Wednesday, May 17, 2017

It’s Water-Wise Wednesdays with Frannie the Fish! {Awesome Aquifer Kit: Sinkholes}

This week in Frannie’s exploration of the Awesome Aquifer Kit is about sinkholes and how they are formed.

A sinkhole is a hole in the ground caused by the erosion of the soil or bedrock underneath.  They occur when acidic water seeps down and percolates through soluble, or easily dissolved, layers of soil like sandstone, chalk, or limestone.  Over hundreds or thousands of years, more of the rock dissolves while loose soil and sand shifts down to fill the cracks.  For a long time, the land is able to hold its own weight and even the weight of buildings constructed on top of it.  However, as even more of the rock dissolves and becomes empty space, the land becomes too heavy and will collapse suddenly.
For this activity, you will need a pitcher of warm water, sand,
a piece of paper, a cup with a small-medium size hole,
a coffee filter, scissors, and sugar or powdered creamer.
To observe this in our aquifer kits, we’ll start by collecting our materials: a cup, sand, sugar, a paper tube, a pair of scissors, and a coffee filter or sponge.

Frannie starts by cutting a small hole, the same width as the tube, in the bottom of the cup and placing the coffee filter on top of it, keeping it in place with just a little bit of sand.

Next, she puts her tube over the coffee filter and fills the tube a part of the way with sugar.  The sugar represents the soluble rock that will dissolve when the ground gets wet.  While the tube is still in the cup, she pours in the sand so that it comes to about the same height as the sugar.  The sand represents the rest of the ground and will hold the soluble layer in place.

Slowly remove the tube without disturbing the sand or sugar too much and then pour more sand on top, just enough so that none of the sugar is showing.  Carefully pick up the cup and place the bottom into the water and in just a few moments, the water will infiltrate the sand and sugar, dissolving the sugar and creating our sinkhole.

Check out this cool graphic to see what's happening inside the cup!

Graphic by PBS

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