Metamorphism and Metamorphic Rocks Lab F2F

Revising author: Maria Mercedes, Central Michigan University

Original authors:Maria Mercedes, Central Michigan University; Stephanie Sabatini, North Carolina State University

Initial Publication Date: August 11, 2021 | Reviewed: August 4, 2022


Average inquiry level: Structured

In this lab, students will use observations to compare and contrast metamorphic processes and features to draw conclusions about the geologic history of metamorphic rocks. As optional final work, students further explore the use of metamorphic rocks and minerals in modern life and aspects related to human health. This lab is designed for face-to-face instruction.

Key words:Metamorphism, metamorphic rocks, deformation, foliated, non foliated, plate boundaries, uses of metamorphic rocks

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This lab is appropriate for an introductory geology, historical geology and other geoscience courses.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Expected Prior Knowledge (e.g. from previous lab activities):

  • Processes that occur at plate boundaries
  • Common rock-forming minerals and their properties
  • Students should be familiar with the rock cycle (processes and products). This activity should be implemented after the identification of igneous and sedimentary rocks.
  • From lecture: Discussion about deformation and agents of metamorphism
  • The factors that affect rocks in the interior of the Earth (geothermal gradient and increasing pressure)
  • Types of metamorphism (from lecture)
  • General information about importance of metamorphic rocks (uses and as clues to early Earth History)

How the activity is situated in the course

This Lab activity follows a lecture on metamorphism or, if teaching with a flipped/active Learning format, assigned readings on the topic.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Learning Objectives
By the end of this lab, students will be able to:
● Describe the changes that a rock undergoes as it is metamorphosed and the metamorphic rocks they become.
● Rank degree of foliation using observations from hand samples and tectonic setting.

Identify metamorphic rocks based on textural and compositional observations.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Correlate agents of metamorphism with metamorphism type, plate boundary and rock type.
Discuss the economic importance and the human health impact of metamorphic rocks

Other skills goals for this activity

Collaborative work
Oral and written communication skills (gallery walk)
students are engaged in thinking about content (pre-reading or lecture) and practice interpersonal skills such as generating questions, giving feedback, explain and admit misconceptions.

Description and Teaching Materials

This activity begins with an icebreaker discussion (optional) about asbestos in school supplies (link provided) and moves into a hands on collaborative activity using clay and pennies, followed by hand samples or images of metamorphic rocks.
See attached files with Students handout, Instructor notes and answer KEY
Later students will use either a white board or big note pads and markers.
Inquiry LAb Information Sheet (Acrobat (PDF) 178kB Jul27 21) 

Metamorphic Rocks Lab student handout (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 194kB Jul27 21) 
Metamorphic Rocks Lab Student handout (Acrobat (PDF) 386kB Jul27 21)

Teaching Notes and Tips

Use this activity following an introduction to metamorphism or after assigned pre readings. Also this activity work best if done after Plate Tectonics, Igneous and Sedimentary Rocks labs.


Assessment is formative and conducted during activities by providing feedback after each group activity. Instructors must find the balance between letting students "discover" concepts and ideas on their own and intervention aimed to monitor learning. Activity 5 could also be used as an assessment activity.

References and Resources

Link to high resolution images:
Scott Brande's page: and/or
Virtual Samples sets: select Metamorphic Rocks
The Story of the Earth Chapter 2 Earth Materials.
● Other sites: images attribution is CC-BY 2.0 Instructor could download images without their names for students to identify
● Activity 6: markers and big sticky notes pads or white boards (one per group)
The Story of the Earth Chapter 2 Earth Materials.
Gallery Walk (Mark Francek):
Teaching Geosciences with visualizations:

Asbestos, cancer and crayons:
Investigation finds asbestos in crayons and some kid's toys: