Geology is an earth science comprising the study of solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which they change. Often, it can also refer to the study of the solid features of any celestial body (such as the geology of our Moon or Jupiter).
The study of geology is not always easy. Admittedly, I have a hard time identifying rocks. I can generally determine to which of the three rock types the specimen my son finds on the shoreline belongs, but that is about the extent of my identification skill. It is a skill that certainly takes practice.
When teaching geology concepts, I generally focus on the processes of change like plate tectonics and erosion. I know I’m not alone so today, I share a variety of geology activities and resources that you can incorporate into your science curriculum.
Three types of rock:
Igneous rocks are formed when hot magma (melted rock) is rapidly cooled, either by hitting underground air pockets or by flowing from the mouth of a volcano as lava. Granite, obsidian, and pumice are all common examples of igneous rocks. Pumice is a very porous rock, because when the lava cooled, pockets of air were trapped inside. Because of all those air pockets, pumice can actually float!
Sedimentary rocks are formed by layers of sediment (dirt, rock particles, etc.) being mixed and compressed together for extended periods of time. Common examples of these rocks are limestone, sandstone, and shale. Sedimentary rocks often have lots of fossils in them because plants and animals get buried in the layers of sediment and turned into stone.
Metamorphic rocks are a combination of rock types, compressed together by high pressure and high heat. They usually have a more hard, grainy texture than the other two types. Schist, slate, and gneiss (pronounced like ‘nice’) are metamorphic rocks.
My kids love history. I thereby incorporate history of science lessons throughout our science curriculum. Through biographies and non-fiction materials, students can learn about the work of geologists and the impact they have had on our world.
For example, Alfred Wegener is best known for his theory of continental drift. Yet his impact on our understanding of geology is so much more. He was he was also the first to describe the process by which most raindrops form.
Learning about careers in science is another avenue by which students can learn about the work of geologists. My kids recently visited a hydrogeology office and talked with the engineers, water resource specialists, and geologists.
Orienteering is a family of sports that requires navigational skills using a topographical map and compass to navigate from point to point in diverse and usually unfamiliar terrain.
Field Trips & Site Visits
One of the best ways to learn about geology is through field excursions, especially when accompanied by resource specialists. Often national parks provide ranger talks on the geology of the park.
During our week in the Galapagos, our guides interpreted the geology of the archipelago on a daily basis. Seeing evidence of the geological processes we had read about in North Star Geography solidified our understanding volcanic change, erosion, succession, and plate tectonics.
Reach out to the resource specialists at local agencies like the Forest Service and National Association of Conservation Districts to see if they might be willing to guide you on a field experience.
Many local communities have geology clubs that provide an opportunity to connect people who love to share what they know with others. Often local clubs will have an annual show or display – perhaps at a community center or public library.
Our local club collaborates with the community college and interpretive center to offer a monthly lecture series. Topics in the past have included The Tortoise and the Hare: Slow vs. Fast Earthquakes and Parks and Plates: How Earth’s Dynamic Forces Shape our National Parks.
Their passion for mineralogy and geology is contagious. I highly recommend you take advantage of their expertise for your homeschool co-op.
If rock collecting is a hobby you enjoy, consider joining a local rock club. It is a great way to increase your knowledge and get more enjoyment from your hobby.
There is a wide variety of geology curriculum available, some specifically written with homeschoolers in mind. 2015 was the Year of Soils and the USDA provided a wealth of activities and lesson plans to engage students in soil ecology.
The Kansas 4-H Geology Leader Notebook is a comprehensive set of lesson plans for 4-H geology project leaders.
For hands-on geology lessons, check out Our Dynamic Earth is a 10 week hands-on earth science curriculum unit study on the geology of our Earth incorporating scientific inquiry and language arts applications. Available today!