Lesson: Rocks, Rocks, Rocks

Contributed by: Adventure Engineering, Colorado School of Mines

Two images: Photo shows large boulders in a foreground valley with a mountain backdrop. Map key showing which colors indicate which of eight rock types.
Students learn all about rocks
copyright
Copyright © (rock photo) Utah Geological Society, (map key) Adventure Engineering, Colorado School of Mines http://geology.utah.gov/surveynotes/gladasked/landscape_rocks/muskratstation.htm

Summary

Continuing the Asteroid Impact challenge, student teams test rocks to identify their physical properties (such as luster, hardness, color, etc.) and classify them as igneous, metamorphic or sedimentary. They complete a worksheet table to record all of the rock properties, and then answer worksheet questions to deepen their understanding of rock properties and relate them to the cavern design problem.
This engineering curriculum meets Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Engineering Connection

Civil and geological engineers, for example, design tunnels through rock, build roads on the side of mountains, and construct skyscrapers rooted in soil and rock. It is imperative for these engineers to thoroughly understand the natural characteristics and properties of all types of rocks.

Pre-Req Knowledge

A general familiarity with rocks and minerals.

Learning Objectives

  • Gather data by performing scientific observation and testing of rocks.
  • Use data and a flowchart to determine rock types and rock classification.
  • Identify rock types by distinguishing features
  • Relate actual rocks-in-hand to geological formations on maps.
  • Relate the relevance of each tested/observed rock characteristic to designing/building caverns.

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Students test rocks to identify their physical properties (such as luster, hardness, color, etc.) and classify them as igneous, metamorphic or sedimentary.

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Students learn the components of the rock cycle and how rocks can change over time under the influence of weathering, erosion, pressure and heat. They learn about geotechnical engineering and the role these engineers play in land development, the design and placement of new structures and natural di...

Educational Standards

Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.

All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN), a project of D2L (www.achievementstandards.org).

In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.

  • Construct an explanation based on evidence for how geoscience processes have changed Earth's surface at varying time and spatial scales. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Modeling, testing, evaluating, and modifying are used to transform ideas into practical solutions. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Established design principles are used to evaluate existing designs, to collect data, and to guide the design process. (Grades 9 - 12) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Develop and communicate an evidence based scientific explanation around one or more factors that change Earth's surface (Grade 5) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Analyze and interpret data identifying ways Earth's surface is constantly changing through a variety of processes and forces such as plate tectonics, erosion, deposition, solar influences, climate, and human activity (Grade 5) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Gather, analyze, and communicate data that explains Earth's plates, plate motions, and the results of plate motions (Grade 7) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
Suggest an alignment not listed above

Introduction/Motivation

Some rocks are not suitable for caverns. To better determine where to locate their caverns, students determine the rock properties throughout the varied terrain of the state of Alabraska.

Lesson Background and Concepts for Teachers

As necessary, supplement students' understanding of basic rock/mineral testing, rock identification and rock classification (sedimentary, igneous, metamorphic). The basic concepts of the rock cycle follow: rocks are pushed deep into the Earth's surface, usually by tectonic motion, where they can melt into magma. At a volcano, or anywhere magma is exposed to become lava (e.g. at divergetn tectonic plates), the magma/lava cools to become igneous rock. Several processes may occur after this, for example kaolinization, which generates granit and other common igneous rocks. Metamorphic rocks are created in a different process than igneous, characterized by high temperatures and pressures, changing the physical and chemical properties. These high temperatures and pressures are found in mountain building events or through close proximity to igneous intrusions, where high temperatures exist from the cooling magma. Rocks exposed to the atmosphere suffer weathering and erosion, breaking rocks into smaller fragments. The fragments accumulate, compress, and fuse to generate sedimentary rocks, such as limestone.

Associated Activities

  • Rocks, Rocks, Rocks - Students test rocks to identify and record their physical properties and classification (igneous, metamorphic or sedimentary). They complete a worksheet with a data table and questions.

Attachments

Assessment

Review students' data and answers in the Rock Test Data Table and Rocks, Rocks, Rocks Worksheet to gauge their mastery of the concepts.

Lesson Extension Activities

Have students find geology maps for their state and determine the most common rock types. Based on their findings in this lesson, determine the best locations to build a cavern in their state.

Copyright

© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2005 Colorado School of Mines

Supporting Program

Adventure Engineering, Colorado School of Mines

Acknowledgements

Adventure Engineering was supported by National Science Foundation grant nos. DUE 9950660 and GK-12 0086457. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the National Science Foundation, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.

Last modified: June 6, 2017

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