Accessible Earth Science Worksheets for Middle School

Earth Science worksheets can help organize your Earth Science unit’s teaching, help students organize their thoughts, and demonstrate their learning. Long gone are the days of worksheets as busy work and sub plans. 

When done right, Earth science worksheets for middle school should serve as a tool that compliments your planning as the teacher and facilitates deep learning for the students.

Picture of the layers of the earth with text Earth Science Worksheets for Middle School

Components of Earth Science Worksheets

Typically, Earth Science worksheets include various Earth Science activities and exercises to help students understand key concepts and content. Traditionally, these activities included things like:

  • Fill-in-the-blank questions
  • Matching exercises
  • Multiple-choice questions
  • Diagram labeling activities
  • Reading comprehension
  • Essay prompts and short-answer questions
  • Graphic organizers that complement hands-on activities
  • Games and other fun activities

The Importance of Customized Earth Science Worksheets

Left image - Woman and adolescent boy review a piece of paper together. Right image - Young woman laughs while sitting at a table with a paper in front of her.

Long gone are the days of worksheets as busy work. While generic Earth science worksheets may serve as sufficient “practice” for students performing at grade level, generic worksheets rarely serve students who need additional support. 

Using a customized student worksheet is a great way to provide structure, accessibility, and student accountability for Earth science lessons.

For teachers, thoughtfully created worksheets can serve as a student-facing version of your lesson plans.

Instead, they should be tailored (in format, content, and scaffolding) to different skill levels. This customization can potentially meet the specific needs of individuals or groups of students.

The Benefits of Earth Science Worksheets for Middle School

A middle school science worksheet can be beneficial for all middle school grade levels (from 6th grade to 8th grade) and facilitate learning for a range of topics such as the water cycle and carbon cycle, natural resources, seismic waves, the Earth’s atmosphere, and climate change, and fossil fuels.

Let’s explore Earth Science topics commonly taught at the middle school level, and how customized Earth Science worksheets can be a powerful teaching tool that provides access to all students, regardless of current reading levels and varying English proficiency. 

Layers of the Earth

Planet Earth has four major layers. These layers are divided based on their physical and chemical properties. They are the crust, the mantle, the inner core, and the outer core. 

Graphic of Earth sliced to show inner layers. Text - Layers of the Earth: Earth's Crust - outermost layer. Mantle - below crust largest layer. Outer core - beneath the mantle and surrounds the inner core. Inner core inner most layer.

The Earth’s Crust 

The crust is the outermost layer of the Earth. It’s “only” 25 miles deep and composes 1% of the Earth’s mass. It’s also the only one of Earth’s layers that is and has been inhabited by all known living things.

The Earth’s crust is divided into two types: oceanic crust and continental crust. Oceanic crust is denser and thinner than continental crust, while continental crust is thicker and less dense. Oceanic crust is found under oceans, while continental crust forms land masses called continents.

Rocks and minerals make up the continental crust. While sedimentary and metamorphic rocks are found on the continental crust, they mostly comprise granite (igneous rock).

The Earth’s crust is composed of several tectonic plates that are in constant motion. These plates move around on the Earth’s mantle.

The Mantle

The mantle lies directly below the crust. It’s the largest of Earth’s layers (84%). It’s composed mostly of solid rock.

The mantle is constantly in motion due to convection currents (heat from the Earth’s core. Hot material rises up from the core-mantle boundary, while cooler material sinks back down). 

The movement within the mantle is responsible for the movement of Earth’s tectonic plates. Movement of the tectonic plates can form mountains, volcanoes, and cause earthquakes. 

Graphic of a cross-section of Earth's layers.

The Outer Core

The outer core is a layer of the Earth that lies beneath the mantle and surrounds the inner core. 

It is a liquid layer of iron and nickel that accounts for about 30% of the Earth’s total volume.

The outer core is very hot and generates the Earth’s magnetic field. The motion of the molten metal in the outer core creates electrical currents, which in turn generate the magnetic field.

Because the outer core is impossible for scientists to reach, it can be studied through the analysis of seismic waves, which can provide information about the structure and composition of the layer.

Understanding the Earth’s outer core is important for understanding its magnetic field and how it affects our planet. Scientists study the outer core using various techniques, including seismic analysis and mathematical modeling, to learn about its properties and behavior.

The Inner Core

The Inner Core is the innermost layer of Earth. It’s Earth’s densest solid layer and is primarily made of the elements nickel and iron.

The Inner Core is approximately the size of the moon. Unlike the moon, the inner core is HOT (hotter than the sun’s surface). 

Like the Outer core, the Inner Core is believed to play a role in generating Earth’s magnetic field and has been studied by scientists by measuring seismic waves. 

Plate Tectonics

Simply stated, The Theory of Plate Tectonics states that the Earth’s crust is composed of large that move. The movement of Earth’s tectonic plates is responsible for creating mountains, seafloor spreading, and even natural disasters such as earthquakes and volcanoes.

Image of large, rocky land mass splitting. Text reads Plate Tectonics - The theory of plate tectonics states that the Earth's crust is composed of large plates that move. The movement of Earth's tectonic plates is responsible for creating mountains, seafloor spreading, and even natural disasters such as earthquakes and volcanoes.

The German scientist Alfred Wegener proposed that the Earth’s continents were once a huge mass called Pangea. Over time, Pangea separated due to the drifting of Earth’s tectonic plates (and they continue to do so).

Layers of the Earth Worksheets

There are a plethora of free Earth science worksheets that allow students to practice labeling Earth’s layers. 

This worksheet, in the form of a simple PDF, allows students to label Earth’s Layers and answer some questions about the basic characteristics of Earth’s Layers. 

This one is similar; however, it also asks students to identify the states of matter for each Earth’s Layers.

Layers of the Earth Worksheets

As you may (or may not) know, here at Lit Science, we are all about making grade-level, rigorous science accessible to all students, regardless of current reading level and English language proficiency. 

Therefore, Lit Science’s Layers of the Earth – Student Choice Project tasks students with creating a project to demonstrate their understanding of Earth’s Layers. What’s unique about this resource is that it:

  1. Provides students with choice (cue awesome and creative student projects).
  2. Keeps student accountable for grade-level content learned throughout the unit.
  3. Is differentiated and scaffolded so that ALL students can engage and demonstrate mastery. 

Another benefit of this project is that it’s great for bulletin boards!

Layers of the Earth Student Choice Project thumbnail.

Types of Rocks

There are three major rock types: igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic. 

Image of rocks stacked next to the ocean. Text reads - igneous rocks formed from melted magma (lava) that has cooled and hardened. Sedimentary rocks form when sediments (such as minerals, pieces of other rocks, and even fossils) accumulate and consolidate. Metamorphic rock is formed when rocks are changed by heat, pressure, or chemical processes.

Igneous Rocks

Igneous rocks are formed from melted magma (lava) that has cooled and hardened). As mentioned above, much of the Earth’s crust is igneous rock. 

Common examples of igneous rocks include granite (abundant in the Earth’s crust and many kitchens), basalt, and pumice (thanks for the great pedicures, igneous rocks). 

Sedimentary Rocks 

Sedimentary rocks form when sediments (such as minerals, pieces of other rocks, and even fossils) accumulate and consolidate. 

Examples of sedimentary rocks include sandstone, limestone, and shale. 

Metamorphic Rock

Metamorphic rocks form when rocks are changed by heat, pressure, or chemical processes. 

Marble and slate are examples of metamorphic rock. 

Types of Rocks Worksheets

Types of rocks worksheets can range from simple recall activities that ask students to identify the three main types of rocks, to more complex lab worksheets that ask students to identify rock types after completing a series of investigations. 

Check out our Types of Rocks Social Media Project. Through this project, students create a social media profile for the types of rocks. While engaging and creative, students are held accountable for grade-level science content through this packet of worksheets. 

Interested in a FREE “Types of Rocks” resource? Download Lit Science’s Types of Rocks Poster. As with all our resources, both projects are differentiated and scaffolded for access to grade-level science content for ALL learners. 

Thumbnail image number 1 - Types of Rocks Social Media Project. Thumbnail image number 2 - Types of Rocks Poster Project FREE

The Rock Cycle

To explain rock formation, change, and destruction, we reference the rock cycle. The rock cycle can be broken down into three main parts – formation, transformation, and breakdown.

  1. Formation: Rocks can form in several ways. For example, igneous rocks form when magma or lava cools and solidifies. Sedimentary rocks form when sediment (rock fragments, fossils, and minerals) is deposited and compacted. Metamorphic rocks form when pre-existing rocks are exposed to heat, pressure, or chemical changes.
  2. Transformation: Over time, rocks can be transformed from one type to another. For example, sedimentary rocks can be transformed into metamorphic rocks through heat and pressure, and metamorphic rocks can be transformed into igneous rocks through melting and solidification.
  3. Breakdown: Rocks can be broken down into smaller pieces through weathering and erosion. Weathering is the process by which rocks are broken down into smaller pieces by physical or chemical processes, while erosion is the process by which these smaller pieces are transported and deposited elsewhere.
Image of the Rock Cycle - Formation: Rocks can form in several ways. For example, igneous rocks form when magma or lava cools and solidifies. Sedimentary rocks form when sediment (in the form of rock fragments, fossils, and minerals) is deposited and compacted. Metamorphic rocks form when pre-existing rocks are exposed to heat, pressure, or chemical changes.
Transformation: Over time, rocks can be transformed from one type to another. For example, sedimentary rocks can be transformed into metamorphic rocks through heat and pressure, and metamorphic rocks can be transformed into igneous rocks through melting and solidification.
Breakdown: Rocks can also be broken down into smaller pieces through weathering and erosion. Weathering is the process by which rocks are broken down into smaller pieces by physical or chemical processes, while erosion is the process by which these smaller pieces are transported and deposited elsewhere.

The graphic below shows how igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks relate in their formation, transformation, and breakdown.  

Making Earth Science Worksheets Accessible

Whether you’re teaching layers of the Earth, types of rocks, or the rock cycle, Earth science worksheets can help students learn about the natural world. Earth Science worksheets can also help them develop critical thinking skills, problem-solving abilities, and scientific literacy. They may also help students prepare for standardized tests like state or national science exams.

While generic worksheets can be used sparingly, students benefit from customized worksheets created for a specific task, differentiated for different levels, and scaffolded to provide access for all your students, regardless of reading level or English language proficiency. 

Lit Science

Some of the ways Lit Science makes grade-level science accessible to all students (including English learners and developing readers and writers) is through:

  1. Differentiating all resources to account for different student needs in the same classroom.
  2. Including scaffolds that allow English learners to access lessons written and taught in English.
  3. Chunking tasks to help students focus and prevent them from becoming overwhelmed.

I look forward to supporting you in your journey of making rigorous, grade-level science for your middle school students. 

Shop my TPT store for middle school science resources for English learners and developing readers and writers. 

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