Observation Table – Rocks
One of the key skills we need to build in a young scientist is observation – learning how to look at an object in depth, describe it, and sort it by multiple criteria. Rocks are a great opportunity for this. Gather a collection of rocks, magnifying glasses, and, if possible, a book to help them learn more.
Optional additional items for this activity: a sensitive digital scale to weigh the rocks, a tape measure, a copy of the MOHS hardness scale, a nail to see if you can scratch the rock, a streak board or a test plate to see if rock will scratch it. A worksheet for tracking observations and illustrating the rock. An identification guide, or a laptop with an interactive tool, such as this.
Kids can interact with the rocks in lots of ways: they can just look at rocks, or can fill out worksheets, including doing nail test and scratch test. Or they can sort into categories: sort by size, then mix back together, then sort by color, then put in order smallest to biggest and so on. Read a really nice description of this process at Rhythms of Play.
Art – Pet Rocks
Gather some nice round rocks that are around the size of a child’s fist. Put out with Chalk Markers or Sharpies and other décor items of your choice – pipe cleaners, feathers, jewels, pompoms, etc. You could also make nests for your pet rock with various craft materials or recyclable items.
- Rocks: Hard, Soft, Smooth, and Rough by Rosinsky. Great non-fiction for ages 4 – 6. Engaging writing, kid-friendly illustrations, a chart at the end which describes 5 rocks (e.g. obsidian, quartz) by kind of rock, colors, what it feels like, and uses. “A lot of things can happen to rocks. They can crack. They can break into a million tiny pieces. They can be pressed or squeezed together. Rocks can even melt.”
- Let’s Go Rock Collecting by Gans. Age 6 – 8. Describes rock collecting, types of rocks, differences between rocks, some historical uses of rock (Roman roads, Egyptian pyramids). Includes both illustrations of kids exploring rocks, and photographs of many types of rocks.
- Dave’s Down-to-Earth Rock Shop by Murphy. This has been recommended to me by a geology professor mom, but I haven’t read it yet. It’s for ages 6 – 10. It includes info about rocks, and also focuses on classification, which is a key science skill.
- Rocks by Nelson. A nice intro to rocks for 3 – 5 year olds, with simple words and good photos. “We live on Earth. Earth is made of different things. Earth is made of water, gases, soil, and rocks. Most of earth is made of rock. Rocks are hard. Rocks can be different sizes… shapes… colors….” Ends with a page about igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks and some rock facts for little ones who want to learn more after reading the main book.
- The Rock Factory: The Story About the Rock Cycle by Bailey. I haven’t read it yet, but I liked Bailey’s Fossil book which we used in Dinosaur week.
- Other good online resources on rocks for older kids are: School Yard Geology and Every Pebble Tells a Story.
For a good 3 minute overview of the rock cycle for 5 – 7 year olds, check out this video. For a 25 minute episode, check out Bill Nye on Rocks and Soil.