Stokes' Law Exercise for "Rocks and Minerals"

Karen Bartels - Northeastern Illinois University - Chicago, IL


In this laboratory activity, students are led through a qualitative/semi-quantitative derivation of Stokes' Law. Lab groups brainstorm on and hypothesize what factors will affect the settling velocity then time the settling of various objects of known composition and size through different fluids of known viscosity to validate or invalidate their hypothesis. Additional activities that can go along with this exercise are outlined in the Teaching Notes.

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Learning Goals

  • Help students understand how sediments settle out through fluids (sorting, graded bedding).
  • Give students an opportunity to form a hypothesis and test it.
  • Get students to apply a range of quantitative skills.

Context for Use

This exercise was developed for second-year "Rocks and Minerals" course for Earth Science majors and minors. Physical Geology was the only prerequisite. The class was usually around 20 students and the activity was conducted in groups of 4.

Description and Teaching Materials

Stokes' Law Lab Activity (Acrobat (PDF) 84kB May4 04)

Teaching Notes and Tips

Teaching Notes for Stokes' Law Activity (Acrobat (PDF) 56kB May4 04)