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Grade Levels: K - 8
Lesson Submitted by: Tammy Payton email@example.com
By using the resources on this web-based activity, students will gain an understanding of the rock cycle including how sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous rocks form.
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About a month before you plan to introduce your unit on rocks, announce on educational mailing lists that you would like to have a rock swap where classes swap rocks collected in their neighborhood. You can see the directions for writing and posting this collaborative project on the web page called Collaborative Ideas at
As an introduction to your rock unit, have the students view and discuss the slide show on Rock Hound Collection Safety found at http://www.fi.edu/fellows/payton/rocks/safety/index.html. Once they have viewed this slide show on how to collect rock specimens safely, have them take the quiz on safety found at http://www.fi.edu/fellows/payton/rocks/safety/quiz.htm.
Now that your students are experts at rock collecting, have them collect 2 or 3 rocks from their neighborhood and bring them in for a hands-on activity. At the conclusion of this activity, read the book Rock Collecting by Roma Gans.
Now that your students have begun to take a closer look at rocks and observing that not all rocks are the same, begin examining what the rock cycle is by looking at soil. In this activity students will discover that there are many elements in soil.
Now that the students have a solid foundation of understanding on what soil and erosion are, have the students explore the section called Rock Creations found at http://www.fi.edu/fellows/payton/rocks/create/index.html. In this section, they should observe the three animations of how the three kinds of rocks are formed: sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous. At this point their focus should be on sedimentary rock.
Review with your students what they have discovered about the rock cycle. Have them review how erosion happens, where sediments settle, and how this sediment slowly hardens and turns into rock. Again, observe the animation for sedimentary rocks found at http://www.fi.edu/fellows/payton/rocks/create/sediment.htm. Have the students investigate the sedimentary rock samples found at the bottom of the page: sandstone, limestone, shale, conglomerate, and gypsum.
Next focus on the animation for igneous rocks found at http://www.fi.edu/fellows/payton/rocks/create/igneous.htm. Discuss with your students any knowledge they may have of volcanoes. Review the definitions of lava and magma and the two ways that igneous rock is formed, which is above and below ground. Then have your students investigate the igneous rock samples found below the animation: granite, scoria, pumice, and obsidian.
Finally turn your students' attention to the formation of metamorphic rocks by observing the animation found at http://www.fi.edu/fellows/payton/rocks/create/metamorph.htm. Have the students research the metamorphic rocks found below the animation: schist and gneiss.
Have your students review what they know about sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rocks. Have them review the rock samples by looking at the web page called Discover Earth's Treasures at http://www.fi.edu/fellows/payton/rocks/expert/index.html. See if they can name the kind of rock formation each one is. Then have each student test their stone smarts by taking the Rock Hound Quiz, which will test them on their knowledge of sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rocks. This can be found at http://www.fi.edu/fellows/payton/rocks/quiz/index.html.
As a fun alternative to practicing the facts and terms they have learned, give the students time to work on the interactive games that have been created for this project found at Pebbling Puzzles on this web page: http://www.fi.edu/fellows/payton/rocks/puzzles/index.html.
Have fun discovering rocks with your class!
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