Are you looking for easy, inexpensive, and quick physical and chemical weathering activities for your classroom? Take a look at a few of my favorite activities to model the actions of physical and chemical weathering in the classroom using everyday supplies.
Check out my 6 favorite physical and chemical weathering activities below!
1. Physical (Mechanical) Weathering Activity
Model weathering with salt and chalk.
Chalk is a great material to use to demonstrate weathering because chalk is a soft sedimentary rock made of calcite. The sandpaper has small pieces of quartz glued on to it.
Materials: salt, sidewalk chalk, plastic container with a lid, teaspoon
Tips: Make observations about the chalk before beginning the activity. Have students sketch the chalk and predict what will happen when it is shaken in a plastic container with salt for two minutes.
- Place a teaspoon of salt in a plastic container with a small piece of sidewalk chalk.
- Set a timer and place the lid securely on the container.
- Shake for two minutes.
- Observe the chalk after shaking and compare it to the chalk before it was shaken with salt.
- Discuss how this is like weathering.
A worksheet to go along with this activity can be found in the physical and chemical weathering lesson.
2. Physical (Mechanical) Weathering Activity
Model physical weathering with chalk and sandpaper.
The sandpaper has small pieces of quartz glued on to it, while the chalk is made of calcite. This is an easy way to model abrasion.
Materials: sidewalk chalk, sandpaper, hand lens
- Scrape the chalk across the sandpaper several times.
- Use a hand lens to make observations and sketch what they see.
- Students will observe lines in the chalk caused by the quartz from the sandpaper (which is a harder mineral). They may notice powder from the chalk on the sandpaper.
3. Chemical Weathering Activity
Model chemical weathering with chalk and vinegar.
Vinegar is a weak acid that is safe to use in the classroom and easy and inexpensive to obtain.
Materials: chalk, vinegar, cup
- Place the chalk into the vinegar for 5 minutes. The weak acid from the vinegar will react with the calcite in the chalk.
- After 5 minutes, have students rinse the chalk with water to stop the reaction.
- Have students make observations.
- Place the chalk back in vinegar and observe how the chalk changes after being in the vinegar for 24 hours.
4. Chemical Weathering Activity
Model chemical weathering (acid rain) with steel wool, vinegar, and water.
Materials: steel wool, vinegar, water, plastic baggies
- Using three plastic zip lock baggies, place one piece of steel wool in each bag.
- Bag one – only steel wool (dry), bag two – add 50 mL of water, bag three – add 50 mL of vinegar
- Let the bags sit overnight and have students observe the effects of chemical weathering on the steel wool in each bag.
5. Modeling How Glaciers Change the Land (Physical Weathering Activity)
This activity will help students to understand how glaciers create physical weathering (abrasion) as they move across Earth’s surface.
Materials: soap, water, plastic cup, sand
- In a plastic cup, place a handful of sand in the bottom. Cover the sand with water and freeze overnight.
- Remove the ice/sand block from the cup.
- Use a paper towel to hold the block of ice as students slide the ice block over the bar of soap (sand side down).
- Make observations and sketch what happens to the bar of soap after it was rubbed with the sand/ice block.
6. Factors That Affect Weathering (Acid Rain)
This is a great demo to show how breaking of rock affects the time it takes for weathering to occur.
Materials: 2 antacid tablets, warm water, 2 plastic cups, spoon, stopwatch
In this activity, the antacid tablet represents the rock.
- Have students predict if the whole tablet or the crushed tablet will dissolve faster.
- Crush one antacid tablet. Place it in 100 mL of warm water and stir. Use the stopwatch to measure the time until the tablet dissolves.
- Repeat with the whole antacid tablet.
- Have students draw conclusions why smaller pieces of rock weather faster.
Note: This can be done with a sugar cube or m&m’s. The m&m mini-lab is included in the product below.
Want to save HOURS of planning time?
If you’re looking for physical and chemical weathering lesson that is engaging and easy prep, you’re going to love this resource!
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐This resource is AMAZING! I am able to use it with my in person students AND my online students. The video is BEYOND! It’s going to make it so easy to help my online kids while I’m still teaching my in person kids. I love the PowerPoint and the notes that go with it are perfect! Thank you for this fantastic resource!
The resources included in this lesson are friendly for both in-person or distance learning because we know how flexible teachers need to be!!