Demystifying Walther's Law: Large Pickleball Models and Tabletop Challenges to Stratigraphic Column Interpretation

Friday 1:50pm-2:10pm Bruininks 131B
Teaching Demonstration Part of Friday Teaching Demos


Lee Schmitt, Hamline University
Kate Pound, North Hennepin Community College


1. The large pickleball columns / model
2. The table-top model
3. The Minnesota stratigraphic column interpretation
4. The Ross Sea (Antarctica) model-building and testing


Many students find the application of Walther's Law a temporal-spatial challenge. In this demonstration a set of large plastic tubes represents geographically separated locations (ultimately stratigraphic columns) for laterally adjacent environments. Brightly colored pickleballs are used to represent sediment deposited in each environment. As sea-level is lowered or raised, sediment (pickleballs) is deposited, producing a color-coded record of sedimentation. Students use this visual and interactive demonstration to practice interpreting the record of sea-level change from sedimentary sequences. A parallel table-top activity allows students to challenge each other to interpret the sea-level change history using colored beads and test-tubes, drawing facies boundaries on plexiglass. This activity scaffolds into stratigraphic column interpretation exercises for marginal marine and glaciomarine environments where students can validate their interpretations using the large or table-top models.


I use this activity in several ways:
1.When I am introducing sedimentary environments and stratigraphic columns in Introductory classes
2. When I am teaching students about how we learn about past climates from sediments deposited on the Antarctic margin
3. When I am working with teachers or students to understand the sedimentary sequence in the Twin Cities and SE Minnesota.

Why It Works

1. Students enjoy putting their pens down and just being slightly goofy
2. The large colored pickleball 'columns' are easy to understand, and don't come with all the intimidating 'baggage' of geological symbols
3. Students can go back to the models and use them to test their understanding

Presentation Media

Pound Demystifying Walther's Law (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) PRIVATE FILE 10.7MB Jul14 22)

Presentation Media

Educator Introduction to Walther's Law Activities (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 6.9MB Jul10 22)
Student Handout: Walthers Law Large Class Demo (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 1.5MB Jul10 22)
Student Handout: Walther's Law Tabletop Challenge (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 1.9MB Jul10 22)