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Learn About Earth’s Spheres!

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A simple science lesson and fun video on earth's spheres for kids in 3rd, 4th and 5th grade!

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The spheres are the four subsystems that make up the planet Earth. They are called spheres because they are round, just like the Earth. The four spheres are the geosphere (all the rock on Earth), hydrosphere (all the water on Earth), atmosphere (all the gases surrounding Earth), and biosphere (all the living things on Earth).

To better understand how the 4 spheres of the Earth work….


Earth’s land makes up the geosphere.

rocky desert representing the geosphere

Geo means “earth.” The Earth’s geosphere (sometimes called the lithosphere) is the portion of the earth that includes rocks and minerals. It starts at the ground and extends all the way down to Earth’s core.

We rely on the geosphere to provide natural resources and a place to grow food. Volcanos, mountain ranges, and deserts are all part of the geosphere. Put simply, without the geosphere, there would be no Earth!

Earth’s water makes up the hydrosphere.

water flows by rocks representing the hydrosphere

Hydro means “water.“ The hydrosphere includes the oceans, rivers, lakes, groundwater, and water frozen in glaciers. 97% of water on Earth is found in the oceans. Water is one of the most important substances needed for life and makes up about 90% of living things. Without water, life would not be possible.

Earth’s air makes up the atmosphere.

clouds in the sky represent the atmosphere

Atmos means “air.” The atmosphere includes all the gases surrounding the Earth. We often call the atmosphere “air.” All planets have an atmosphere, but Earth is the only planet with the correct combination of gases to support life.

The atmosphere consists of five layers and is responsible for Earth’s weather. Even though it seems like air is made of nothing, it consists of particles too small to be seen. All these particles have weight that push down on Earth. The weight of air above us is called air pressure.

Earth’s living things make up the biosphere.

closeup of a bird represents the biosphere

Bio means “life.” The biosphere is made up of all the living things on Earth and it includes fish, birds, plants, and even people.

The living portion of the Earth interacts with all the other spheres. Living things need water (hydrosphere), chemicals from the atmosphere, and nutrients gained by eating things in the biosphere.

The four spheres interact.

The 4 spheres of earth interact

The spheres interact to effect Earth’s systems and processes, and they are constantly changing each other.

For example, ocean currents (hydrosphere) affect air temperature (atmosphere): The Gulf Stream is a powerful water current in the Atlantic Ocean. It’s warm water moderates the temperatures on the east coast of the USA.

Another example of how the spheres affect each other is through erosion. Erosion happens in the desert when wind (atmosphere) shapes the sand in the geosphere. Water (hydrosphere) can also shape land, such as in the formation of the Grand Canyon.

Humans can have major impacts on all the spheres.

factory causing pollution of the atmosphere

Humans have a huge impact on all spheres. Negative impacts, such as burning fossil fuels, pollute the atmosphere. Piling up our waste in landfills affects the geosphere. Pumping waste into the oceans harms the hydrosphere. And overfishing and habitat destruction can reduce the diversity of living things in the biosphere.

However, people everywhere are working to change things. Recycling efforts are increasing all over the world, and companies are finding new ways to reduce fossil fuels. In the US alone, people are recycling six times more than a generation ago.


aerial view of islands focusing on the shape of the land

Even though the island of Kauai in Hawaii gets more rain than almost any area on Earth, one side looks like a desert. The shape of the land (geosphere) effect where it rains (hydrosphere).

trash can negatively impact earth's spheres

Every time you recycle, you are impacting all four spheres.  Efforts such as recycling are important to keep all four of our spheres healthy.

a rock from the geosphere that has been shaped by wind

Erosion creates mushroom rocks when wind carries sand close to the ground. This is another example of how the atmosphere affects the geosphere. Sand carried by wind carves the bottom of the rock more than the top.


All the rock, soil and sediments that makeup Earth’s land. It comes from the word “Geo” which means “Earth.”
Earth’s Spheres
Everything on Earth can be placed into one of four major subsystems: land, water, living things, and air. These four subsystems are called "spheres." Specifically, they are the "geosphere" (land), "hydrosphere" (water), "biosphere" (living things), and "atmosphere" (air).
All the oceans, rivers, lakes and water on Earth. It comes from the word “Hydro” which means “water.”
All the gases surrounding the earth. It comes from the word “Atmos” which means “air.”
All the living things on Earth. It comes from the word “Bio” which means “life.”
To reuse something that would have otherwise been thrown out or to turn it into something usable again instead of sending it to a landfill.
After pieces of the earth are broken down through weathering, those pieces are moved through Erosion. Erosion is the process of moving things from one place to another.
Naturally occurring rocks that look like a mushroom. They can be formed when sand gets carried by wind and hits the rock. This weathers the bottom of the rock more than the top.
A solid form of carbon dioxide that is very cold and turns directly from a solid to a gas.


In the investigation with aquariums, which of Earth’s spheres are represented?

The team uses sand to represent land, which is part of the geosphere. They use water to represent the hydrosphere and the air in the tank represents Earth’s atmosphere.

What happened to the temperature of the atmosphere when hot water was added?

When hot water was added to the aquarium tank the temperature of the atmosphere above the land went up.

Does water temperature have an effect on air temperature?

Yes, water temperature does affect atmospheric temperature. When hot water was added to the aquarium tank, the temperature above the land when up. When cold water was added, the air temperature went down.

Which two of Earth’s spheres are represented in the example of erosion?

Dr. Jeff uses a sand blaster (moving air containing sand particles) to erode rock. The air from the sand blaster represents wind in the atmosphere and it breaks down rock (that’s geosphere).

How did the example with dry ice show that land affects water and air?

The team uses dry ice (frozen carbon dioxide) to create fog. The sand mountain (geosphere) blocked the fog from moving to the other side of the aquarium. This shows that the shape of the land affects the weather.

Which of Earth’s spheres are humans part of? Why?

Humans are part of the biosphere because we are living things. The biosphere includes ALL living things.

Which of Earth’s spheres do humans impact? Give examples.

Humans can impact all four of Earth’s spheres. Humans can burn fossil fuels and release pollution into the atmosphere. Humans pile up garbage in landfills affecting the geosphere. Humans produce waste that flows into water bodies impacting the hydrosphere. Humans also impact the biosphere by cutting down trees. Humans also work to lessen their impact on the spheres through actions like recycling.

How does using recycled materials help Earth’s spheres?

Using recycled materials like those that Zoe uses to build her race car means additional resources from Earth’s spheres do not have to be used. By using recycled cardboard and skewer, Zoe helps keep fewer trees in the biosphere from being cut down. Using old washers means no new metal needs to be mined from the geosphere. Using old CDs that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill lessens impact on the geosphere. Using a reusable water bottle instead of a single use bottle means less plastic needs to be made.
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