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Sep 3, 2017

Rock Cycle STEM Challenges!

Rock Cycle STEM weathering and erosion

Hey Teacher Friends,

Right now I'm in the process of creating a series of STEM projects for students who are studying Earth Science.. The current unit I'm focusing on is the Rock Cycle! After doing a little research, I came up with two great STEM projects that are simple enough to create in the classroom. Initially I originally thought these projects might be too simple for 4th-6th grade, but they are much more difficult to pull off than they appear!

I first discuss with students the three different types of rock (igneous, sedimentary, metamorphic) and how they are formed. Igneous is formed by the heating and cooling of lava. Sedimentary is formed by the deposition of material at the earth's surface and within bodies of water. Metamorphic rocks were once igneous or sedimentary rocks and have changed from high temperatures or pressure. I then have students brainstorm if it is possible to demonstrate each of the rock cycle phases by using crayons!

Without giving them the answers, I question how could they change the state of the crayons to represent the different formations,... This is where the fun begins with STEM challenges!  

STEM Activity #1: Rock Cycle Challenge with Crayons! 

Rock Cycle STEM weathering and erosion

Here's the Challenge: Using a list of supplies, students must demonstrate the rock cycle and the different rock formations that occur during the process. All three types of rock must be present in the cycle. Students must collect a small sample of rock during each phase and it must be labeled which type it is. STEM groups have three trials to complete this challenge.. They must complete the challenge in 75 minutes. ***See end of post for more information on supplies!

STEM Activity #2: Erosion and Weathering with Rock Cliffs! 

Students must demonstrate how weathering and erosion affects our landscape. They must build four rock cliffs using sugar cubes and decide on different weathering and erosion strategies for each rock cliff (one strategy per rock cliff).  A strategy  can be a combination of wind and rain effects or another way to break down the rocks. They must describe and label each strategy they came up with. (Ex: 10 drops of water and 5 seconds of shaking in plastic container – rain and wind)  The goal is to find a wide variety of results from different weathering and erosion strategies.  They have one hour to complete this challenge. 


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