Summary: In this lesson (adapted from NSTA) students explore the rock cycle using common materials. Students should have prior knowledge of various rock types (sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous) and will need to record detailed observations to discover the steps of the cycle. As an end deliverable, students will work in groups to analyze their observations and create a collaborative model in the form of a rock cycle diagram using Lucidchart's diagramming tool.
How are rocks formed?
Can rocks change form over time?
MS-ESS2-1. Develop a model to describe the cycling of Earth's materials and the flow of energy that drives this process.
Students will be able to...
identify a rock type based on how it is formed
compare how rocks can be changed by a particular process
construct a model (diagram) about the forming of a rock based on the processes involved
Grade Level: 4-6, 6-8
Time: Three 50-minute sessions
Christie Madsen is a former elementary and middle school classroom teacher. She has spent the last five years supporting the meaningful implementation of education technologies in schools and districts nationally and internationally.
Materials: Goggles, 4 candles, a lighter, 4 boxes of crayons, 4 crayon sharpeners, aluminum foil, 4 large books, 4 aluminum pie pans, tool to hold foil boat over flame.
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Pull students back together to discuss their discoveries at each lab station. Key ideas:
The shaving of the crayons represents the process of weathering, or breaking down of rocks.
The crayon shavings represent sediments.
When pressure is applied to sediments, sedimentary rock is created. This type of rock can be easily broken.
The book and student weight represents overlying rock, applying more pressure and creating metamorphic rock. Metamorphic rock is the result of transformations to preexisting rock after heat/pressure is applied.
The application of heat to melt the rock was comparable to the creation an igneous rock, which is created when magma (heated rock) cools and solidifies.
Have students share their diagrams through Lucidchart and give them an opportunity to explain. Use a rubric to assess the level of understanding based on use of all key vocabulary and proper documentation of process flow.
Ask students to consider whether or not rocks can change over time. Have then turn and talk to their neighbor to discuss some specific examples of changing rocks. Students will likely share examples of rocks breaking, splitting, and cracking. Encourage them to think about how "new" rocks are created.
Four lab stations will be set up to explore the rock cycle through the use of crayon shavings. A list of procedures for each station is attached below.
Print out the procedures page for each station and tape it to the lab table. Have the students copy the procedures into their lab books using their own words, so that they are required to fully read before beginning and so that they have a copy of the activity in their records.
In order to demonstrate understanding of the how the three rock types and various processes are related, students will work in their lab groups to construct a rock cycle diagram using Lucidchart's visual diagramming software (see additional tutorial resources in the Preparation section). Encourage students to arrange their diagram in the shape of a circle with the three rock types & sediments anchoring each side (sediments, sedimentary rock, metamorphic rock, igneous rock). Use various arrows to represent process and demonstrate transformation from one rock type to another. Be sure to label each arrow with the process it represents.
There are numerous variations of the Crayon lab. Encourage students to design their own lab with the intention of comparing it to the rock cycle. What other common materials can be transformed when subjected to heat and pressure? One example: sugar. See similar activity here.
Rather than a traditional paper/pencil model or diagram, students will leverage Lucidchart's free educational offering to gain real-world, relevant experience with a best-of-breed diagramming application. Lucidchart encourages students to gain and practice digital literacy skills and provides an opportunity to create a powerful visual aids to support the explanation of a complex process.
Use the included rubric, powered by Lucidpress, our visual design tool. After students have completed their diagrams, take a few moments with each student and have him or her explain.
Box of crayons
2 squares of aluminum foil (approximately 10cm by 10cm)
1 small pie pan
1. Place the aluminum squares directly on top of each other.
2. Use the crayon sharpener to create a pile of shavings of crayon wax in the middle of the foil squares.
3. Make sure to use different colors while making your pile. The pile should end up being about 3cm long, 3cm wide, and 1cm thick.
4. Write down some observations about the pile of crayon shavings. How do you think this relates to rocks?
5. Fold the aluminum foil over the pile and make sure the shavings won’t fall out.
6. Have someone gently squeeze the foil packet.
7. Open the packet so you can see the shavings again. What happened to the shavings? Write down your observations. What kind of rock do you think this represents?
8. Fold the foil over the shavings again. Place the packet on the floor and put the book on top of it. Have someone stand on the book for about 1 minute.
9. Open the foil packet again so you can see the shavings. Write down your observations. What kind of rock do you think this represents?
10. Place your foil packet in the pie pan and take it to your teacher at the candle station. Be sure to put on the goggles when you get there!!! What happens to the shavings when they are heated over the candle?
11. After the shavings are heated, the teacher will place the packet back in the pie pan. DO NOT TOUCH it because it will be very hot! Cary the packet in the pan back to your lab station and observe the shavings as they cool.
12. After the shavings have cooled, open the foil. What do you see? What kind of rock do you think this represents?
13. If they are not too hot, try to break your shavings into pieces. What do you think this represents?
Rock Cycle Diagram
NGSS MS-ESS2-1. Develop a model to describe the cycling of Earth's materials and the flow of energy that drives this process.
Students construct a diagram that accurately demonstrates the processes involved in creating and transforming sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous rock.
Students construct a diagram that demonstrates some processes involved in creating and transforming sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous rock.
Student is unable to construct an accurate diagram of the rock cycle.
ISTE 6C Students communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively by creating or using a variety of digital objects such as visualizations, models or simulations.
Students are able to effectively explain their rock cycle diagram, including key characteristics of each rock type and detailing how each process leads to rock transformation.
Students explain their rock cycle diagram with some mention of rock type characteristics. With prompting, students explain how each process leads to rock transformation.
Student is unable to explain how rock transformation occurs and cannot explain key characteristics of each rock type.
ISTE 7C Students contribute constructively to project teams, assuming various roles and responsibilities to work effectively toward a common goal.
Student works collaboratively with lab and diagramming group and is able to articulate what meaningful contributions he or she made. Teacher observation and group peers validate this.
Student works collaboratively with lab and diagramming group, but takes a more passive role in making contributions. Teacher observation and group peers validate this.
Student does not make any meaningful contributions to his or her lab and diagramming group (based on teacher observation and peer feedback).