A Subject Sampler: Rocks and Minerals

Level: Middle 5th Grade
Area: Physical Science
Science Standards: MST #4, Key Idea #2
Other Standards: ISTE NET-S; ELA #1,#3, and #4
Concepts: Rocks, Minerals, Properties, Rock Cycle
Created by Cheska Lorena, May 2011


"The Brighter Choice Charter Middle School for Girls (BCMSG) is currently constructing a new building for the upcoming school year. BCMSG wants to use local natural resources in its construction. You and your classmates have been hired as junior geologists to help an U.S. Geological Survey consultant determine what types of rocks and minerals exist in upstate New York.

Your task is to explore the geological world of rocks and its various key concepts with the help of this subject sampler. In groups of 3 or 4 students, you will conduct an urban geological tour of your school.You will search for different types of rocks,building stones, and minerals used on school grounds. With your detailed field notes, you will create a rock guide for the school board to help them understand what local rocks and minerals exist in the city area. You may use what you learn in class, the textbook, library resources, and the Internet information provided in this sampler to help you accomplish your task."

Student Objectives:

  • I wll be able to identify the major types of rocks and minerals. (K)
  • I will be able to examine the properties of different types of rocks and minerals. (A)
  • will be able to explain how the rock cycle works. (A)
  • I will be able to evaluate the significance of interactions between land, water, air and living organisms on Earth. (E)

Question_Mark.jpgBig Idea Questions:

  • Why is the Earth considered a system of systems?
  • How do the different components of Earth (air, land, water, and living organisms) interact to change Earth?

Your Task:

In groups of 3 or 4, you will tour the school and search for rocks and minerals. Document your findings on the school map and in your field book. Make sure to write detailed notes about your findings because not all rocks are the same! (If you get stuck, this website can help you with your descriptions of rock properties.)

Use the following template to help you with your field notes:
Where did you find this rock?
Be specific! There is a difference between dark brown and reddish brown.
One or more colors
Try to describe the most common colors.
Grain Size
Use a ruler to measure a grain. Get a measurement for the largest grain and smallest grain.
Grain Shape
Are the grains rounded? Do they have sharp edges? Try drawing it if you can.
Is the rock hard and solid? Is it crumbly? Can you scratch it with a fingernail?
Other Comments
This space is for you to add anything else interesting about the rock.
Photograph Number
Number your photographs so you know which rock is which when you upload photos!

As you learn more about rocks and minerals in class, you will try to identify the rocks from your field notes. You will also research 5 most common rocks and minerals found in upstate New York. You and your team-mates will create a rock guide out of your data. Use the project checklist and rubric to guide you. Be prepared to present your work in class.

Assessment and Evaluation:

Helpful Documents:

Important Questions:

Use the Internet information linked below to answer these questions. Record your answers in your guided notes and in your science notebook.
  1. How do geologists classify rocks?
  2. How are the three types of rocks formed?
  3. List three examples of physical properties of rocks.
  4. How do the properties of rocks reflect the way they were formed?
  5. How can igneous and metamorphic rock transform into sedimentary rock?ani_thinkingcap.gif
  6. Rocks continually form and change from one kind to another over time. Why does this happen?
  7. Is the rock cycle really a cycle? Explain your answer.
  8. Compare and contrast rocks and minerals.
  9. What are the three most common minerals found in homes?
  10. How do crystals and gemstones form?

Interesting Websites and Multimedia to Explore:

Rocks and Minerals

The Rock Cycle

Geology & Mineralogy of New York State
New York State Museum's Mineral Gallery Displays
The New York State Museum is one of the oldest museums in the United States.
Go on a virtual trip and explore the mineral display cases!

New York State Museum's Virtual Mineral Exhibit
Did you know that meteorites have been found in local towns like Bethlehem and Schaghticoke?
Check out the Virtual Mineral Exhibit to find out more interesting local facts!

A Walking Tour of the Building Stones of the Empire State Plaza
Discover the geology right in the heart of downtown Albany!
What types of rocks are used in the construction of this building?

Iconic New York Geological Localities
Rocks in different shapes, sizes, colors and ages.
Which parks and local places on this list have you visited?

Other Helpful and Interesting Resources
United States Geological Survey (USGS) - Ask A Geologist!
USGS Multimedia Gallery - How A Geologist's Field Notes Look Like
Ology: Grow Your Own Rock Candyyou_rock.jpg