Weathering and Erosion

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In this multi-station lab, learners conduct a series of experiments to explore the processes and effects of weathering and erosion. Using the results from these explorations, learners design and conduct an experiment comparing the rate of erosion in different biomes. Use this activity to teach weathering and erosion, and also to illustrate how scientists often use the results of one experiment to inspire another. This activity is intended to be conducted over multiple meetings.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 7 days

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

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • 1 Small pan (an 8x8 baking dish works well)
  • 2 Large pans (turkey roasting pans or large shallow plastic tubs work well)
  • Thick layer of clay (about the length and width of a brick)
  • Brick (1 brick for every 2 pairs of students)
  • Small plastic bowls (1 per student pair)
  • Gravel (2 handfuls per student pair)
  • Water
  • Sand (enough to fill the shallow pans for each student pair, to make a small "beach" on one side of the large pan, and another handful for each pair)
  • Dirt (enough to fill the large pans)
  • 2-3 textbooks
  • Sandpaper (a 50 grain or similarly coarse sandpaper will work best for this) (1 small piece per student pair)
  • Rough samples of a soft stone such as calcite, limestone, dolomite, fluorite, rhyolite or similar stone with a hardness of about 3-4 on the Mohs hardness scale (at least 2 different samples for each student pair)
  • Sugar cubes (approximately 5-7 per student pair)
  • One baby food jar or canning jar with lid
  • Super-fine iron wool (1 clump per student pair) (this can be found in paint or hardware stores; the steel wool you find in grocery stores is usually stainless steel and will resist rust)
  • Tape and 3 markers to label beakers with
  • 2 pieces of chalk per student pair
  • Mortar and pestle
  • Vinegar (about ¾-1 cup per student pair)
  • Small beakers (three per student pair + 3 additional beakers)
  • Two small beakers with a pouring lip/spout
  • 2 Alka-Seltzer or other brand antacid tablets per student pair
  • Timer or clock
  • 2 copper pennies (before the year 1981 works the best) per student pair
  • 1 tsp. of salt per student pair
  • One clear plastic cup per student pair
  • Teaspoon
  • Garbage bags, buckets, large bowls, or other place for students to dispose of wet sand, dirt, gravel and rocks at some lab stations
  • Lab Station Instructions
  • Teacher Station List
  • Student Lab Notebooks


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Processes
      • Geochemical Cycles
      • Weather and Climate
    • Earth Structure
      • Rocks and Minerals
      • Oceans and Water
    • Earth's History
      • Geologic Time
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Asking Questions
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data

Informal Categories

  • Model Building


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Whitfield, Lise


  • All rights reserved, The University of California Museum of Paleontology, Berkeley, and The Regents of the University of California, 2010

Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation, EAR-0624436