Core Sampling Cupcakes

› Core Sampling

Even our youngest geologists can understand core sampling cupcakes!  Inquiry skills and deductive reasoning form a sweet hypothesis children will not forget.

Core sampling is what geologists do when they are trying to "see" beneath the surface of the earth.  They take a variety of samples from different locations using coring devices made of metal. 

This helps geologists to formulate an educated conclusion of what the subterranean structure is like.

core sampling cupcake

This is one of my favorite earth science activities because the kids love it so much.  The are fully engaged and the discussion that comes out of it is incredible.

Cupcakes are used to give our youngsters a chance to "be a geologist."  They will make predictions, take samples, diagram and then use deductive reasoning to confirm or change their predictions.

At the end, the students will cut open their cupcakes to see how accurate they were with what the interior looks like, based on their core samples.  Geology lessons just got a little sweeter!

Core Sampling Cupcakes Materials

This involves some prep work the night before, so write everything down and head out to the grocery store.  Enlist your children to help you make them (mine only stuck around at the beginning and came back at the end).

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To Make the Cupcakes:

  • 1 box white cake mix
  • Food coloring
  • White frosting (I like the icing in a can that you squeeze out because it only takes a minute to ice them all at the end)
  • Candy dinosaurs or sprinkles (I could only find stars for this one so we pretended they were dinosaurs)
  • Foil baking cups (you have to use the foil ones so the kids can't see through them)

Prepare the cupcakes as directed.  After mixing the batter, divide it into several bowls.  Add a different food coloring to each one and stir. 

After lining the cupcake tray with the foil wrappers, spoon a small amount of each color into the cups.  Try layering the batter to make them all different. 

Frost when completely cooled.

Tip:  Do not fill the wrappers more than halfway.  It is much easier to frost and transport cupcakes that are flat!

Core Sampling Cupcakes Activity

Each group or student will need:


1.  Hand out the materials and ask the students to visually inspect their cupcake - no touching, peeling the foil wrap etc.  Have them draw what they think the inside of their cupcake looks like.

2.  Demonstrate how to take a core sample and explain how geologists do it.  Slowly "drill" the straw into the cupcake until it reaches the bottom then carefully lift it up.  The layers of the cupcake will be easily seen.

3.  Cut the section of the straw that contains the core sample and continue to take additional core samples from other areas of the cupcake.

4.  After several samples have been obtained, examine them side by side to revise the initial predictions.  Have the students diagram and label their revised predictions.

core samples using cupcakes and a straw

5.  Cut the cupcakes in half and compare it to the diagrams.

6.  Draw what the inside of the cupcake really looks like and discuss how geologists use core sampling to learn more about the earth.

The best part of this activity is watching the children actively thinking while comparing and contrasting information.  They take it very seriously, and the looks of amazement on their faces when they take their first core sample is priceless.

You can get more science activities and lessons here.

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