Teaching Students about Virginia's Natural Resources

If you're a fourth grade teacher in Virginia, you may be wondering how to teach the natural resources science unit! Like many Virginia science SOLs, the natural resources standard weaves through several different grade levels. In third grade, students learn about the importance of our soil and water resources. In fourth grade, we build on that foundation by exploring the natural resources found in Virginia and how they are used. Keep reading for some ideas to teach your students about Virginia's natural resources!

Alyssa Teaches is sharing some of her favorite activities for teaching the Virginia's natural resources science unit in 4th grade!

Go Outside

What's great about natural resources is that they're all in our backyard to explore! One of my favorite (and easy) activities to kick off this unit is to go for a walk around the school grounds. Students can bring paper and clipboards and list all the natural resources they see. You can also have them list natural versus manmade resources or the uses of the natural resources they find. Another fun activity is to do a scavenger hunt for various types of resources.

Getting outside in nature helps kids immerse themselves in this unit. Plus, you can incorporate scientific skills like observation and inference. You can also bring along scientific equipment, like magnifying glasses, and even collect samples to bring back to the classroom!

Get Hands-On

To boost student engagement, it's great to bring in some examples of natural resources for kids to hold and touch (photos also work). Think about ones they might be less familiar with, such as minerals, rocks, and ores, and even different types of plants. Including products that are made from natural resources is helpful, too. You can set up a museum exhibit, gallery walk, or stations, and ask students to complete sticky notes with their observations.


Building a model watershed is another fantastic way for students to engage with this unit! They can make paper mache relief maps or even just use modeling clay to create different levels of elevation. Give them some water, food coloring, eyedroppers, and a little soil, sand, or glitter to add different "pollutants" to the watershed. What a fun way to drive home the message, "We all live downstream!"

Doing some basic soil erosion experiments with water and wind (try a fan) can help reinforce the importance of plants holding soil in place.

Reinforce Natural Resources Vocabulary

We know that the more times students use a particular vocabulary word, the more likely they are to remember it. It's easy to reference natural resources in other content areas, especially in Virginia Studies (think geography, Virginia's American Indians, Jamestown, products and industries, etc.). You can also revisit this standard during your other science units throughout the year.

I love teaching science vocabulary in the Virginia's natural resources unit by using a science word wall!

One of my favorite ways to support students as they learn science vocabulary is by creating content word walls. Word wall cards and posters that connect words, photographs, and definitions are so helpful to help reinforce those key words !

Another great way to help students differentiate among natural resources is by using sorting activities to review vocabulary. You can ask students to complete an open sort or have them sort according to certain criteria.

Sorting activities are the perfect way to review important science vocabulary terms during your Virginia's natural resources unit!

Go Digital

I've talked a lot so far about hands-on activities, but there are also a lot of great digital opportunities to teach about natural resources.

One activity students always go nuts for is using Google Earth. They can explore natural resources across the state or in their neighborhood from a birds-eye view. This is just one way to use Google Earth!

Using digital activities are great ways to keep students engaged if you want to incorporate technology into your unit on natural resources!

I always have students research our local watershed by using this interactive map from USGS.

Model My Watershed is also an informative resource. It's a bit advanced for students to use independently, but it can give you some great background information about the natural resources in your part of the state.

If you are homeschooling or distance learning, Virginia's government agencies are another great resource! For example, check out some of the suggested learning-at-home activities from the Virginia Department of Forestry!

Dip into Language Arts

I LOVE all activities cross-curricular! Here are a few ideas for bringing natural resources into your language arts block and vice versa!

Read informational texts. Here are a few to try:

Do research! This standard lends itself nicely to an inquiry-based unit on the major natural resources we have in Virginia and their uses, as well as ways that we can conserve them. One great way to showcase learning is by having students create media messages to advocate for the conservation and protection of Virginia's resources. These could include posters, commercials, infographics, etc.

Students can also write informational text or persuasive text incorporating what they've learned about natural resources.

I hope this post helps you as you start planning your Virginia's natural resources unit! If you want to save some planning time, you can check out the activities I've created for SOL 4.8!

Let us know what other activities you love using to teach this standard in the comments!

Alyssa Teaches is sharing some of her favorite activities for teaching the Virginia's natural resources science unit in 4th grade!
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