4th Grade Classroom Activity- Five Stations of Rock and Mineral Identifications

Friday 2:10pm-2:30pm Northrop Hall: 116
Teaching Demonstration Part of Friday Session A


Randy Bechtel, NC Geological Survey


A slide show will give an overview of the entire 45-minute activity including how the classroom is set up and how the students move around and interact with the stations. EER participants will be invited to explore several of the stations used in the activity.


The activity uses five stations, each having a direction sheet to lead the students through activities and answer questions about rock and mineral samples. There is a five-minute time limit at each station before they rotate to the next station. At stations one through three, each station has similar colored samples but different properties and students identify the samples using tests and observations. Station four includes several different colored samples and uses written descriptions of the samples to determine if they are all the same or not. Station five is a rock-type matching game that includes samples representing the three rock types and a rock-type poster. The outcome of the stations results in a student's ability to recognize various tests and observations that geologists use to identify mineral and rock samples: such as hardness, crystal shape, streak, luster, density and color, as well as become familiar with the basic rock types. The activity's run-time totals forty-five minutes: a ten-minute introduction, twenty-five minutes of activity, and ten minutes for wrap-up. Teachers are required to participate in the activity, choose the student groups, and provide a room setup with 5 stations.


I am the geoscience education person at the N.C. Geological Survey and I work with formal teachers and informal educators as part of my regular job responsibilities. I run this activity at the request of teachers and informal educators. I developed this activity for two reasons. The first is to assist elementary teachers who are required to teach geoscience topics with little to no background in the subject. The second is to address the N.C. curriculum in fourth-grade for Matter: Properties and Change - Essential Standard 4.P.2: "Understand the composition and properties of matter before and after they undergo a change or interaction." This activity specifically targets the two following Clarifying Objectives: 4.P.2.2 "Explain how minerals are identified using tests for the physical properties of hardness, color, luster, cleavage and streak;" and 4.P.2.3 "Classify rocks as metamorphic, sedimentary or igneous based on their composition, how they are formed and the processes that create them." I also use a subset of this activity for informal education in museum settings.

Why It Works

This activity is innovative in that it covers a wide range of mineral and rock characteristics in a forty-five minute class period with some repetition for reinforcement of testing and observation methods. This activity is worthwhile because it assists elementary teachers in teaching a topic they are not necessarily trained in or comfortable teaching. The activity is effective because students are engaged in a fast-paced, hands-on and inquiry-based set of five stations. Student teams rotate through each station with a five-minute time limit. Students become engaged as geologists as they identify rock and mineral samples at each station using the same tests that geologists use. Many times, the students have some personal experience with one or more of the samples which connects the student to the activity. Students enjoy the fast pace of the activity and many times are looking to the next station with anticipation. Sometimes competitiveness can be used in a lighthearted way to encourage teams to focus on their stations. The groups follow the direction sheets and fill out answer sheets as they rotate through the stations. Each station has rock and/or mineral samples with a set of directions for that station that addresses competencies in reading and following written directions. This activity also addresses working together in groups and allows the teacher to give students the opportunity to work on leadership skills. For example, each team needs a teacher-chosen leader/reader to focus their group at each station to read directions and record answers. Finally, this activity can be used to reinforce students previous learning of earth materials or as an introduction to earth materials.