A Geology Unit Study

My 6-year-old is a total rock hound. He loves all the rocks and probably has more rocks than all of his other nature treasures combined. Heck, he probably has more rocks than he has toys. What better way to indulge a child’s love of rocks, than to do a geology unit study with them!?

I’ve noticed my 6-year-old’s love of rocks for a while and encourage his natural curiosity and exploration, but I’ve been really hesitant to do a geology unit study with him for one big reason. I know almost nothing about rocks. Sure, I notice the difference between the multitude of rocks he shows me daily, but beyond noticing the differences I know nothing.

I finally embraced rock hound nerdiness and I am so incredibly happy I did.

Here is how we spent the last week doing school. The best part? This study can be done by anyone in any place. As long as you have access to a few rocks.

I would also like to quickly note, that the vast majority, if not all, of this could be done outside. We unfortunately had a week of really cold and rainy weather, so we did our geology study primarily indoors.

This post may contain some affiliate links – these do not cost you anything extra, but will give me a tiny amount of money if you purchase a book from the link.


Lesson Break Down

Lesson 1 – Go on a Rock Hunt
Lesson 2 – Sorting, Counting, and Graphing
Lesson 3 – Examining the Rocks
Lesson 4 – Identifying the Rocks
Lesson 5 – Creating a Rock Display
Lesson 6 – A Rock Story
Lesson 7 – Mining for Minerals


Lesson 1 – Go on a Rock Hunt

We began our with our morning basket, which included a breif overview of our school plans for the week and a book. On this morning we read Let’s Rock: Science Adventures with Rudie the Origami Dinosaur by Eric Braun. This book is free on Kindle Unlimited, so it was perfect to begin our week long study.

For our rock hunt, I picked a random trail near our home for the week in the Kernsville area of California. I knew nothing about this trail, except what was provided on All Trails. It turns out Bull Creek Run Trail was a great place to hunt for rocks.

Initially, I limited the number of rocks we could collect to 10 each. This was quickly met, so I allowed 20 each. So we had 40 rocks to carry back to the truck. No easy feat, but we managed.

When we got home we looked at the rocks, but we didn’t do anything specific with them. The kids knew they would get to examine them all week, so they were satisfied with not doing anything further on this day.

Typical educational subjects met:

Reading – We read a book about rocks together.
Science – Our read aloud book contained factual information about rocks.
Math – The kids counted their rocks often to ensure they were remaining within the allotted 20 each.
PE – We hiked 1.2 miles and spent a solid hour and a half outside.


Lesson 2 – Sorting, Counting, and Graphing

On day two my kids were so excited to dive on into the next rock lesson. They enthusiastically pulled out their 40 rocks and then the 6-year-old added a ton from his collection to the mix too. We had far too many. I highly recommend using less.

We again began with our morning routine, which included an overview of the days activities and another themed book. This day we read Scavenger Scout: Rock Hound: Seek-and-Find Book for Kids Who Love Rocks by Shelby Wilde. Again this was available to us for free on Kindle Unlimited, so that is part of the reason we chose it.

Sorting

Next we began sorting the rocks. For this I literally told the kids to sort them into any category they wanted and I gave examples of color, texture, size, and shape. But in hindsight, it may be more fun if you don’t give them any direction and see what their minds come up with. My two little humans decided on color and texture.

Counting

Once they sorted them, they counted them. The 6-year-old tackled the larger piles, while the 3-year-old counted the smaller ones.

I acted as the official notetaker during this whole process. I thought it would be fun to use a small 10 page blank book as a science journal to document our geology study. I wrote down the categories, but asked the 6-year-old to write down each number.

Graphing

I then created bar graphs for the two groups of rocks (color and texture) and helped the 6-year-old color in each data set. After we finished, we briefly discussed how the graph showed all the hard work he did collecting data on his rocks.

The final thing we did was select 10 rocks from the giant pile that we would use the following day for further examination. Again, this was a lot. I would suggest selecting 5 for the in-depth examination.

Typical educational subjects met:

Reading – We read a book together.
Science – The read aloud book contained factual information about rocks.
Math – The kids sorted their rocks into two different categories, counted their rocks in each category, and then helped to graph the data.
Writing – The 6-year-old wrote each number down in our science journal.


Lesson 3 – Examining the Rocks

For this lesson, my 6-year-old was so excited we completely bypassed our regular morning basket and dove right on into rock examination. We grabbed our 10 rocks and didn’t think twice!

I first asked what we should examine and record. The 6-year-old said color, smell, and if it is magnetic or not. I offered some additional ideas and we came up with this list to include for each of our 10 rocks.

  • Color
  • Texture
  • Smell
  • Details when magnified
  • Does light shine through?
  • Is it magnetic?
  • Mohs Hardness Scale (see image above)

Again, I acted as the designated note taker and allowed him to explore each rock and dictate his findings to me. I decided to use the Mohs Hardness Scale (pictured above) because I knew trying the different scratch tests would be a neat addition to the activity. This hardness scale is used for minerals, which not all of our rocks were. I did explain this to my little humans, but they absolutely loved using their fingernail, a penny, and a knife to try and make a small mark on each rock.

I also wrote numbers 1-10 on a piece of construction paper for us to display the 10 rocks on after we finished collecting our data. After we finished each rock, we placed it next to it’s number. The numbers on the paper and in our science journal match. This way, if we wanted to look up any information about the rocks, we could.

The 6-year-old was blown away by this idea. If we were stationary longer, I would absolutely have left the rocks on display for a long while and found ways to go back to our science journal often to really bring the connection home.

Typical educational subjects met:

Science – We did an entire science data collection and experiment process together.
Math – There was some counting and some number matching.


Lesson 4 – Identifying the Rocks

For this we selected 5 of the 10 rocks we worked with yesterday. I suggested selecting a range and picking the ones that were different from each other. This is not necessary.

We then dove into our geology guidebooks and when we failed to find a rock that matched what we were holding in our hands, I searched the internet. The internet proved more useful for us. But again, I know so very little about geology and rock identification, that the guidebook is hard for me to use. For me, I feel this models trying something new and when you fail finding another way to find a solution.

After we identified each of the 5 rocks, I recorded their names in our science journal and then on a blank piece of paper had the 6-year-old write each name.

And because the 6-year-old is not yet reading geology guidebooks or savvy enough to search for rock types on the internet, I gave him another task. I asked him to draw his favorite rock in our science journal.

Typical educational subjects met:

Science – We spent time using our data, the rocks, and guidebooks/internet to identify the rocks.
Writing – The 6-year-old did copy work by writing down each of the rock names on a piece of paper.
Art – The 6-year-old drew his favorite rock.


Lesson 5 – Creating a Rock Display

Because we travel and have limited space to set out labelled displays, I opted to create a hanging display that the 6-year-old could hang in his bunk area. Obviously, if you have more space or your house doesn’t move, selecting to have a display on a shelf or designated science area would be wonderful too!

To create our hanging display, I had the 6-year-old paint a piece of canvas that I am pretty sure I got at the dollar store months ago and had forgotten about. You don’t need anything fancy. Cardboard was my go to, but then I found the canvas.

After the paint dried, we used a hot glue gun to stick the rocks on the canvas and then I asked the 6-year-old to read each rock name and match them to the rocks. The rock names are not easy words, so I made sure to help him be successful. I think it turned out so well!

Typical educational subjects met:

Art – The 6-year-old painted, cut, and glued his rock display.
Reading – The 6-year-old worked on sounding out each rock name.
Science – We reinforced learning the rock types, by matching the rocks to their names.


Lesson 6 – A Rock Story

I am a lover of the written word and I strongly believe writing is something everyone should learn to do well. So I encourage writing and story telling in our activities whenever I can squeeze them in.

For this lesson, we began our day by watching a video of someone reading a book I desperately wish we had. Without access to a library and if I don’t plan lessons out far in advance, we rely on the wonderful book readers of YouTube to squeeze more books into our lives. The book we watched is A Rock Is Lively by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long. Now I chose this book, because it is simple, the pictures are glorious, and the information is wonderful!

But more than that, the book tells a story about rocks and introduces us to even more geology words. Since today’s focus is on storytelling, I wanted to make sure the story we heard was well written, simple, and informative.

Now, my 6-year-old is wonderful at sharing real events that he was in some way a part of, but he struggles to make up a story. And when he has good ideas, he gets frustrated when asked to write anything down. I stumbled upon the Brave Writer program via the book The Brave Learner by Julie Bogart and absolutely love her idea about jotting it down for kids ages 5-8.

What is “Jotting it down?”

Basically, because at this age children can speak and share all sorts of stories, but are not reading well or their writing hasn’t caught up to their oral abilities, parents can jot down their stories for them. This process enables children to see their stories in writing and emphasizes the connection between their words and writing.

So, that is exactly what I did. I asked him to tell me a story about one of the rocks on his display board and I jotted it down in our science journal. I will not lie, this was not his favorite part and he fought the process. He did, however, eventually give it a whirl and was excited with the results.

Pro Tip: Keep the stories your children write (or that they narrate and you write down) visible and read them aloud to your kids often. Both my children smile gloriously when I choose to read one of their stories right along side our book selection.

Typical educational subjects met:

Language Arts – The activity of telling a story reinforces the important elements in a story.
Writing- The 6-year-old wrote the story title and “the end.”
Art – After finishing his story, he went back and added some illustrations.


Lesson 7 – Mining for Minerals

This is a completely optional activity that we just happened to stumble upon. The campground we were at near Kernville, California had a mineral mining station for anyone to use. They sell bags of sand loaded with minerals and fossils for you to sift through at their mining station.

Not only is this a fun activity, but it really made the whole week of rock study that much more special. And pretty much every time they found a new mineral or fossil, they used the display located next to the mining station to identify their finds.

It was a perfect way to end our unit on geology. Doug (their dad) took them on this adventure and snapped the above wonderful photos.

Typical educational subjects met:

Science – Identifying the minerals the children found.
Immersive learning – This hands-on fieldtrip-like activity provided a little further demonstration of geological science.



This is obviously not a full geology study. We touched on how the Earth is made up of rocks and we talked about the different types of rocks and how they are formed because all of this was included in our book selections for the week.

We will absolutely be doing more geology study units in the future because both of the kids loved it so much and I think we all learned a ton too.

What activities do you think would be a good fit in this unit study?

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