Science Experiment – Canyon

By AG Education 13 December 2017
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Create and shape your own canyon

About this experiment

Canyons can be so massive and deep that it seems like they’ve been around forever. But many of them began as layers of sediment that were gradually carved down by the powerful natural force of water. In this experiment, watch how water completely transforms the structure of sediments within your miniature landscape.


  • Clear plastic container (like ones used for food storage)
  • Sand (almost enough to fill your container)
  • Food colouring (at least four colours is best)
  • Sandwich bags
  • Water


  1. Divide the sand in five separate bags. It’s okay if there’s not the same amount in each bag. Each collection of sand will represent a different rock layer in the canyon.
  2. Add several drops of food colouring into each bag so that each collection of sand is a different colour – you’ll need to shake each bag for about a minute so that the colouring covers the sand evenly.
  3. One by one, pour each bag of sand into the container to create layers that are about 2.5cm thick. Then, look through the side of the container: the unique pattern of stacked sediments is called strata.
  4. Now, fill a new bag with water, then snip off one of the bottom corners and allow the water to pour over the sand in the container. Lift or tilt the container slightly so that a “river” can cut a unique path down through the sand.
    This process is a common way in which canyons have been created!
  5. While holding the water bag over the same place in the canyon, make sure you (or a helper) continuously add water to the bag to keep the flow of the river going.
  6. Take a look at your newly formed canyon.
    How do the strata look on the inside of the canyon walls versus on the outside?
  7. Refill the water bag and make it “rain” on top of the canyon. Watch how the sediments on the upper rims move.
    How does the rain make its way down to the river at the base of the canyon? Does erosion occur?

Do you want to keep learning? Find more experiments here!