Rock Cycle

I finally have a chance to post the rockintro_08activities we did on the rock cycle when doing our rock theme.  To learn about the three main types of rocks we did science experiments and crafts and had a lot of fun.  We also read a ton of books from the library about rocks and minerals.


Igneous Rocks

To understand that igneous rocks form from cooling, we did this experiment with sugar P1020026water.  We heated water (this was a great time to practice our stove skills) and dissolved sugar in it.  Then we poured the sugar water into a metal pan and quickly put it into the freezer.  Next we heated another round of water and again dissolved sugar.  This time we poured the water into a glass jar and added a popsicle stick.  We left the water out giving it time for crystals to form on the stick.  This allowed us to see the large crystals that formed due to the mixture cooling slowly which we could compare to the tiny crystals that formed in the metal pan since it cooled quickly.

Our large crystals after cooling slowly on the shelf

Our large crystals after cooling slowly on the shelf

You can't really see them but trust me there are tiny crystals since it cooled quickly

You can’t really see them but trust me there are tiny crystals since it cooled quickly

We also made the borax crystal snowflakes.  If you haven’t done them before, just pour boiling (or just hot) water and borax into a jar.  Typically it is three  tablespoons of borax for every one cup of water.  Twist a pipe cleaner into the shape of a snowflake (or blob like my girls do) and tie a piece of yarn to it.  Loop the yarn around a popsicle stick across the top of the jar for the snowflake to hang down into the solution.  Let it sit for a few days so that the borax crystals can form on the pipe cleaner.  Enjoy!

Forming inside the jar

Forming inside the jar

Our funky creations afterwards

Our funky creations afterwards

To better understand what the crystals are, we also made paper crystals.  You can find a pattern here.

paper crystals

And of course we opened some geodes to look at crystals up close and personal.


Sedimentary Rocks

sand artSedimentary rocks are probably the easiest for the little ones to understand and gave us lots of chances to play with sand.  Besides playing in the sandbox, we also did a lot of sand art.  They would paint a picture with glue and then sprinkle the different colors of sand on it.  My girls preferred having pictures printed out for them to decorate.


We also layered the colored sand in bottles which they thought was “so beautiful!”


And we made our own sedimentary rocks.  In a small jar we added sand (we used both the small colored pieces and large sand from the sandbox), pebbles, and small rocks.  We then added water and espsom salt (to act like the paste to hold it all together).  The girls shook the jars up then watched the pieces settle.  After letting it dry a little, we took the mixture out and let it dry into a rock.

sedimentary rock activity

Metamorphic Rocks

To understand that metamorphic rocks are formed under immense pressure, we took Starbursts of different colors and then used our force to push them together to create a new Starburst (that we of course ate).


We also marbleized paper.  We used water color paint that we dropped on shaving cream and then swirled it with a toothpick before placing our paper on it.  Pull up the paper, squeegee off the shaving cream and viola!



Rocks Rock

We’ve been doing a rock unit since Tucson has been hosting it’s annual Gem and Mineral show. The girls have also been super into rocks since their niece, who they love and look up to, is a rock hound. We sorted rocks, took fieldtrips to explore, played rock games, did rock crafts, and did rock science experiments.
Enjoying the rock exhibit at one of our local museums (Flandrau Planetarium actually)

Enjoying the rock exhibit at one of our local museums (Flandrau Planetarium actually)

Rock Sorting


We spent a lot of time looking at rocks, describing them, feeling the different textures, sorting them.  Sometimes the girls grouped them by size or color.

Looking for rocks?  You can just use some colorful ones from your own yard.  You can also purchase rock kits or starter collections.  We had picked up a few special ones from rock shops in the past and then also enjoyed the ones from when we went gem sluicing.

Monster Rocks

Originally the plan was to make pet P1020256rocks but the girls had other plans.  First we painted the rocks then decorated them with all kinds of goodies–googly eyes, feathers, sequins, glitter glue, gems, pipe cleaners.  (We have a plastic bin where we keep all those fun things so that when doing a project like this we can just pull it and go to town).

This project was a big hit.  The girls loved their rocks so much they showed them off to their friends who came to play who insisted on making their own rocks.  So we started another round of monster rock making!

I spy

P1000784This is a great game to play with real rock collections to learn how colorful and diverse rocks can be.  We visited a few at some of our local museums to look at their collections.




Get ouP1020133tside and explore some rocks!  Check your local area to see where you can do some good exploring.  Living in the desert it seems that we have rocks everywhere.  We had a blast exploring a local cave (Colossal Cave for my Arizona friends).  Now for a moment of mommy bragging–the cave tour had lots of stairs, was dark, and required good listening for a long time.  I was worried since I was alone with the girls but they were awesome!

Gem Sluicing

P1020122Very similar to panning for gold, this is so much fun!  We were able to do this on our cave adventure.  But really you could do this at home–just use a screen or sifter and a running hose, stream, bin of water.  There are sluice bags you can purchase with gems, sand, and other rocks or you can make your own by hiding gems or your special rocks into sand and dirt.


What’s a rock unit without cracking P1020251open geodes?  Check your local rock shop to find some.  Gift shops for science related attractions also tend to have them or you can order some online if need be.  My niece took me to my first real rock shop and I have to say it was quite an experience.  I had no idea how interesting they could be.


Rock Mosaics

P1020255We made these using air-dry clay (from Crayola purchased at Michaels) for our base.  Then the girls pressed small rocks into it to make a design.  Once the clay was dry we covered them in a sealant so that their creations could find a home outside.  Just be sure to cover the entire thing, top and bottom, in a heavy duty sealant.


Rock Hunt

P1020029Of course we went hunting for rocks outside, just to look at as well as some to use for our crafts.  We also hunted for rocks around our house.  The girls were surprised to see that rocks were used around the house from the granite in the countertops to their pencil tips.

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