Where does the sand on the beach come from?

Exploring beach sand can help youth understand important earth processes and engages them in science.

Beach time is upon us. Are you ready to explore our world with some science in the sand?

Have you ever wondered where the sand on our beaches come from? What stories could it tell? Sand can be a great subject to help youth understand some important geologic concepts. Did you know some famous Americans have thought about beach sand and its stories?

“In every outthrust headland, in every curving beach, in every grain of sand there is the story of the earth.” – Rachel Carson, 1950s.

“Individually, every grain of sand brushing against my hands represents a story, an experience and a block for me to build upon for the next generation.” – Raquel Cepeda, 2010s.

While sitting or walking along the beach, ask youth, “Where do you think sand comes from?”

Using “I wonder if…” statements or “Do you think…” questions are great ways to explore our world with youth.

  • I wonder if it comes from undersea mountains and seafloor formations.
  • Do you think it could come from rocks on the ocean floor?
  • Do you think it could come from distant mountains and landforms?

Help youth understand that our beach sand is mainly the results of weathering, erosion and deposition. Our beach sand started as part of a distant mountain weathered by wind and water. These small pieces were carried away by the wind or water and deposited elsewhere.

This process of erosion and deposition may have been repeated numerous times before a grain of sand comes to rest on our beach. This erosion and depositional process may also carry the sand away from our beach for further journeys.

Talking about beach sand can help youth strengthen their understanding of important earth processes such as weathering, erosion and deposition. Beach sand can also provide an opportunity to strengthen youths’ understanding of geography and the different cultures found around our world.

Spend some time at the beach this summer. While you are there, encourage youth to create and tell the story of the travels of a single grain of sand.

The Michigan State University Extension science team’s goal is to increase science literacy across Michigan. One way we support an increased interest in science is to provide information and ideas for engaging youth in exploring their world. Adults can help youth increase their science literacy by encouraging them to ask questions and discover answers. Exploring our beaches is just one way to engage youth in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program help to create a community excited about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). 4-H STEM programming seeks to increase science literacy, introducing youth to the experiential learning process that helps them to build problem-solving, critical-thinking and decision-making skills. Youth who participate in 4-H STEM are better equipped with critical life skills necessary for future success.

To learn more about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth in STEM literacy programs, read our 2016 Impact Report: “Building Science Literacy and Future STEM Professionals.”

To learn more about MSU Extension, visit the MSU Extension website. To learn more about 4-H and Extension opportunities in Alcona County, stop by our Harrisville office at 320 S. State St. Harrisville, MI 48740, or visit us online at our Alcona County MSU Extension Facebook page or Alcona County Extension office page.

For more ways to share science with youth in your life, please explore the MSU Extension Science and Engineering website. For more information about 4-H learning opportunities and other 4-H programs, contact your local MSU Extension office.

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