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Roger Weller, geology instructor

Elementary Geology Instruction
Lisa Davila
Physical Geology
Spring 2005

                                          Geology In The Classroom

“Children are fascinated by rocks and minerals.  When rocks and fossils can be studied, tested and discussed in a classroom, students tend to learn and retain more information.” (Lisa Alter Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute)  The focus of this paper is to provide a sample lesson plan that will cover learning objectives and activities to be used in an elementary classroom studying rocks and soil classification.  This material is directed to the lower elementary grades to peak interest and form a geological foundation for future learning.


Getting Started

The first activity is a rock swap, to make things a little more interesting try and get another class involved, this will provide a larger variety of rocks and provide some interaction between classes. (Rock hounds)  The Friday before starting the unit send home a homework announcement asking parents to please aid their children in collecting three rocks from their neighborhood along with a paper bag to store their specimens.


Activity Objective:

This is a fun hands on introduction that will make children more aware of the rocks in their neighborhood and also get their parents involved in the learning process.


Materials Needed: 

·         Brown paper lunch bags

·         Large butcher paper

·         Magic markers


Activity Description:

            When students return with their specimens thank them for contributing to the class rock collection and set them aside until the scheduled swap takes place with the other class or classes.  Have some extra rocks available in case someone forgot or was sick when the project was announced.  After the swap occurs have students sit in a circle with the rocks in the center and begin to brainstorm what they know about rocks.  Organize this information by creating a word web of facts on the butcher paper. 





Oval: Size
Oval: Color
Oval: Texture
Oval: Things made from rock















To help children in the brainstorming process ask them the following questions and record the results:


  1. Are all of the rocks the same color?
  2. Do all rocks feel the same?
  3. Are all rocks the same size?
  4. Can you think of something in our school that is made from rock?
  5. How do you think rocks are made?


Word webs such as the one shown above are a wonderful collaborative exercise that can be proudly displayed in the classroom for parents to see and for students to refer back to during the unit.


Explain to the students that the earth’s crust is made of Rock.  A good example is that the earth is like a Carmel covered apple.  The soil is the Carmel, the skin of the apple is the crust, the fleshy part of the apple is the mantel, and the core of the apple is the earth’s core. (Rock Hounds)


Briefly discuss the three types of rocks; sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous.  Igneous means made from fire or heat.  Igneous rocks form when molten lava (magma) cools and turns to solid rock.  The magma comes from the Earth’s core, which is molten rock.  Sedimentary rocks are formed when erosion occurs and the little bits of rock worn away get deposited as sediments.  Over time, these sediments harden as they get buried by more sediments and turn into sedimentary rocks.  Metamorphic rocks are the least common of the three kinds of rocks.  Metamorphic rocks are igneous or sedimentary rocks that have been transformed by great heat or pressure.  (rocksforkids)


Next break students into groups of two to four.  Each child takes three rocks from the class collection.  As a group have the children sort and classify rocks.  Walk around and give students clues if they are having trouble.


To conclude today’s lesson read a book about rocks that is grade level appropriate one example is Rock Collecting by Roma Gans, suggested for grade levels K-5.


Day 2 Activity:  How are Soils Classified?


Activity Objective:

Students will be able to list the three texture groups soils are classified in and be able to classify a soil sample as sandy, silty, or clay soil.


Materials Needed:

Sandy soil

Silty soil

Clay soil

(These soil samples can be prepared using base soils obtained from a local garden shop.)



The three main texture groups are sandy, silty, and clay.  Sandy soil contains particles that can be seen with the naked eye and feels gritty when rubbed between the thumb and forefinger.  Sandy soils will generally not stick together when wet.  Silty soil contains particles, which are smaller than sand particles but larger than clay particles.  Silt feels powdery when rubbed between thumb and forefinger.  Silty soil sticks together when wet, but will not hold its shape after it is dry.  Clay soil contains the smallest sized particle.  Clay particles form a sticky soil when wet and will generally hold a shape after drying.  Soils are rarely composed of just sand, silt or clay.  They are usually a mixture of the three with a larger percentage of one size of particles.


Have students work in small groups.

  1. Break and rub each soil sample between your thumb and finger.  Describe how each soil feels.  How does each sample feel different?
  2. Look at each sample under a magnifying glass.  Which soil sample has the largest particles?
  3. Add water to each soil sample until it sticks together and you can make a ball.  Then try to roll each sample into a cigar shape.  How is this test used to classify sandy, silty, and clay soils?
  4. If the sample will roll into a cigar shape, let the sample dry overnight.  After the sample dries, does it hold its shape?

Have students write a short conclusion including illustrations of the process and what the results for each sample were.


Day 3 Activity: What are the effects of erosion?


Activity Objective:

Students will have an understanding of how erosion happens and that this is a part of the rock cycle.


Materials Needed:



Sprinkling watering can



Have students work in small groups.  Instruct each group to create their own mountain of sand.  Encourage students to be creative by adding twigs as trees and rocks to represent boulders.  Once their mountains are complete give students a straw.  Have them blow through the straw and see what effect the “wind” has on their mountain.  Discuss how wind erodes the land in this same way.

Next use a watering can that has a sprinkling head and have students sprinkle the water on their mountains.  Have them observe the changes and discuss what they are.  Tell the students that rain effects the world in the same way.  Tell the students that wind and rain erode bits of the earth everyday.  Many of these eroded particles are washed downstream and settle at the bottom of ponds, lakes, and oceans.  After many years have elapsed and layers and layers are added on top of each other, the layers at the bottom will slowly begin changing into rock because of the weight and pressure on top of them. (Rock Hounds)


Unit conclusion:

To conclude the unit talk and recap the recent activities with the students, ask them what they learned, and if they look at rocks differently now.  Give students a piece of paper and have him or her draw a picture of their favorite activity.  Display pictures on a bulletin board or around the room to display all the effort they put into the unit.


For Added Fun:

Have students mine for minerals.(Pattie Elem)


Activity Objective:

Students will have fun and enjoy a yummy snack.


Materials Needed:

Chocolate chip cookies (regular not soft or chewy)




Have students mine for minerals (chocolate chips) using toothpicks to chip away at cookie.  This can also be made into a competition, the student with the most chocolate pieces wins.


As an elementary education major I am required to take four lab sciences of different fields.  It is a lot of science and is sometimes challenging but I can already see the future benefits.  As an elementary teacher I have to be prepared to teach on all subjects from math to reading to geology and everything else needed to mold my young students into future scholars.  In this paper I have used a collection of lesson plans found on the Internet and mixed and matched ideas and made small changes to create a lesson plan I would use in a 2nd grade classroom.  Teachers have wonderful resources now with all the information available on the Internet; it really is the classroom of the future.  I am really glad I chose geology as one of my sciences because I didn’t realize how much I didn’t know about my surroundings and I really feel I have retained a lot of useful information for the classroom as well as my everyday life.




Works Cited

“Geology of Connecticut” by Lisa Alter

Pattie Elementary

Rock Hounds

Rocks for Kids


 Other Lesson plan links