Geology Rocks! Activities and resources to enhance your geology lessons

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.

Geology Rocks

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.

geology activities

Geology Activities

Science Milestones

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.

Science Careers

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

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.

North-Star-GeographyDuring 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.

geology resourcesGeology Resources

Local Clubs

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.

Curriculum

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.

Our Dynamic Earth

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!

 

The Pangea Puzzle, Ice Halos, & Raindrops: The Influence of Alfred Wegener

Ever since the continents were all mapped, people had noticed that many coastlines, like those of South America and Africa, looked as though they would fit together if they could be moved like puzzle pieces.

Alfred WegenerWith his revised publication of The Origin of Continents and Oceans in 1915 (originally published three years prior), Alfred Wegener was one of the first to suggest continental drift and plate tectonics. In his work, he described a ‘super-continent’ he called Pangaea had existed in the past, broke up starting 200 million years ago, and that the “pieces drifted” to their present positions. Citing similar ancient climates, rock structures, and fossil evidence.  [ Frank Taylor, an American scientist, had published a similar theory in 1910 but his work attracted little attention. ]

When continental drift was first proposed by Alfred Wegener in the early 1900s however, it was met with skepticism by the scientific community. The proposal remained controversial until the 1960s, when it became widely accepted over a fairly short period of time. Today, the theory of plate tectonics is key to the study of geology.

However, Wegener is not only the father of the theory of continental drift, he was also the first to describe the process by which most raindrops form. This process is now called the Wegener-Bergeron-Findeisen procedure.

The Pangea Puzzle, Ice Halos, & Raindrops: The Influence of Alfred Wegener @EvaVarga.net

Photo by Greg Clements (Field Studies in Greenland)

During Wegener’s lifetime the process by which cloud particles reach raindrop size was not known, but there was some idea how much rain, even during summer, began as snow in the clouds. In 1784, Benjamin Franklin had suggested this, and in 1904, Wilson A. Bentley, who spent a lifetime studying snow crystals and raindrops, found supporting evidence for the conjecture.

“Perhaps the only thing that saves science is the presence of mavericks in every generation.” ~ Alfred Wegener

In his 1911 publication, The Thermodynamics of the Atmosphere, Wegener noted that ice crystals invariably grow at the expense of super-cooled droplets because the crystals have a lower equilibrium vapor pressure. He then suggested that raindrops might result from this competition between ice crystals and super-cooled cloud droplets. Read more in the article Introducing Precipitation from the Eyewitness Companions: Weather from DK Publishing.

Wegener had hoped to document this process in real clouds, but other projects intervened and he never returned to the subject. Thus, it was left to Tor Bergeron and W. Findeisen to develop and prove the theory in the 1930s.

He also explained two rare ice crystal halo arcs that bear his name as well. Ice crystals often form in the frigid air just above the Greenland ice cap and can produce spectacular halos. In a 1926 article, Wegener explained two relatively rare arcs that appear opposite the sun and are now named in his honor.

Biography

The Pangea Puzzle: The Impact of Alfred Wegener @EvaVarga.netBorn in Berlin on November 1st, 1880, Alfred Wegener, was a German climatologist and geophysicist.

From an early age he took an interest in Greenland. He studied in Germany and Austria, receiving his PhD in astronomy in 1904. No sooner did he finish his dissertation than he dropped astronomy to study meteorology, the new science of weather.

At a time when the conquest of the North and South Pole began to enjoy enormous international public attention, Wegener made his first expedition to Greenland as the official meteorologist on a two-year Danish expedition in 1906.

Wegener experimented with kites and balloons, pioneering the use of balloons to track air circulation. That same year, he and his brother Kurt set a world record in an international balloon contest, flying 52 hours straight. When he returned he took up teaching meteorology at the University of Marburg.

He was the first to use kites and tethered balloons to study the polar atmosphere.

His fourth and final expedition was in 1930 as the leader of a major Danish expedition to Greenland. He celebrated his fiftieth birthday on November 1, but shortly afterwards the team got separated, and he was lost in a blizzard. His body was found halfway between the two camps.

The Pangea Puzzle: The Influence of Alfred Wegener @EvaVarga.netBring it Home

Science MilestonesVisit my Science Milestones page to learn more about scientists whose discoveries and advancements have made a significant difference in our lives or who have advanced our understanding of the world around us.