The Great Rock Mix Up: An Inquiry Approach from Day 1

I am about to wrap up the second week of school with my kids. From the first day, I reinvented my usual first two weeks of school lessons to get rid of the introductory science process skills lessons and replaced them with inquiry based lessons surrounded by the content (geology – classifying rocks by their formation). I did not totally ignore important scientific skills like lab safety, I just incorporated it into the geology content I was teaching.

Well, I am about to wrap up this “lesson”, and I am so excited about the success. Today, my kids were looking at clues, deciding if it was about igneous, sedimentary or metamorphic rocks, and then helping me put our notes together. They then took their clues and notes, looked at rock samples, and determined what type of rock each one is. They totally get this material because they have discovered it. At no point have I stood in front of my class and lectured. All I did was give instructions and occasional guidance. I think my kids have really seen not only how rocks are classified but also how to solve problems and work together. Tomorrow, I hope to wrap this all up with the final identification of our rocks.

It’s been a multi-week process because of integrating the additional science process skills that we needed as well as setting up our web portfolios in the computer lab. The lessons would probably take about 4-5 days without this information added throughout.

I’m attaching the handouts, clues, keys, and the lesson plan in case you’d like to use it. Please feel free to modify in any way you like. I just ask that you do leave attribution to me as the original author. Please let me know if you have any questions about the lesson.

Download The Great Rock Mystery lesson plan zip file

Now, to create another inquiry based lesson about the rock cycle!

By Janelle

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


  1. Hi Janelle,
    Great website – I have just downloaded your Great Rock Mix-up for my Year 6/7/8 science classes next term. Geology and Astrology aren’t my strengths as a teacher (Botany, zoology and environmental science are my special interests), so resources like this are very useful. Our school, Hawkesdale P12 College, is in the Kanawinka Global Geopark, volcanic plains of SW Victoria, so next term we are doing a unit on the geology, history and indigenous culture of the local area. I wonder if you know of any ancient stories/myths and legends that explain the local landscape in your area?
    Best Regards, Britt Gow

    1. Thank you! I hope you can use the lessons – or at least use them to springboard ideas.

      I don’t know if any local legends or myths – that’s a great question. I’m going to have to research this and find out.

      I also have an astronomy unit. I’ll be sharing it soon. Astronomy is my personal favorite (that and chemistry, but I don’t teach that at this time).

  2. What a great name…and I love the banner because it’s so spacey!!!! (a compliment to an earth science teachers, I’m hoping)

    I think you’re right on with the direction you want your blog to take. It’s a goal of mine…and I know you’re very active on Twitter. Our paths have crossed at #scichat. What a great resource and I go as often as I can manage it.

    The rocks lesson was fantastic. Have you thought about National Board Certification? if you haven’t…you should! The way you think, the things you do with your lessons…well, they scream “here’s an NBCT”.

    I look forward to reading more of your ideas and creating another sharing venue.



    1. Thanks so much for your encouraging words, Marsha! I do love the banner image. It’s a composite image of data from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Spitzter Telescope of the Orion Nebula – and intense star forming region.

      I have though about NBCT. I was not sure if I would be a good candidate yet, but it is definitely something I hope to do soon. Maybe I’ll put it on my goal list for next school year!

      Also, reading your tweet (and related blog post) about the Teacher Challenge was how I found out about it. Thanks for showing me the challenge and inspiring me to do. I’ve added your blog to my reader now, so I’ll be sure to keep an eye on new posts.

  3. Found your site today with a google search for “great inquiry question for PBL on the rock cycle. Have you started that yet? I did download your mystery rock lesson to look at it later. Cool site. Love your thinking/creativity in the classroom. Will check back with you.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: