Activity 2: Do at School!

Settling Sediment

Make patterns in sand!

Teacher Preparation:

  1. Paleontologists study fossil clues and other shapes and patterns in the rock to learn about the past.
  2. In this activity students will create patterns in sand and mud at the bottom of a container and draw a picture of their results.


  • clear plastic milk jug (for the sediment settling)
  • plastic washtub (for the wave activity)
  • sand
  • mud
  • gravel
Seas3.gif - 14612 Bytes

Teacher Instructions:

Part 1 -

  1. Fill milk jug with water.
  2. Pour in mixture of mud, sand, and gravel.
  3. Shake the bottle and then observe.

What settles to the bottom the fastest?

What takes the longest to settle?

Draw in your booklet how the sediment size changes from the bottom to the top of the jug.

Part 2 -

  1. Take the plastic washtub and fill it with sand and water.
  2. Swish your hand back and forth through the water so that you make waves.

What has happened to the sediment now?

Draw in your booklet the pattern of sediment in the washtub.

Main Message: Students should see that moving water influences how sediments accumulate and be able to imagine that this can be preserved in rocks.

Connections: Settling sediment is what buries and preserves fossils (activity 1).


The Paleontological Research Institution
1259 Trumansburg Road
Ithaca, NY 14850 phone: 607-273-6623 fax: 607-273-6620
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