social studies connections by exploring the topics on continents and geography.

Prior to teaching this lesson, preview the game and movie resources and plan how to adapt them for your students' needs. Make photocopies of the student worksheet. You may want to print or save a PDF of the landform types sheet, which can be used to identify which of the types of geologic processes is associated with the landforms found in the Landform Detectives digital lab. It's also helpful to create a free account on the game developer's website (JASON Mission Control Lab) to check out other related resources. Portions of this lesson plan have been adapted from the JASON site.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Show the 2 min. 15 sec. Agents of Erosion Video from JASON to show examples of the forces of erosion by wind, water and gravity, including the specific agents of waves, glaciers, surface water, groundwater and wind. Afterward, talk about how Mount St. Helens is used as a real world example of how environments change over time and space.
  2. Give students about 15 more minutes to resume game play, then allow them to work with their partner to continue filling out the worksheet.
  3. Allow students to pair up and explore the game with a partner.
  4. After about 15 minutes, ask students to pause the game and return to a whole-class discussions. Talk about the strategies they are using and the notes they've jotted down on the worksheet.
  5. Project the Landform Detectives game for the class to see. Click on "Learn More" and read through the instructions with students.
  6. Pass out the Landform Detectives worksheet and explain that students will be exploring a game in which they get to see the processes of geology they've been learning about. Challenge students to use the worksheet to record at least 3 landforms in the game for each process listed.
  7. Talk with students about how the earth has changed over time. What processes cause the formation of various landforms? Discuss the terms weathering and erosion. You may want to show the 2 min. 27 sec. Chemical and Mechanical Weathering Video from the JASON site, which covers the geologic process of weathering, both chemical and mechanical, and highlights examples of each.
  8. Play either the Earth's Structure or Geologic Time movie for the class, depending on your current instructional focus.
  9. Encourage students to use the back of their worksheet to write or sketch about another real-world example of how an environment changes over time.

Extension Activity:

Challenge students to select a landform type that interests them and research it further. Students can share their findings in a class blog, Voicethread, or podcast. Encourage students to watch one another's reports and comment on them.

    Where are the downloadable resources?

    • angelawatson

      Hi, Brittany! We recently migrated our lesson plans over to a new format. Thanks for letting us know the downloadable resources weren’t included in the new version of the lesson plan. They’ve been added now in the Procedures section.

  • rthagard

    Do I have to have a JASON project subscription to access Landform Detectives? It won’t unlock the mission without my checking in to the Mission center….?

    • agardnahh

      Hi @robin. Thanks for reaching out. Though there is a big button that says “Log in to Unlock” the missions on Landform Betectives are available through BrainPOP without logging into JASON project. Just click “play” and then one of the green dots. Once you click a green dot, there is a button on the lower right that says “play this scenario.” Click that and you should be brought into the scenario and begin playing. Let us know if there is a specific mission that you’re having trouble with, sorry that you were having trouble!

      • lharmon

        Can you specify where this big “login to unlock” button is located? I do not see it on the Jason Project website. When I click login, it takes me to the login screen. Is it located on the Brain Pop Educators site?

        • cemignano

          Hi @lharmon- If you access the game from here:, there is a message on the map screen of the game that says “Log in to the JASON Mission Center…” This is just a message and not a clickable button. You can access the Mission Center by clicking the link in the upper right hand corner of this screen:

          If you don’t have access to the JASON Mission Center, you can play the game on GameUp without logging in.