Beach Buckets

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In this activity, learners explore a bucket of sand and beach objects. First they sort items using observable characteristics, then they turn hard candy into "candy sand" to model where sand comes from. The lesson plan includes step-by-step facilitation instructions and questions to ask. It's written as a guide for use as an interactive exhibit or cart demo in a museum or aquarium, but it can be done by anyone who can get materials from a beach. The activity aims to get learners looking more closely at sand and other items on a beach, asking questions, and becoming more aware of how beach debris might harm organisms.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 4 - adult

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Model


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Shallow plastic tub or shoe box
  • Sand
  • 15-20 pieces of beach debris: shells, tests of sand dollars, small rocks, feathers, trash (plastic, paper, corks, toys), coral, driftwood, seaweed, crab parts from a seafood dinner,
  • Tray
  • Large white chart or butcher paper
  • Markers or crayons
  • Tupperware or plastic peanut butter jar with lid (empty)
  • Jolly Rancher hard candy or other assorted hard candy (4-5 different colors)
  • *Optional, but helpful: Globe or world map poster, broom and dustpan, book on shells


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Structure
      • Rocks and Minerals
      • Oceans and Water
  • Life Sciences
    • Ecology
      • Ecosystems
      • Human Impact

Informal Categories

  • Food and Cooking
  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation, NSF OCE-0731338