Shake and Break

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In this activity, learners will model the mechanical weathering and erosion of rocks in a stream or river. Learners put "stones" made of plaster of paris into a plastic container filled with water and shake the container for several minutes. They then compare the shapes of the rocks before and after shaking, and discuss how natural weathering of stones happens. The lesson plan includes handouts, background information, and suggested extension activities.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
1 to 7 days

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

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

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 11

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Simulation


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Plastic containers with large screw top lids, e.g., mayonnaise jars, peanut butter jars, coffee jars
  • Strainers or colanders
  • Cafeteria trays or cookie sheets with rims
  • Aluminum foil
  • Old bowl and spoon
  • Plaster of paris (about 8 cups, one large 3-lb tub)
  • Water
  • Plastic pop-top bottles
  • Hammer
  • Buckets or other large containers
  • Clock or timers
  • Towels
  • Mop (optional)
  • High-energy music (optional)
  • Materials to photocopy: Science Background, Student Procedure


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Processes
      • Geochemical Cycles
    • Earth Structure
      • Rocks and Minerals
      • Oceans and Water


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



Funding Source:

  • NASA