Investigating Erosion

Krisann Berglund
Tri-County School
Karlstad, MN
Based on materials originally created by Susan V. Bosak from the book "Science is..." by Susan V. Bosak
Activity "Boulders to Bits", p.226-227
Copyright 1991
Author Profile


In this Earth science investigation, students will use sand to build a mountain and then use a straw and watering can to simulate wind erosion and water erosion. Students will make observations and then propose ways to slow the erosion and/or speed the erosion. Students will be able to relate the erosion processes to weathering and sediment deposition.

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Learning Goals

This activity is designed for students to develop their skills of observation and questioning.
Students will engage in the higher-order thinking skills of data analysis, model development, and the synthesis of ideas.
Vocabulary words to be reviewed are weathering, erosion and sedimentation.
After doing the activity students should be able to make predictions about how weather will effect the area around the school or their own yard (e.g. where puddles will form after a rainfall). They should also be able to make connections between erosion, weathering, and the development of sedimentary rock.

Context for Use

This is an activity for middle school Earth science. Students should works in groups of 2-3. One 50 minute class period is sufficient but could cover two or more days by adding more "what if" questions. It is an indoor lab which can be easily adapted into a field investigation in the surrounding school yard. The lab may work best as an introduction to weathering and erosion.

Description and Teaching Materials

This activity is fully documented from another source. The author has granted permission to teachers to reproduce pages for their own classroom use so long as notice of copyright and source appears on the bottom of all copies of pages.

"Science is..." by Susan V. Bosak
Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada
Copyright 1991 Lab Handout: Boulders to Bits (Microsoft Word 26kB Sep25 07)

Teaching Notes and Tips

All the questions in the lab handout do not need to be given to the students right away. You may want to give them one or two questions and then let them develop their own questions or use the additional questions to guide them in synthesizing their own ideas/questions.


Assessment can be done in many ways.
1. Students can be assessed by evaluating their depth of observation and discussion in small groups.
2. They could organize their observations, questions, and results into a lab report.
3. They could do a journal entry describing what they learned.
Student work that could be viewed or handed in may be a chronological drawing of their model before/during/after the erosion and/or a journal entry (summary) of what they knew before the lab, what they learned from the lab, and what additional questions they now have.


8.III.A.2 - weathering, erosion, sediment deposition