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Lesson 1.3: Find the Rocks

Overview Rocks are all around us. Even in urban areas or built up areas around schools, geologic materials are present -- even if they are not in their natural form. This exercise is targeted towards younger students (Grades 1 - 4), but could serve as a short introductory/reconnaissance activity for further schoolyard mapping activities for older students. Students place the location of rocks on a map of their schoolyard, which could be combined with the previous activity "Navigate your Schoolyard".
Learning Outcomes
  • Students gain appreciation for the fact that geology is all around them.
  • Practice the skill of navigating using a map.
  • Pre-drawn maps of schoolyard (from Schoolyard Mapping Activity. (Teachers can make the map for students if they choose not to do the previous activity). You might want to photocopy students' original maps so that they don't mess them up during this exercise. (optional)
  • Pencil
  • A clipboard for each student (something sturdy to write on while outside -- textbooks, binders, etc. all work well).
Time Requirements 10 minutes (older students) - 30 minutes (younger students)

Introducing the Activity

Rocks are all around us, and they play an important part of our lives. Who knows what people use rocks for? (examples include making cement for buildings, copper for electronic wiring, gold for jewelry, metal for cars, petroleum for fuel, and many more.). Lead students to make sure that they include gold. Why is gold so expensive? Because it's rare -- that means it's hard to find. Today we're going to go out on the schoolyard to find rocks. We probably won't find much gold, but we are going to start looking for all the places that we find rocks.


Find the rocks (Younger Students)
Students should go out onto the schoolyard in a single-file line. Walk the students along a pre-determined route around the schoolyard. Ask them to raise their hands when they locate rocks. Depending upon your class and age group, you can instruct students to write out a one sentence description of where they saw a rock and what it looked like. You can also give students five minutes to roam around the schoolyard on a quest for rocks. If you have bonus points or other incentives, offer them for the student who identifies and describes the most rocks in his or her notebook. Other options include having students sit in one spot and draw a picture of a rock they see.

Take a look at the web resources below and read about different building stones and building materials. Be able to take students to a particularly interesting building stone -- even if it is just asphalt on their playground. As them if they can guess about its history. Tell them the process that you think it got there, including the stage that it was at one point underground.

Making a geologic map: (Older Students)
If you decide to have students mark the location of rocks on their map (better for more advanced students), introduce the idea: Let's start making a certain type of map called a Geologic Map, which shows the location of rocks. Geologists use these maps to show the location of volcanoes, earthquake faults, landslides, gold mines, and other important geologic features. Right now, all we want to do is put an 'X' everywhere we see some sort of a rock in the schoolyard. For more advanced students, you can have them record a number on the map and then describe the rocks they see at that location (optionally combine with Lesson 2: Rock Stories by having them number and record locations now and then return to those locations during the next lesson.).

Closing the Activity

Students should have enjoyed their trip outdoors and will be particularly wound up upon returning to the classroom. Transition into asking students to describe where they saw rocks. If students used a map, you can project it onto the screen and have students indicate specific locations on the map. Either way, have students describe the locations where they found rocks. Were they all on the ground? Were they all a certain shape? A certain color? Hopefully students will end up by realizing that rocks are all around us in different shapes, different colors, and with different uses. Without rocks, there probably wouldn't be a schoolyard to visit!


Have students look for rocks on their way home from school and while at home. Have them write a description of the most interesting rock they saw. They should include a description of the location where they found it, what it looked like, and why they liked it so much.

Further Web Resources

If you are lucky at your school site, this activity will expose your students to exciting examples of stone building materials. There are abundant web resources about natural stone building materials on the web. We recommend the following general web sites.

For trips outside your school site, take a look at these web sites about Urban Geology Walking Tours in your neighborhood. Tours with a ** have explanations of stone buildings that are particularly interesting and might be good background for any area:

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