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Lesson Plan #: AELP-GLG0057
Submitted by: Mark Schoenfeld
Email: mjschoenfeld@prodigy.net
School/University/Affiliation: Lakeland C.S.D., Shrub Oak, N.Y. (ret.) Date: April 3, 2000

Grade Level(s): 9


  • Science/Geology

Duration: One 45-minute session Description: Students shake rocks for 15-20 minutes to simulate stream erosion. Key: shaking is done to music (rock music).

Goals: Students will model how stream erosion wears away the land.

Objectives:   Students will measure how much mass is worn away during 15-20 minutes of shaking. Since each student shakes differently, results will vary.


  • marble chips
  • balance
  • jar
  • sieve
  • water

Procedure: Students weigh out 100 grams of marble chips, put them in a jar and fill it 1/3 full of water. They will shake the rocks for 15-20 minutes to music (key: music should have a beat, preferably Latin — Macarena, etc.) At the end of the 15-20 minute period, students determine the mass of the marble chips and see how much mass was lost. Then they will answer follow-up questions (Can you figure out how much mass would be worn away in a million years?; Has the water changed color ands why?; etc…).


If marble chips are used (1) the water changes color; (2) students can easily figure out how much mass would be lost in a million years, depending on whether the stream was fast or slow (i.e., how hard they shook); why water is the major agent of erosion; how differing rock hardness would produce different amounts of erosion (and explain waterfalls like Yellowstone); etc. This activity was remembered by students when they were seniors! Of all my lab activities in the years I was teaching, this was the best.