Lesson Plan

Magnetic Sand?

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Grade Level:
First Grade-Fourth Grade
Earth Science
30 minutes
Group Size:
Up to 24 (4-8 breakout groups)
National/State Standards:
Colorado Science:
1st grade 3.1; 3rd grade 3.1, 4th grade 1.1
magnet, sand


Students will understand that sand is made up of different minerals—one being magnetite, a compound containing iron.


Students will understand that sand is made up of different minerals-one being magnetite, a compound containing iron.


Sand at Great Sand Dunes is made up of a variety of minerals, as can be seen if you look closely at a pinch of sand. One of the more obvious and interesting components of the sand is magnetite, a mineral that has eroded out of the nearby Sangre de Cristo Mountains. This black mineral is composed of iron oxide, so magnets are able to pick it up.

Because magnetite is also very heavy, when the wind blows, the lighter weight sand is blown away, leaving magnetite behind in patches. These black patches can be seen in the dunefield from a distance.

Explore Great Sand Dunes' web pages on geology to learn more about the origin of the sand.


Hand lenses, pencils, magnets, small cups, white paper, sand



Compare magnetite with other sand grains. Talk about how sand is based on size and not material (see All Sand Grains, Great and Small which talks about grain size and has a chart). Ask if anyone has ever been to the beach or another place with lots of sand. Have them describe what the sand there was like. Compare the different sandy locations.

Back in the classroom, have students research different uses of sand and share what they find with the class. Sand is used in many ways (i.e., sand blasting, filtration, sand paper, etc.).


magnetite, mineral, sample

Last updated: February 24, 2015