Sand Activity

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In this activity, learners observe mixtures of sand samples glued to note cards, and consider how sand can differ in size, shape, and color, and where it comes from. The goal is to help learners formulate questions such as what kind of material sand is composed of, and how do the local geology, weather and ocean affect the qualities of sand on a particular beach. The lesson plan includes a flow chart that shows how an educator might guide an interaction with a learner (pages 11-12 of PDF). It is written for use in a science center or aquarium, but it can be done anywhere.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

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

Age Range:
Ages 4 - adult

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • 2 sets of 6 small resealable bags containing different sand samples labeled with their location
  • 5 bottles of white glue
  • a few packs of index cards (1/2 white, 1/2 colored)
  • 5-10 hand lenses
  • “scope on a rope” with monitor and/or individual microscopes
  • 5 rock and mineral kits
  • collections of small samples of marine animal “hard parts” -coral, shells, sand dollar test, exoskeletons of crabs, bones
  • at least 4 very different types of sand to make at least 2 sets of sand samples (see Procedure and Set up section)
  • crayons, colored markers and pencils
  • sand shape sign, and sand size gradient sign
  • pictures of the locations where your sand samples are from
  • pictures of sand or sand poster
  • copies of the Mystery Sand worksheet (from PDF)
  • Optional, but helpful: Globe or world map, blank paper


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Structure
      • Rocks and Minerals
      • Oceans and Water

Informal Categories

  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • 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