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Sand (or mud) study

Observe sand or mud closely and learn what it is made of.
Science content (2016 curriculum): 
Earth/Space: Landforms, Erosion (3)
Earth/Space: Rock cycle, Earth Materials, Natural resources (5)
Science topic (2005 curriculum connection): 
Earth and Space Science: Air, Water and Soil (grade 2)
Earth and Space Science: Renewable and Non-Renewable Resources (grade 5)
Lessons activity is in: 
  • sandy (or muddy) beach
  • optional: sieves of sand
  • optional: clear tape and worksheet/notebook
  • magnifiers

Students look closely at sand and find the colours in it. They can tape a sample in their notebook, use a magnifier to look at the grains closely, and list the colours that they find.

Students rub a smear of mud onto their worksheet, allow it to dry for a few seconds, then add a piece of tape over it.
They use a magnifier to look at the sample closely, then estimate how many grains of mud could fit into a grain of sand.
See particle size chart at:

Discussion that sand (and mud) are made from rocks broken up by the waves.
Students look for larger rocks of the same colour on the beach, that may have been broken into sand/mud. Teacher can name them: basalt is black (igneous rock), granite is speckled and can be broken into its mineral components: quartz (clear/white), feldspar (pink), mica (shiny flat black).

Students can look for other debris in sand, especially parts of shells.
Discussion that the shells of the animals become sand as they are broken up by the waves.
Students can sieve sand to find more broken shell pieces, and tape them in their notebook.

Grades tested: 
Gr K
Gr 1
Gr 2
Gr 3
Gr 4
Carole Murray
Diane Merchant
Julie Kawaguchi
Mari Matsuo
Monika Pilat
Teaching site: 
ingridscience afterschool
Simon Fraser Elementary
Weir Elementary
Activity originally developed and delivered: 

Scientist in Residence Program, Vancouver School District
This activity is part of the Scientist in Residence lesson plan