Though they often occur simultaneously, and can have essentially the same end results, weathering and erosion are not the same thing. Chances are good that your students rarely think about such things, but when they do, they probably aren’t aware of the distinction. So, in the interest of getting the smelly little hooligans to pay attention in science class, stuff their faces with candy so you teach ‘em about the differences betwixt weathering and erosion.
Packed With Peanuts, Science Really Satisfies
The only supplies needed for this Demo Science science demo are bite-sized Snickers—at least one for each student. If one of them has a peanut allergy (KEVIN!), they’re straight up SOL and should be given an F—not just for the day, for the whole class. Participation is worth 80% of the grade in my classroom, dangit! I don’t give a rip about your supposed dietary restrictions. If you flunk out of school because you can’t eat a danged peanut, that’s on you, kid. Tough noogies.
Anyway, pass out one mini-Snickers to every student who doesn’t have a genetic digestive defect. Instruct them to put the candy in their mouth, but to not chew or swallow. (Good luck with that.) As they hold the chocolatey deliciousness in their mouths, the Snickers squares will, of course, start to dissolve. The kids should be observing this process as carefully as possible given that it’s occurring inside their closed mouths. Have ‘em take notes as thoroughly as they can as the candy melts in their mouth (not in their hand).
After the chocolate and other goo have melted away and the peanuts are all that’s left, students can chew and swallow, whilst again observing what happens as the nuts are broken down by their pearly whites.
How Is This Science, Exactly?
Trust me, your students are not just eating Snickers in the least efficient way possible. Rather, they’re learning about three—count ‘em, three!—different earth science concepts simultaneously.
First is chemical weathering, which happened as the kids’ saliva broke down the mini Snickers bars in their mouths without any movement. This is similar to acid rain dissolving limestone. Kind of.
Second is mechanical weathering, a.k.a. physical weathering. This happened as your students chomped on the peanuts. The chewing action is similar to weathering processes where, for example, stone is broken down via the direct action of heat, water, ice, and/or pressure.
Finally, erosion, which took place as the kids swallowed the mangled remains of their candy cubes. This is similar to real erosion, as it involves the movement of materials from one place to another—in this case, over the teeth, past the gums, look out stomach, here it comes.
If your students don’t know the difference between weathering and erosion now, well, I don’t know what to tell you, Chester. It’s seems pretty obvious after all that!