This is the second part of a unit on plate tectonics, the rock cycle, earthquakes, and volcanoes. In case you missed it, here’s my first post, covering the earth’s layers and plate tectonics (Earth, Part 1).
The Rock Cycle (and a quick study of rocks)
Since we were talking about moving plates, this seemed like a good time to add in a brief bit about moving rocks. To make the rock cycle come alive, I once again pulled out some sweets! We used chocolate and demonstrated the rock cycle about like this post from EarthSciWeek.org; if Starburst are more your speed, they will work, too–as described on the Home Science Tools website. To solidify our understanding, we used the free printable Rock Cycle Worksheet included in this blog post from Layers of Learning. (Scroll about a third of the way down the page and you’ll see it!) We added a few extra arrows to show that the cycle isn’t always exactly the same–you could have a sedimentary rock or metamorphic rock become weathered, for example, rather than progressing in the perfect circle pictured.
Next we borrowed my sister’s rock kit, which provided an opportunity to identify rocks based on their properties and to discover some interesting characteristics of different rocks. A Rock Chart helped us to link the main types of rocks with specific examples. I was surprised at how excited they were to do this activity.
A trip to the beach unintentionally provided a great opportunity to apply our knowledge: the kids were thrilled to discover rocks with obvious layers, rocks with large crystals and small ones. They spent a long time digging for and sorting rocks, discussing the types they were finding and hypothesizing about how they were formed and how they all came to be in that place.
After our unit was over, we got an unexpected reprise: we learned about a gem and mineral show that offers Friday as an education day. We’ve heard great things about it, so we can’t wait to participate!
Stay tuned for more: next up is our earthquake study!