Sand! A Homeschool Hands-On Sand Science Lab

Explore the science of sand in this lab!
A fun craft accompanies this hands-on sand science lab!

Sand is all around us, but rarely do kids slow down to really look at it — in this homeschool-friendly hands-on science lab, kids get up close and personal with ubiquitous sand!

This sand science lab is easily scalable for large groups, but to get the most out of it start collecting sand early. Collect from friends and family going on vacation, collect from different parts of your are (river banks vs playgrounds), and you can also alter it slightly to use different kinds of sands and soils if you’re stuck. When we did this lab with our science enrichment group, we collected sand from all over the world!

We also used an Eyeclops in this lab. It is a magnifying device that connects to your television. If you don’t have a microscope, this’ll do in a pinch. For instructions on how to use a microscope, check out this microscope lab.


Sand in small baggies
Hand lenses (one per student)
Small rulers
Small containers of vinegar
Petri dishes
Goggles (all kids MUST be wearing goggles during this lab)
Microscopes set up with various sand samples
Eyeclops & Television set up with sand sample
Microscopes, slides and sand samples
Sand worksheets (1 half sheet per student)
Large baking sheets
Parchment paper squares
Rolling pins
Shells, glitter, other decoration things

In Advance:

Have containers set up in advance with each of the following in it:

1 ruler
1 hand lens
Small container/baggie of sand
Small container of vinegar
1 pipette
1 petri dish for testing sand & vinegar
Sand dough per student (see below) (Jenn will provide)

The Lab:

ASK the kids comes to mind when you think of sand? Close your eyes and imagine a beach. What does it look like? The chances are that you’ve imagined a sandy beach, probably white or light in color. However, once you actually start looking at beaches, you’ll quickly see that they are made of particles of many sizes and colors.

TELL the kids that sand is a common substance, but rarely do people take a really good look at it. Scientists who specialize in the study of sand are called arenologists. (write this word on the board). What word does this sound like? (Arena) Long ago in Greece, sports arenas were covered with sand.

Sand is super interesting to a lot of people, including us today, because we’re going to do a sand science lab. Oceanographers (people who study the ocean) might be interested to learn more about the ocean floor, and geologists are always interested in learning more about the earth. But the study of sand can also be of interest in criminal investigations, and it’s the home of many small organisms called meiofauna. These little organisms live between the grains of sand.

INSTRUCT kids to put on their goggles.

TELL the kids that they all have a small sample of sand in front of you and some hand lenses. Take a look at the sample and make some observations. Hold up your hand when you have an observation to share.

WRITE some observations on the board.

ASK where does sand come from? Arenologists look for clues to help them identify where sand comes from. Size, shape and source are the three Ss of sand classification.

TELL the kids to take a grain of sand and try to measure it. The term sand is used for particles between 0.25 mm and 2 mm in diameter. Smaller particles are classified as mud, larger particles as gravel. Is the sand all about the same size? Try it with a few different grains.

ASK the kids for observations about the shape of the sand? Is it smooth or irregular? The shape of sand particles are important too because they reveal information about their history and are informative about their origins. Rough, irregular particles are younger than rounded, smooth ones.

ASK what would cause some grains to be more smooth than others? Rough or sharp grains of sand can become rounded and even shiny through weathering, which includes changes caused by rain, wind, and waves. When grains of sand are moved, the particles rub against each other, wearing down the edges making the sand appear smooth.

TELL the kids there are two types of sand (write on board) : abiogenic sand, is made of eroded pieces of rocks. The second type, called biogenic sand, is made of the skeletal remains of plants and animals. Bio = living, genic = originating from; a = not or without.

INSTRUCT the kids to get ready to test their sand to see if it is abiogenic or biogenic sand. A simple chemical test for distinguishing calcium (biogenic) sands from inorganic (abiogenic) sands is to drop vinegar or other acid onto a pinch of sand particles. If the sand contains calcium carbonate (biological material), the particles react with the acid to form bubbles of carbon dioxide.

INSTRUCT the kids to take a pinch of sand and put it on the petri dish. They should take a drop of vinegar and drop it onto the pinch of sand. Observe.

ASK them what’s in the sand that might be causing a reaction? (bits of shell, coral, skeletons of fish).

DIVIDE the kids in half. Half can work on their sand hand print, the other half can look at the various specimens of sand under microscopes in the sand science lab. Divide the remaining time in half so each group gets a chance to work on each. Don’t worry if they don’t finish the microscope lab.

Microscope Sand Science Lab

Microscopes / Eyeclops are set up with different sand samples from various geographic regions. If able, kids should fill out this chart

when working with the samples.

Make a Sand Print

Finish this fun sand science lab with a craft that they can keep forever! Hand out a small ball of sand dough (instructions below) and a square of parchment paper. Instruct the kids to roll it out big enough to hold their hand on TOP of the parchment, then press their hand into it. They can press in sea shells, glitter, whatever they like to customize it. ENSURE the child’s initials are put into the top of the hand print. Move them to a cookie tray and bake them on top of the parchment at 250-F for about four hours.

Sand Clay Recipe

2 cups play sand
1 1/2 cups plain flour (all purpose)
1 cup warm water
1 1/4 cups salt
Mix together the sand, flour, and salt in a large bowl and slowly add the warm water , mixing as you go with a large spoon. This is a dough recipe and as with all doughs, the measurements of dry ingredients can really make a difference to the stickiness/ dryness of the finished dough, so add the water carefully and just balance it out if it feels a little too sticky by adding some more flour or sand.

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