Rock Classification and the Rock Cycle

Grade level: 6-8 (adaptable for other grades)

Activity Summary: Students in a sixth grade science class keyed rock specimens to their possible locations of origin on the Pacific NW GeoMap. This activity was used as an informal assessment of students' knowledge of rock classification and the rock cycle.

Each student brought in three rock specimens that were found either locally or from somewhere in the Pacific NW. Working in groups of three to four, they (1) identified the rock specimen types using available resources, such as rock identification guides or personal knowledge; (2) stated their reasoning for their identification; and (3) explained the process(es) by which their rocks were made, based on what they had learned through previous classroom activities.

Next, students identified the three major types of rock as illustrated on the GeoMap cross section layers. Then students keyed in each of their rocks to an appropriate rock layer represented on the Pacific Northwest GeoMap.

Extension: If students have the necessary background and available resources, have them go beyond identifying the major rock types and actually identify each rock specimen (e.g., granite, basalt, etc.) Have them explain their reasoning.

Download a printable lesson plan for this activity

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