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Deformation experiments

These experiments all follow from the web pages on Metamorphism & Deformation.
Regional metamorphism is not easily modelled in the lab, but the deformation of rocks that normally accompanies it can be modelled very successfully. It is a good idea to stress that, when applied to rocks, these processes happen very slowly – often over thousands or millions of years.

Three experiments are given as worksheets; we suggest choosing one. Here are a few further tips:

1. Folds & Faults using sand & flour: See also: “Teaching the Dynamic Earth” (ESEU Website)

The animation (below) shows typical results from this experiment which, although a bit tricky to set up, shows folding and faulting very well. Suitable boxes are plastic storage drawers typically used for screws nails, etc. (or Ferrero Rocher boxes), whilst “paddles” are easily made from hardboard or plywood.
Experimental Setup Diagram An interesting variant (practice needed) is to attach a piece of card to the bottom of the paddle, about 1/3rd the length of the box and, with the paddle 1/3rd of the way along the box, fill the larger portion (with the end of the card in the middle) with sand/flour layers about 2/3rds full. Move the “paddle” backward (arrow) to make a “rift valley”.

2. Making deformed fossils:

Like experiment 1, this activity is also fully described in the ESEU website, and is well suited to KS3 students, including the less able. A good idea is to get pupils working in groups where each has to make a “deformed fossil” for the others to identify – which shell, and how was it deformed?

3. Folds using clay or PlasticineTM:

Different coloured sandwiches of clay or plasticine can be effectively used to demonstrate folding; however, good results require considerable preparation time and some practice.
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