Activity 2: Do at School!

Settling Sediment

As earth history detectives we look for fossil clues and other shapes and patterns in the rock to learn about the past. In this activity you will create patterns in the sediment at the bottom of a container and then draw a picture of your results.

You will need:

  • clear plastic milk jug (for the sediment settling)
  • plastic washtub (for the wave activity)
  • sand
  • mud
  • gravel
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Part 1 -

Fill your clear plastic milk jug with water.
Then pour in a mixture of mud, sand, and gravel.

What settles out first (what's on the bottom?) and what settles out last (what's on the top)?

In the picture of the milk jug, draw the sediment layers you see.

Part 2 -

Now take your plastic washtub and fill it with sand and water.

Take your hand and swash it back and forth through the water so that you make waves (not so much that you soak your classmates!).

What has happened to the sediment now? Draw a picture of the sediment in the washtub on page 5.

Scientists find features like the ones you just made in rocks all over New York. Why do you think that is?

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).


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Ithaca, NY 14850 phone: 607-273-6623 fax: 607-273-6620
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