One of the 5th-grade Virginia science standards is all about geology. Some of the geology lessons included as part of this unit are—
- plate tectonics
- the rock cycle
- weathering, erosion, and deposition
The first time I ever had to teach this geology SOL, I thought it was going to be the most boring science unit of the school year. How could teaching about rocks possibly be fun? But, I sure was wrong! Geology quickly became one of my favorite science SOLs to teach. In this blog post, I’ll share some of my favorite geology lessons to bring rocks, plate movements, and fossils to life in your classroom.
Easy Rock Cycle Model
One of the reasons I quickly fell in love with teaching geology to upper elementary students is because there are so many low-prep experiments and models that make the science concepts easy to understand. Many of the geology experiments and models I use require few materials and little prep time, but they do an excellent job of teaching the science SOL.
For example, you can model the rock cycle with just three Starburst candies and access to a microwave. I think it works best when each of the Starburst candies are a different color.
- Sedimentary Rock: Rip or cut the Starburst candies into small pieces. Stick the small pieces together, forming a small ball.
- Metamorphic Rock: Put the small ball between your hands. Use heat and pressure from your hands to roll the pieces together or flatten the ball.
- Igneous Rock: Put the Starburst candy in the microwave for a few seconds. The candy will melt into a liquid and harden.
You can watch the entire process in this short video:
This geology experiment and many others are included in my detailed geology unit plans.
Easy Plate Tectonics Models
The rock cycle is not the only geology lesson that is easy and fun for students to model. There are also several fun ways to model plate movements and plate tectonics.
One of the science SOLs requires students to explain how Earth’s internal energy causes the movement of material within the Earth. The best way to model this concept is with a boiling pot of water and a few puzzle pieces.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil.
- As you wait for the water to boil, put a few puzzle pieces together.
- When the water comes to a rolling boil, place the puzzle pieces on top of the water.
- Discuss what happens.
Students should observe that thermal energy causes the water to boil and move. As the water boils, it breaks the puzzle into pieces and the pieces spread out. This concept can easily be related to how energy from the Earth causes plates to move.
Convergent, divergent, and transform boundaries are also part of the geology lessons included with the 5th-grade science SOLs.
The best way to model these plate movements is with graham crackers and frosting. The graham crackers represent Earth’s plates and the frosting represents magma and materials within the Earth.
- Put a large dab of frosting on a paper plate or paper towel.
- Gently, place two graham crackers on top of the frosting. The graham crackers should be side-by-side.
- Instruct students to model each type of plate movement with the graham crackers. Discuss what happens to graham crackers and frosting during each movement.
Students should relate each movement to its effects. For example, by pushing the graham crackers together (convergent boundary), the graham crackers can overlap. This can be related to how mountains form.
More Easy Geology Experiments
The models I’ve listed above are just a few easy ways to model geology concepts in the classroom. There are so many more experiments that you can incorporate into your geology lessons to illustrate the rock cycle, weathering, plate movements, and fossils.
I’ve modeled how to carry out three more experiments and models in the following video. The video features the following–
- fossil formation experiment
- rock cycle model
- weathering and erosion experiment
Geology Books for Kids
Today, there are lots of books that teach kids about geology in fun ways. You can find everything from rock identification books to comics about the rock cycle.
I’ve published a geology book for kids that has a little bit of everything. It has chapters with geology lessons that use lots of models and illustrations. It also has lots of simple experiments for the classroom or home and a rock identification guide.
When writing this book, I made sure to cover all of the 5th-grade geology SOLs so that Virginia teachers can use it in their classrooms. You can learn more about the book HERE.
Geology Activities and Games for Review
The best way to end your geology lessons is with fun review games. Some of my favorites are escape room activities, Jeopardy games, and task card games.
Geology Escape Room
I love using escape rooms in my science classroom. They are a great way to incorporate a variety of skills into science and get students up and moving.
My Geology Escape Room comes with six puzzles and activities to help students review all of the concepts from the geology SOL. Some of the activities include matching games, using a key to complete models, and solving problems with a dichotomous key. You can find my Geology Escape Room HERE.
Geology Jeopardy Game
Jeopardy games are a fun, no-prep way to review information. Students love using my Geology Jeopardy Game at the end of the unit or before state testing.
The Jeopardy game features five categories, totaling 25 questions. The presentation is coded so that students can easily navigate between the category board, questions, and answers. They can also type points into a scoreboard, even when in presentation mode. My Geology Jeopardy Game comes with two versions—one for PowerPoint and one for Google Slides. You can find the game HERE.
The following video is a short tutorial that shows how my science Jeopardy games work.
Geology Task Cards
When I am in a time crunch and need to throw together a quick review activity, task cards are my go-to. I love task cards because they require zero prep time. There are also so many games you can play with task cards so that students don’t get tired of playing the same games all the time.
My Geology Task Cards come with 28 task cards that model the types of questions that students may see on the science SOL test. The resource includes a PDF version and a self-checking, digital version for Google Forms. You can find the task cards HERE.
If you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place and need some fun geology lessons to crack the ice (get it!?😜), you’ve come to the right place!
The geology science SOL is one of the most fun units to teach throughout the school year because there are so many fun experiments, models, and games you can use to teach the concepts. In addition to the experiments and models I have shared here, you can find even more engaging ideas in my detailed geology unit plans. This unit provides step-by-step instructions for teaching each lesson, worksheets, experiments, digital activities, assessments, and word wall cards.
I also have lots of fun geology review games in my store including an escape room, a Jeopardy game, and task cards.
With everything I’ve shared here, you’re now fully prepared to “ROCK” your geology lessons!
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