Rocks and the Rock Cycle: Sedimentary, Metamorphic and Igneous Rock Activities

Today, I’m going to share some of the hands-on activities and the free rock cycle worksheets that go along with our unit.
Free Rock Cycle Worksheets Hands-On Activities 3 Types of RocksFor the past week or so, we have been talking about the three types of rocks and the rock cycle.  (It’s free to download down below.) What is great about these activities is that they will work with a huge age range… from PreK up through elementary!

As we started our unit, we read several books about rocks together.

These books have some really fun ideas:

We really loved Explore Rocks and Minerals!: 25 Great Projects, Activities, Experiments when we did this unit a number of years ago. (affiliate link)

Explore-Rocks-and-MineralsI really recommend Geology Rocks!: 50 Hands-On Activities to Explore the Earth. (affiliate link)  It had a lot of really great ideas.  We got it first from the library, but then I wound up purchasing it to have on hand!

Geology-RocksWe got a number of other books about rocks, but the one I highly recommend is Smithsonian Handbooks: Rocks & Minerals (affiliate link)  because of all the beautiful photos.

Rocks-and-MineralsSedimentary Rock Activity:

Our first activity was about sedimentary rocks.

We took a bag of dried rice and colored it with food dye. (The rice was uncooked.)

We used a clear, plastic cup (though a glass jar would work just fine too).   I cut an index card so that it would fit down into the cup (because the plastic cup was wider at the top).

Sedimentary Rock ActivityNext, the kids spooned different colors into the cup, equally on both sides of the index cards.

Sedimentary Rock Hands-On ActivityThen, gently (remind the kids to be very gentle and not to pull the card out of the rice!) have them move the card up and down slightly to imitate an earthquake.  The layers will shift and slide! That’s really easy to see with brightly dyed layers!

Sedimentary Layers Fault Acitivity

We read a book specifically about sedimentary rocks called How Do Water and Wind Change Rocks: A Look at Sedimentary Rocks (affiliate link) which does a good job of explaining how sediment forms and washes away. Then explains how that sediment turns into rock through pressure/compacting and cementing.  It goes on to talk about how wind, water, and weathering affect sedimentary rocks.

Sedimentary Rock book

One of the days while we were reading, the girls “made” their own sedimentary layers out of different colored play dough. Then, they took a spatula and applied “pressure” to create their sedimentary rock.

Sedimentary Rock Hands-On Activity

Igneous Rocks:

Next, we went on to talk about igneous rocks.  We read How Do Volcanoes Make Rocks: A Look at Igneous Rocks. (affiliate link)

Igneous Rock Book for KidsI brought out some of the rock samples we have and they looked at obsidian, pumice, granite, and basalt. (See the rock kit suggestions below.)

We talked about how igneous rocks can form above ground (when a volcano erupts) or below ground, when magma cools under the surface.

The activity we did for igneous rock was to take pieces of red, bright yellowish-orange, orange crayons and pile them on top of one another on a paper plate. Then, we put them in the microwave for 3 or 4 minutes.  We brought them out and then ED moved the plate around to watch the colors swirl.  The crayons cooled quickly… just as magma cools as it flows out onto Earth’s surface. :)

Igneous-Rock-Activity

Metamorphic Rock Activities:

Next, we were on to metamorphic rocks. We read Baking and Crushing: A Look at Metamorphic Rocks (affiliate link) which did a really good job explaining how sedimentary and igneous rock changes into metamorphic rocks through heat and/or pressure. It has good illustrations that show how magma can ooze into cracks and heat the rocks around it. It also explains how earth’s movement affects rocks. It has pictures of some of the rocks that change: sandstone (changes to) – quarzite; shale to slate; basalt to schist, etc.

metamorphic rock book for kidsOur metamorphic rock activity was also with crayons. First, we shaved/cut up pieces of crayon. Then, we put those shavings into layers in a small medicine cup.

ED applied pressure first with her thumb… and then with a hammer to “form” sedimentary rock.

Metamorphic Rock Activity - part 1We then heated our “sedimentary rock” in the microwave. We checked on it every minute or so.

Metamorphic Rock Hands-On ActivityOnce it was cool, we popped it out of the medicine cup.  TaDa! Metamorphic Rock!

Metamorphic-Rock-ActivityOne day, we brought out our rock chart and put the cards in place. It also has a section that talks about how to identify rocks and minerals: texture, streak, hardness, luster, color.  We brought out various rock samples and examined those.

Rock Chart Igneous Sedimentary Metamorphic RocksWe spent time look at the samples that change to metamorphic rock (like granite an igneous rock that that changes into gneiss):

granite-gneissRock Cycle: Finally, we talked about the rock cycle. We read What is the Rock Cycle? (affiliate link), which is was really well done.  It was a good one to wrap up our unit.

Rock Cycle BookWe talked about how rocks and change into different forms and we went over the Rock Cycle notebook pages that I put together for the kids.

In the packet below, there are several pages about the rock cycle. Choose the one/s that will work best for your students.  This packet also includes the hands-on activities we did this time around as we studied Rocks and the Rock Cycle. You might want to check out the other free rocks and minerals materials we have here on the blog. I’ll link to them below. This packet is free to download:

Rock Cycle Worksheets – Sedimentary Metamorphic Igneous (Free)

Also, check out the free Rocks and Minerals Packet and 3 Types of Rocks worksheets that are here on the blog (links are below)

Rock Cycle Worksheets - FreeWe have studied rocks and minerals several times over the years.  We have a number of different rock sets and I highly recommend that you have rocks on hand for your studies.

We got a rock kit with different samples of sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous rocks. We got the small version (with 15 rocks): American Educational Introductory Rock Collection (affiliate link).

Rocks-KitThe large kit with 75 rocks and minerals looked really great: Introductory Earth Science Classroom Rocks and Minerals Collection (affiliate link). For a rocks and minerals unit for older kids, I would probably got with this because it has at least 25 minerals, 6 or 7 ores, and samples of the sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous rocks.

Large-Rocks-and-Minerals-KitThere is also a set of posters about Rocks and Minerals (affiliate link) that would work well for a classroom unit on rocks and minerals.  (16 inches x 22 inches) These have really good reviews.

rocks and minerals posterThe Three Types of Rocks – Free Worksheets

Types of Rocks WorksheetsFree Rocks and Minerals Packet

Rocks and Minerals Worksheets

Disclosure Notice: Please note that some of the links in this post (and in the shared packet) are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase.

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Homeschool Science Units and Curriculum

You might also be interested in our Earth Science Packet: We did a ton of hands-on activities as we studied

  • the solar system
  • layers of the Earth, Earth’s axis
  • compass directions, compass rose, how to use a compass
  • Earth’s geologic timeline
  • equator, latitude, longitude  — Using a globe to determine latitude and longitude
  • Pangaea and continental drift
  • understanding convection currents
  • tectonic plates
  • 4 types of mountains
  • 3 types of faults
  • earthquakes and faults
  • volcanoes – volcanic terms, types of volcanoes
  • earthquakes and building construction, earthquake shake table

Earth Science Worksheets Earth Science Activities Hands-On-Activities-EarthScienceUnitVolcano-Lapbook-Interactive-Notebook-Pieces

Here are some of the units we have available:

Animal Packet – Animal Characteristics, Vertebrates vs. Invertebrates, Insects vs. Spiders, Animal Tracks and more!

Animal Characterisitics, animal classification unit

World Animal Packet

World Animal Unit - Worksheets Activities Montessori CardsBiology Unit: biomes, habitats, ecosystems and more!

Biology Unit - biomes biological interactions

The Three States of Matter

Three states of matter worksheetsPhysical and Chemical Properties of Matter

Physical and Chemical Properties of Matter Worksheets

Electricity and Circuits STEM Unit

Electricity and Circuits Worksheets and Activities

Dinosaurs

dinosaur-preschool-packet-worksheets-lapbook-montessoricards-more

Rainforest Packet

Rainforest Unit Worksheets and Activities

Winter Packet

Winter Packet for Early Elementary

 

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