Modeling the Rock Cycle
Developing models is an essential science skill. Models can help us represent abstract ideas and complex explanations. They can enable us to make predictions or determine relationships in a system. For example, we are all familiar with rocks as the most abundant features of our planet. Yet rocks are formed, de-formed, and re-formed in a cycle that's largely not able to be observed firsthand, since many of its processes occur deep within Earth or on a geologic time scale.
As a culminating project in our Earth's Composition unit, since we were remote, students modeled the rock cycle with items found at home, and up-cycled or ephemeral projects were encouraged. Then, in a short video with their model, students explained the geologic processes and energy transformations involved in forming each of the three rock types (igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic). In their models, students were challenged to represent geologic processes like lithification, metamorphism, and crystallization. They totally "rocked" it, and I am amazed by the creativity!
Some students used paper and cardboard to great effect...
Some students used food like these sour gummies and homemade chocolates...
One student even made his own candy to demonstrate each stage of the rock cycle in a project he called "Willy Wonka Geology." Check out the detail on his cocoa marshmallow "pumice" and his arrangement of the confections.
All students documented their project research, brainstorming, and progress in their digital science notebook. The focus was on a process of iteration. Below are some sample science notebook pages.
Watch this short compilation video and you'll see legos, clay, and other artistic mediums that the students utilized:
This project was a chance for students to flex their knowledge by designing a scientific model that demonstrated Earth's dynamic recycling process in which all rock types can be derived from or form each other over geologic time. They were better able to predict outcomes of different geologic forces and discover relationships among the rock types. It was a powerful learning experience.
I am grateful to my Associate Teacher, Tim Varga, for taking the lead on developing and instructing this project work. Fellow science educators interested in incorporating the project into your curriculum, you can find our Modeling the Rock Cycle Project Doc (including instructions, timeline, and rubric) on the Shares tab above.
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This blog contains occasional dispatches from my science classroom and professional learning experiences. Thank you for reading!