Science Projects on Rocks for Elementary Students
Elementary science projects about rocks are fun and help students understand the planet. In the primary grades, students tap into their natural curiosity in the world around them through observation, description and investigation of rocks. In grades three through six, student explore the rock cycle concept of taking apart and putting together.
K-2: Rank Rocks by Size
River bar rocks and soil work well for this activity. Cover the floors and desks with newspaper. Have teams of students sort cobbles, pebbles and gravel from the river bar rocks and soil. Prompt students to sort by different attributes such as color, shape, size and texture. Have students record observations. Discuss the speed of the current that might be needed to move the different rocks.
Have students or volunteers mix three tablespoons of fine river bar materials in a clear jar. Stir at least one minute. Let the mixture sit about five seconds. The sand will settle to the bottom. Quickly pour only the water into another jar. The sand will stay in the first jar. Ask students to predict what will happen to the water in the second jar. In about one to two minutes, the silt and clay should separate. Pour off the water into a third jar. Have students predict what will happen in the third jar. Let the water in the third jar evaporate and have students feel the clay that remains by rubbing it between their fingers.
K-2: Class Rock Collection
Have each student collect three rock samples from home . Lead a class discussion about how the collected rocks are alike and how they are different. Write the classification words generated by the students on the white board or on poster paper. Some the characteristics may be size, shape, color or texture. Have students write the attributes onto individual pieces of paper and then sort the rocks onto the papers, discussing how and why they’re sorting them as they are.
Grades 3-6: Testing the Physical Properties of Minerals
Divide students into three groups. Each group will become the expert geologist who specializes in one of three tests. When all members of the group are experts on the test, groups are reformed with experts in each of the three tests. The second group must identify the unknown specimens by using the three tests.
Streak test. The streak test is done by scraping a mineral across an abrasive surface such as unglazed porcelain. To conduct the test, the student places a porcelain plate or streak plate on a flat surface and rubs the edge of the mineral on the plate until a color appears or the group agrees no color will appear.
Hardness test. This test was developed by Fredreich Mohs in 1822 and carries his name: the Mohs Hardness Scale. The scale measures hardness from 1-10, with one being the softest mineral (talc) and 10 being the hardest (diamond). Student geologists will use common objects to determine mineral hardness. A fingernail is rated at 2.5 on the Mohs Scale, a penny is a 3, a piece of glass represents 6 and a piece of steel represents 7.
Acid test. Students must wear goggles for this test. A weak acid is used to tell if the specimen contains calcium carbonate (CaCO3). If the specimen fizzes, it contains calcium carbonate.
Grades 3-6: Mock Rock Investigation
Give each student a mock rock and a nail. Ask students how they can learn about the rocks.
Identify the nail as representing the pick, an important tool used by geologists to separate rocks into parts. Students must use the pick to identify as many parts of the rock and ingredients as possible. Students list the ingredients. There will be some fine material that students will not be able to identify.
Each team will place the fine material in a vial with water. Have students hold the lid on the vial and shake, observing and making notes. The following day, students observe the contents of the vial and note observations in the science journal. Have students pour the liquid from the vial into an evaporating dish. Students observe the dishes until the liquid has evaporated. Once the water evaporates, salt crystals will appear.