Core Sampling



Grade Level: Grades 3 and up
Subject: Science
Duration: 1-2 class periods
CELs: Communication, Numeracy, Technological Literacy, Critical & Creative Thinking


  1. The students will be able to simulate the work of a geologist.
  2. The students will be able to interpret data they obtained when they performed the play dough mining activity.

Background Information:

Geologists need to know what is underground. Digging up huge areas of land is not an option open to them. Instead they use drilling machines to extract "core" samples from various sites in the area they are researching. The "cores" can then be analyzed to determine the composition of the earth's interior.

Activity #1: Play Dough drilling

This activity can be used as a teacher demonstration but will likely be more effective if done in groups or as individuals.


  • Play Dough of various colours (this may be the commercial variety or the home-made type)
  • some drinking straws cut to 4-5 cm in length
  • wooden dowels or skewers that will fit inside the straws
  • Some graph paper will help keep track of the "hidden ore bodies."

Activity #2: Cupcake Core Sampling

A similar kind of activity can be done using cupcakes made with various types of cake mixes (these would simulate different earth layers.)


  1. Give each group of students 2-3 colours of the play dough. The task of each group is to create an \"ore body\" complex out of layers of play dough. Each layer will represent a different stratum of the earth and the ore body is located within this stratum. The number of layers and the complexity of the activity will vary depending on the grade level with which the teacher is working.
  2. Ore bodies are to be hidden somewhere between the layers of the play dough, and will then be passed on to another group for them to take core samples with the straws. However, before the students pass on their "ore bodies", they should make a map that will show the position of their ore bodies in the play dough. The next group will use this as verification after they have completed their drilling.
  3. The straws are to be used to take core samples from the play dough. Insert the straw into the play dough to obtain core samples. These core samples will be removed for study by using one of the dowels to gently push the samples out of the straws.
  4. Once the core samples have been removed the students can measure the depth of the "ore bodies" and answer questions that are provided by the teacher.

Questions and/or activities:

  1. Once you have taken the core samples and analyzed them, draw a map (on the graph paper) of the "ore bodies."
  2. Describe the appearance of the "ore bodies", that is how large (in cm²), how thick, at what angle does it lie?
  3. Create a 3-D diagram of your "ore body".
  4. How, why and where will a mining company do this type of activity?

© 2017, Saskatchewan Mining Association