Sand Grain Observations

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In this activity (on page 1 of the PDF under SciGirls Activity: Earthquakes), learners will use a magnifier to carefully examine samples of sand from different locations. They record their observations regarding the different grain characteristics to formulate their own explanations of where the sand came from, why the grains are jagged or smooth, and how they may have been sorted. Relates to the linked video, DragonflyTV GPS: Earthquakes.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
1 to 2 hours

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Type:


Materials List (per group of students)

  • samples of sand from various sources (e.g., beach, street, playground), in labeled vials
  • white office paper
  • notebook paper
  • hand magnifiers
  • tweezers
  • sand characteristics reference (in PDF)


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Processes
      • Earthquakes
    • Earth Structure
      • Rocks and Minerals
    • Earth's History
      • Geologic Time
  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results

Informal Categories

  • Nature and Environment


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities

Culture, ethnicity, and gender

  • Girls

    • Highlights STEM opportunities for this group
    • Identifies role models or mentors in STEM fields from this group
    • Uses inclusive images of people from this group


Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


Source Collection

  • DragonflyTV


  • All rights reserved, Twin Cities Public Television, Inc., 2006

Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation, 436260