Geology is an earth science, but that doesn’t mean it only belongs in science class! Try these geology activities to introduce your students to this awesome subject.
From gemology to volcanology, geology has much more to it than picking up and examining rocks. These simple, easy-to-do geology activities provide many connections to other subjects while helping students explore this incredible field.
1. Egg Geodes
How is this for an eggs-cellent eggs-periment?
Using household items like food coloring, glue, and a spoon, your students can turn eggs into beautiful alum-crystal geodes. Simply take your egg shells and cover them with glue and alum powder (which can be found in the spice section of most grocery stores). Allow them to dry overnight, then pour alum powder and food coloring of your choice into boiling water. Gently push the egg shells to the bottom of the solution.
After 12 to 15 hours, remove your creation and marvel at its beauty!
This experiment provides opportunities to talk about and apply the scientific method. You can conclude the activity by discussing the formation of crystals and the symmetrical patterns that occur within each crystal structure. In math, students could measure crystal growth each day and graph the rate of growth.
2. Rocks Shaping the World
Bring geology into the social studies classroom to understand why people settled where they did. Have students research an area — maybe even their own hometown! — and its landscape to figure out why it was a good place to create a community when they did. Was it good farmland? Did mining opportunities provide work for residents? Or was the land unsettled for many years because it was not conducive to growing food and relied on imports?
The US Geological Survey has a terrific website that gives students access to maps and updated information on a variety of topics, which can be a great resource for this and other geology activities.
3. Testing Hardness
We know rocks and minerals are hard, but not all hardness is created equal, as we’ll learn in this geology activity.
Rocks are often classified by hardness, or the resistance of a material to being scratched. Introduce the students to the Mohs Hardness Test, then have students test rocks they’ve found with pennies, butter knives, and nails. Have them record their findings and figure out which of their rocks is the hardest.
You can order a Mohs Hardness test kit online if desired.
This activity offers another opportunity to discuss and apply the scientific method in your classroom. There are also many literary references to rocks, the hardness of rocks, and people who share qualities of rocks. Language arts teachers could have students research some of these references and create their own poems, similes, and metaphors that combine their findings from the activity and research.
4. Hitting the Gavel on Gravel
Ever stop to wonder why parking lots are made of gravel — and realize that the type of gravel found is often made of an abundant nearby source?
For this geology activity, students will pretend they’re preparing a report for an environmental company evaluating parking lot construction. They’ll test gravel samples from the school parking lot (or nearby location) using household items.
Start by cutting the top off of two soda bottles close to the curve, then pour water into the soda bottles and mark the level. Cut the bottom off two other bottles and use rubber bands to put netting over the mouths of the two bottles that still have tops. Invert these into the first two bottles and cut a small hole in each of the lower bottles in order to allow air to escape.
Place some gravel in the top section of one of the soda bottle columns and soil in the other column to the same level. Then pour water into the tops of the bottle, timing how long it takes to reach the marked level or how long it takes for a certain quantity of water to drain through. What did the students observe — and why do they think that is?
Geology activities can also be delicious!
Core sampling, what geologists do when they are trying to “see” beneath the surface of the earth, involves taking samples from different locations using coring devices made of metal. The process helps geologists to formulate an educated conclusion of what the subterranean structure is like.
For this experiment, bake cupcakes according to their directions using at least three different colors of batter. Use foil baking cups and frosting to prevent the students from seeing the interior of the cupcakes. Have them draw what they think the inside of their cupcake looks like. Then demonstrate how to take a core sample — slowly “drill” a straw into the cupcake until it reaches the bottom then carefully lift it up. The layers of the cupcake will be easily seen.
After several samples have been obtained, examine the differences and change predictions. Cut the cupcakes in half and compare it to their predictions. (Then eat!)
Geology is a fascinating subject that can enhance understandings in many other classes. Help your students discover that they are so much more than rocks!