Instructions for the experiment


Parts of a river – vocabulary words


Sand bar


Cut bank

Flood plain







Scientific process:

Change only one variable at a time. Here are some variables that you might pick.

Normal flow/ flood

Gradient – tilt the box

Engineered features – levees, dams, channel deepening

Sediment size and supply.



Map Drawings



You are not done until you tell what you found out!


Team Members - we change jobs for each 10 minute experiment so that everyone can try each job.

Principle Investigator -- team leader or "boss"

Recorder -- take notes!

Observer/ photographer --Watch the whole experiment. Tell everyone when something happens.

Solar Energy -- move water from the ocean back to the bucket.

Engineer -- this is the only person with his or her hands in the sand.


Stream table set-up

We are using shallow boxes 2 ft wide by 4 ft long, lined with plastic. The bigger the box, the more opportunity for natural processes to occur. You can tilt the box slightly to change the gradient.

Fill one end of the box with several inches of sandbox sand mixed with diatomaceous earth (note dust cautions on packaging when handling dry material). The gradient of the box and shape you form the land into is the initial condition. Experiment with steep and flat areas and natural and man-made landforms.

Supply rainfall to the high end of the box by siphoning from a bucket on a chair to the experiment through one or more small diameter hoses. You can leave the hose in one area or move it around.

In the natural system, solar energy drives the water cycle. We will have a person supply this energy.

Leave these conditions stable for at least 5 to 10 minutes! Observe the work done by your river. What landforms are created? Where does erosion occur? Where does deposition occur?

Interpret what you see. How is energy changing the land? Design your next experiment to test a hypothesis that you made based on your observations.


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