The Play Dough Way to Learn about Core Sampling

I gave him a rectangle of property. Each play dough color represents a type of soil or rock. Where should he build a house? Where should he dig a well? He must use "core sampling" to determine the answers.

My son is taking an online Geology class this winter/spring. Recently, his class talked about core sampling, and I was intrigued by the concept. This week we replicated core sampling with play dough, and it gave us a lot to talk about. What we can learn from what is under the surface of the earth, simply by taking a sample of one spot?

First, I gave our activity a back story. “You have purchased a rectangular property. You want to build a house to live in and a dig a well to provide water for the property. Where would be the best place to build and dig?”

I used four colors of play dough to represent different types of earth. While he played with his baby sister (so he wouldn’t see what was under the top soil!), I layered the play dough in a small loaf tin.

Then, I handed him plastic straws so he could take some core samples. The straws slip right in and out of the play dough, and some of it gets stuck inside the straw. This is layered, giving a clear picture of the types of “soil” in the play dough. When you squeeze the play dough out of the straw, the layers are clearly visible.

I gave my son a paper to document where he did his core sampling and what colors the play dough was upon observation. Then, he could map where he wanted to build his house and dig his well.

My son loved searching for a good place for a house foundation and a well. In fact, he liked it so much, he made a sample property for me, and I had to decide where to dig a well, and so forth! I call that success in learning about core sampling, as well as fun activity for school.

Click over to Rock Your Homeschool for more ideas on how to make science fun!

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