Slicing Rocks

Tom Hickson, University of St. Thomas, and Ilyse Resnick, Temple University
Author Profile
Initial Publication Date: May 19, 2015 | Reviewed: July 11, 2017


Students examine images of a bowl of rocks, then several rock piles, then outcrops of conglomerate and breccia. They sketch slices through the bowl of rocks, match photos of rock piles to sketches of slices through those piles, and then apply what they've learned to describe the conglomerate and breccia.

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications

Learning Goals

After successfully completing this exercise, students will be able to sketch slices through coarse sediment or through coarse-grained clastic rocks.

Context for Use

This exercise is designed to help students visualize slices through conglomerates and breccias, and also to support their ability to imagine a sedimentary rock when looking at a 2D slice through it (such as a thin section).

Description and Teaching Materials

Rock slicing exercise (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 3.1MB May19 15)

Teaching Notes and Tips

This exercise was developed as part of a set of exercises to support 3D visualization skills. These exercises had an intended order. Instructors can pick and choose the exercises, but the order we intended was as follows:

  1. Introduction to 3D sketching
  2. Sketching block diagrams
  3. Sketching 3D Ripples and Dunes
  4. Slicing cylinders
  5. Slicing channels
  6. Slicing fruit
  7. Slicing rocks
  8. Slicing fossils


I take a quick look at students' answers to see how well they are able to complete the exercise.

References and Resources

Using Gesture to Support Spatial Thinking highlights the value of gesture in communicating spatial information. It consists of two short exercises, and can be used in preparation for any other exercise in which students will be asked to use gesture to communicate spatial information.