Rock On! Teaching Kindergarten Students About Rocks and Minerals
written by: Tania Cowling
• edited by: Wendy Finn
• updated: 10/30/2014
Children will discover the importance of this natural resource, which can be found anywhere from the playground to the Grand Canyon. Your “rock hounds" will enjoy this kindergarten theme unit on rocks and minerals. The theme can last a week with different activities each day to engage your students.
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We All Need Rocks!
Introduce children to this interesting subject by reading Everyone Needs a Rock by Byrd Baylor. Then set out on a rock hunt and collect rocks to bring back to the classroom. Your rock hounds are usually eager to clean their rocks before examining and admiring them.
Count them and sort by size, shape (corners, curves), colors and texture. Make a chart of the number of rocks in each category. Baylor’s book may inspire children to think of less common categories for rocks such as “special smell" or how it “fits into my pocket."
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Arrange rocks in order of size. How many are large? Tiny? Again, chart the results. Hit two rocks together. Describe the sound. Scrape them together. What sound does this make? How does it feel? Next, scrape a rock along a cement surface. Does it leave a mark on the cement? On the rock? What does that tell about the rock’s hardness? Let children check each rock for degrees of hardness by scratching with a fingernail and a penny. Scrape two rocks together over a piece of black paper. The tiny pieces of ground rock that fall to the paper are sand. Use a magnifying glass lens to examine the sand and the rocks. Children will also like to weigh the rocks using scales or a balance.
Kindergarten-age children may enjoy leafing through a book of photographs on rocks and minerals to try to learn more about their rocks. Engage them into an activity where they write some rock facts and illustrate what they have learned about their rocks.
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Read or tell the old folk tale Stone Soup by Marcia Brown, using pictures of the kettle, stone and vegetables. You may want to ask the parents for donations to conduct this project. On Stone Soup Day, bring in a large pot (kettle) and fill it halfway with water. Then, with great ceremony add a “magic stone." Make sure this rock has been scrubbed and sterilized by boiling it. Add a little salt and start heating the water on a stove or portable electric unit. Let the children help prepare whatever vegetables were brought in from home. Drop them in one by one. Add a handful of noodles or rice about 15 minutes before the soup is done. The bonus to this activity is that the word “cooperation" now has a new meaning.
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Place your rock collection from the rock hunt on a table and set up an art activity. Invite the children to make Pebble People. Provide markers to use to make the features and provide grass and leaves to glue on for clothes. The children can also glue several small rocks together to make different shapes. A heavy glue will be needed for sculptures. Children may discover that the flatter and smoother the rock, the easier to join, but that some rough pebbles help to make interesting characters.
Let the children create a home for their Pebble People. Offer a variety of containers: egg cartons, shoe boxes, tissue boxes, yogurt cups and so on. Encourage your students to decorate these homes with collage materials: tissue paper, construction paper, gift wrap, fabric, aluminum foil and so on.
Challenge the children to dictate or write stories about their Pebble Person, describing it, its home, family, daily activities and favorite foods. However, take time to discuss reality too. It is fun to use one’s imagination to make up stories about rocks, but children should realize that these are pretend. Rocks really don’t eat, live in homes or have activities. To help clarify, refer back to the rock facts that the children wrote earlier. Compare these to the creative stories about the lives of their Pebble People.
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Help your students collect pictures of canyons, mountains, volcanoes and more. These can be laminated and placed on a wall. Invite the children to bring in any pictures taken on vacations that include mountains or lakes. Try to find some pictures that show the various layers of rock.
Children love to say “igneous." It comes from a word meaning fire. These rocks come from deep inside the earth, where it is so hot that rocks are liquid. Sometimes the magma, the liquid rock, comes to the earth’s surface through the top of a volcano and it is called lava. If you can, show the children a piece of pumice rock. Pumice is a good rock to show as an illustration of igneous rocks. It comes from lava that contained a lot of gas. As it cooled, it became frothy, which is why this rock has so many bubble spaces making it light and it can even float on water. Your students may enjoy making a model volcano conducting this infamous experiment in class.
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End the week by sharing your kindergarten theme unit on rocks and minerals. Invite others to enjoy the display on the science table of your collection as well as the children’s artistic creations. As Byrd Baylor reminds us, “Everybody needs a rock."