Weathering & Erosion Classroom Projects

Simulate weathering and erosion on dirty dishes.

Weathering and erosion are natural phenomena responsible for occurrences such as land slides and rock falls. Teaching students about planetary forces such as weathering and erosion is an essential part of any Earth science curriculum. Earth science projects allow students to fully explore concepts learned in class in hands-on, creative activities that are both thought-provoking and challenging.

Dirty Dishes

Allow students to simulate weathering with a project involving dish plates. This project can be completed in small groups or individually. Ask the students to dirty four dishes (plates or pans) equally with the same amount of food on each dish. Baked on food, such as stuck-on cookie or cake bread works well for this project. Instruct the students to set aside one dish as a control. On the other three dishes, ask the students to find creative ways to simulate chemical or physical weathering and erosion. They can freeze then thaw the dishes or rub them with sand, for example. Ask them to note the effects of the weathering and erosion on the food in comparison to the dish that was not touched. Draw conclusions about weathering and erosion on land formations.

Research Project

Ask students to individually research, in the school library or at home, unusual land formations found in the U.S. or around the world that were created by erosion. Instruct the students to write down at least one interesting fact about each land formation. Ask the students to share their findings with the class and pinpoint the land formations they researched on a map. Study the map and discuss on a class the geographical locations of these interesting land formations.

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Rocks in Bottles

Gather 15 shale, sandstone or limestone rocks for this project as well as three empty wide-mouthed plastic water bottles. Label the bottles A, B and C. Place five stones in each bottle and fill bottles B and C about halfway with water. Allow the bottles to sit overnight in the water. As a class, pass around bottle B and ask each student to shake the bottle vigorously ten times. Pass bottle C around and ask the students to shake the bottle 100 times with short periods of rest. Pour out the water and discuss as a class the differences between the rocks from A, B and C. Follow with a discussion about how water effects rocks in weathering and erosion.

Model Formation

Instruct students to make a model of land formations created by weathering and erosion. They can get creative and choose what medium to use for their model, such as clay or papier mach , depending on their land formation. Give the students a list of land formations to choose from or ask them to research a land formation on their own. The students should present their models to the class and give brief discussions on how they were formed, where they are located and how they created their models.