Science Sunday: Erosion


This week, we made a driftwood mirror and hunted for driftwood and evidence of erosion on the beach.  Bust out those nerd glasses, because today we’re going to learn more about erosion!  Erosion is the process by which the surface of the earth is worn away by the action of water, ice, and wind, among other things. When other elements on the earth are worn away, this process is called weathering. So technically, driftwood undergoes weathering. Still, we’re going to simplify this and just talk about erosion in general!

Erosion by water happens, for example, when waves crash against the beach and slowly wash the sand away.  The waves are also what slowly beats upon the rocks on the shore and turns them into sand.

Erosion by ice happens when water gets into the cracks of rocks, freezes, and then makes the rocks crack even more.

Erosion by the wind happens when sand and other coarse materials are taken up with the wind and beat upon the surface of the earth, slowly wearing things down to a smoother state.

If you don’t have access to a beach, there’s a quick and easy science experiment you can do with your kids to show them erosion first-hand. Fill up a plastic tub with sand and rocks in various sizes. Pile most of the sand and rocks toward one end of the tub. Fill the other side of the tub with water. Use your hand or a beach shovel to make waves in the tub. As your child makes the waves larger and more vigorous, they will start to see the rocks and sand tumble down in the tub. They will observe the effects of water erosion on the sand and rocks.  Confession time: Holden and I didn’t do this experiment at home since we were able to talk about the effects of the waves on the sand, rocks, and driftwood at the beach.  Sorry, non-coastal dwellers!  Hopefully you’ll get to a beach this summer!

Here’s a youtube video to display the concept.  It’s not the most exciting minute and 47 seconds, but skip ahead and you’ll start to see the effects of the large waves on your “mini beach”.

If you want to learn more about erosion, here’s a full episode on the topic from Bill Nye the Science Guy. I didn’t realize that many of his episodes are available on Youtube! (Guilt-free entertainment for your kids and a few minutes of serenity for you ….win-win!)  There are two more really neat experiments on erosion included in this episode.  The show does a great job of explaining the concept in a fun, quirky way.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s installment of Science Sunday.  Let us know if you create your own “mini-beach” or do the science experiments in Bill Nye’s episode.

Never Stop Exploring!


Sarah Korhnak

A nature lover busy making her own backyard brilliant!

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