Rocking Through the Rock Cycle
The students are presented with an activity that models the possible pathways that matter may travel through the rock cycle. The activity is a very simplified representation of a complex process that takes millions and billions of years and countless physical and chemical changes. The students get a randomized version of examples in the process that they can compare with other classmates.
Context for Use
This lesson should be taught after the students have learned about all three rock types, weathering and have been introduced to the rock cycle. The lesson takes about 50 minutes, however it can be adapted for less time by shortening the number of cards students draw or decreasing the number of laser tracing rock cycle trips the students share. This lesson requires cut out Rock Station Cards (3 copies of each station sheet), a laser pointer, a projected picture of the rock cycle(s) and 4 small containers (baskets or boxes for cards). If possible, sample rocks from each rock group can be set around the card station for each of the three rock groups for students to observe while they wait to draw cards. If setting out rock samples then provide hand lenses at each station so the students can observe the rocks samples closely. Optional materials include a red lava lamp for the magma station and a microscope with sediment sides at the sedimentary station.
Description and Teaching Materials
Main Lesson / Activity Steps:
1. Have the students count off from one to four.
2. Tell the ones that they will start at the magma station, the number two will start at the sedimentary station, the threes will start at the metamorphic station and the fours will start at the igneous station.
3. Tell students to number a sheet of paper from 1 to 25 and write Rocking Through the Rock Cycle at the top.
4. Have them number their paper from 1 to 25 before hand. Tell them that they are going to draw a total of 25 cards during the entire activity. Each number on the paper should correspond with the location that they draw the card. If they draw a "stay" card they need to record the name of the station they are at and then draw again. Explain that rocks spend a lot of time "staying" in one place for many many years! Therefore, they may have to stay and draw at the same station several times, before they can move on! Explain that they need to take their paper and a pencil with them as they travel through the rock cycle to record their rocking journey as they go from station to station. Each person goes on their own journey!
5. Tell the students to draw a card read and record what happens to them and then and do what the card tells them to do. After they draw a card the card should be placed at the bottom of the pile in the basket or box. Each time they draw they need to record the location designated on the card and follow the directions (stay or go to...)
6. Let the students travel through the rock cycle and record their journey for 25 trips.
7. Have students share their trip by using the laser pointer and showing the path of their rocking journey on the overhead of the rock cycle. Discuss the processes involved with each step.
8. Have students count the number of times they were in each station. Embed the terms, frequency, and quantitative data into instruction.
Wrap Up: Have the students share what they learned in the activity and what things surprised them. Ask the students if they went to all stations or just some. Have them speculate as to why they may or may not have traveled to all stations. Emphasize that the rock cycle is a very slow process that occurs over thousands and even millions of years between the geosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere. Have students identify areas of the hydrosphere and atmosphere that were involved in the rock cycle. Be sure students comprehend the difference between internal forces (heat, pressure and mantle convection currents inside the Earth) and external forces outside the Earth (weathering) are both rock cycle forces of change. Embed the term extrapolate and scenario during the wrap up by noting that they can extrapolate how matter moves through the rock cycle based on the scenario they each encountered during the activity.
Files:Rock Cycle Station Cards (Acrobat (PDF) 80kB Mar29 16)
Rocking Through the Rock Cycle Lesson Plan (Acrobat (PDF) 120kB Mar29 16)
Modifications on this activity from the community
Teaching Notes and Tips
Safety Considerations: The students need ample room to move about in the activity. In addition, students need to be directed on how to use the laser and NOT to point that laser at anyone at any time. If using a lava lamp tell students not to touch and have a sign next to the lamp to remind them.