Mixing up the Rock Cycle

I decided that I wanted to do something different with the rock cycle this year. I had changed it up last year to make the students think more about the processes that form rocks. Here’s the lab from last year. It worked well, but I wanted to do even more.

So, I decided that this year, we would start with a blank sheet of paper. I would use this lab to not only model the rock cycle, but also to model how to create a lab report. I walked my students through writing the title. We developed our question together. I had the students write their hypothesis with their partners, and then we developed our materials list. Finally, students worked with their partners to develop the procedures. Students could choose whether to use crayons, gumdrops, or airheads to represent a rock through the rock cycle. They could also start and end the rock cycle at any point. The only requirement was that they made all three types of rock.

After they completed their procedures yesterday, I collected their papers, checked them over, and made comments. Today, we corrected the procedure steps, discussed how to collect data and that it was the next part of the report, and the students got a chance to complete the lab.

Tomorrow, students will write their conclusions. I am so excited about how well this went. In order to write procedure steps, students really had to understand the processes that form rocks. Since they could create the rocks in any order, they could easily see that the rock cycle can work in any way. Because we were working with three different materials to represent the rocks, they could not only see their results, but compare them to others in the class to see what made the better model.

I heard amazing discussions going on between my students yesterday and today. I really think they have a great grasp of the rock cycle. I am looking forward to seeing the conclusions that they draw as we wrap this up tomorrow!

By Janelle

Space geek, science nerd extraordinaire. That's me! Want to know more, visit the About page.


  1. Hey Janelle

    I am a long time reader, twitter follower, and fellow Earth science teacher. I have my students engage in a similar rock cycle modeling activity, and am interested in what you did with your students this year. In my class I distinguish between and “investigation” (activity using scientific skills and thinking) and an “experiment” (activity using controlled variables, testing, use of a hypothesis, etc…). I am curious how you had your students make hypotheses during this investigation. Or to state it differently, what kinds of hypotheses were you hoping for them to make? did they make?

    I hope my inquiry makes sense.

    1. Hi Nick! Thanks for stopping by. When we talked about what a hypothesis is, I explained it is what we expect to happen and why. Coming from elementary school, a lot of them seem to think it a hypothesis is just a random guess, but I want them to know it is based on research and prior knowledge. For this lab, our research was studying how rocks were formed which we have been doing the past three weeks. Additionally, students have background knowledge of crayons/gumdrops/airheads.

      So for their hypothesis, I asked them to discuss how well their chosen rock model would work to model the rock cycle and why they thought that.

      Does that help?

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