Today, I’m going to share some of the hands-on activities and the free rock cycle worksheets that go along with our unit.
For 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)
I 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!
We 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.
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).
Then, 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!
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.
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.
Next, we went on to talk about igneous rocks. We read How Do Volcanoes Make Rocks: A Look at Igneous Rocks. (affiliate link)
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. 🙂
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.
ED applied pressure first with her thumb… and then with a hammer to “form” sedimentary rock.
One 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 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.
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:
Also, check out the free Rocks and Minerals Packet and 3 Types of Rocks worksheets that are here on the blog (links are below)
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).
The 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.
There 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.
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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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
You might also want to check out our Layers of the Atmosphere Packet
You will find this packet and more in our Store!
Here are some of the units we have available:
Animal Packet – Animal Characteristics, Vertebrates vs. Invertebrates, Insects vs. Spiders, Animal Tracks and more!
Biology Unit: biomes, habitats, ecosystems and more!
Do your kids know the 4 largest countries? Which countries have the most people? The longest river? This packet covers basic world and U.S. facts. It also has a section on geographical features and landform words (both the basics like island, lake, peninsula, but also words like atoll, archipelago and so forth). This packet also goes over some of the famous World Landmarks, world deserts and more!