Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Sand Collection

It's very simple to start a sand collection - every time you visit a beach or other sandy location, collect a small sample in a zip-top bag.  Ask your students to do the same on their travels, as well as colleagues and family members.  It won't take long and you'll have a variety of sand samples to compare and contrast. 

You can keep your samples in clear plastic bags and use a magnifying glass to observe, or if you've got the resources, you could store the samples in magnifier boxes.

The diversity of the samples will provide a variety of discussion points.  What is the sand made of?  Why is the sand the color that it is?  How large the grains of sand?  Why? 

For instance, the above sample was photographed (because one should never remove anything from a national park) at Acadia National Park.  You immediately notice, with the naked eye, that the sand is very coarse.  You'll notice that many of the pieces of sand look like crushed shells - for good reason, that's exactly what they are!  You'll also notice lots of different colors in the sand. 

I'm particularly fond of the blues, purples and greens.  The blue and purple pieces are crushed mussel shells.  The green "spikes" are bristles from a sea urchin. 

Along the same lines, retired science teacher Charles Lindgren has created the Science of Sand website.  He has solicited sand samples from across the country and world and photographed the sand at a 9X magnification. 

His samples are organized by state and country, and you're welcome to use the images for a virtual sand lab.  In fact, he's also included some lesson ideas

He's also always looking for new samples, so if you live or travel near sand, consider collecting a sample for him. 

And take a look at his site - the pictures are gorgeous, much better than mine!

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