Sunday, October 28, 2012

Dirt Detectives (Geology for grades K - 2)

Here's the info covering the last three weeks of my Dirt Detectives class:

Week 6:

We finished up the rock cycle by talking about igneous rocks and how they form.  We reviewed all the parts of the rock cycle.  They also created a mini-book on the rock cycle. 

We had to sample a better conglomeration of sedimentary turned to metamorphic rock.  I put a dish of layered chocolate chips, coconut chips, M&M's and marshmallows (all organic, at least, LOL) into the oven to get a better heat change reaction than I got with a hot plate. 

They finished up their mini science notebooks that they've been keeping and took those home.

I used the "types of rock flap" from Homeschool Share's Volcano Lapbook, but you could use lots more of these in a study of rocks (it's not just about volcanoes):

I created a double-sided worksheet in order to review with them and they took that home to complete:

One side had a simple diagrams of the three types of rock, and the other was a review of rocks and minerals:


[Thanks so much to MS Nucleus and Home Training (Science) Tools, who have provided quality hsing materials for years! 

I used MS Nucleus's secondary level geology study with my own son when we covered geology in middle school, and I've used parts of their work this year with my classes, as well.  I bought their rock sample kits years ago, and those have proved invaluable in teaching my classes this year, as I've used them each week to show the children samples of a large variety of the different rock types so that we can talk about differences in rocks.  I used the sand samples more than any of the others with this younger class, but my middle class has used every kit! 

Home Science Tools has been my go-to store for any type of science supply that we've needed in our home over our fourteen years of homeschooling.  I don't know what we would have done without them!  Carolina Biological might carry more inventory, but it is way too expensive and items don't come in units created for individuals or small groups, so HST has proved an invaluable aid!  They offer beautiful, large rock kits and a large variety of other geology supplies.  I have relied on them extensively over the years for chemicals of all types, as well, not to mention prepared slides for biology studies....  And they are the best source around for microscopes of all types!]

I provided them with samples of granite (2), scoria, and pumice to take home.  We of course tested the pumice for floatability - so that meant the granite and scoria had to be tested, too!

I asked parents to have the children tell them about their rock samples before they forgot what they were, and asked that they please consider making index cards with info about the rocks to keep in the bags with them so that later they could review.

In order to prepare for our last two classes covering the layers of the earth and plate tectonics (I really didn't cover that complex subject in much detail with them), I asked that they consider reading:

Home on the Earth: A Song About Earth's Layers, Laura Salas

Planet Earth, Daniel Gilpin

...and if these wouldn't be too scary for them:

Why Do Earthquakes Happen? Wil Mara

Perfect Storm, Calliope magazine issue that covers various types of weather that may be impacted by plate tectonics, etc.

I also asked that they consider attending the UK Geology Dept. open house and I attended, as well.  Several of my students did go and it was a great evening, as usual!

Week 7:

We completed a last review of the full rock cycle.  This is the rock cycle diagram I used with them. I cut out all the parts and had a blank piece of paper labeled "rock cycle." We picked a starting point (sediments, since that's where we started the class), and went from there, adding the different rocks first, then adding the info blocks telling how one rock type changes into another.

During last class and this one, we also used a simple little set of cards/definitions I copied and laminated in order to talk about the three types of rocks and weathering/erosion.  I used little card sets like this throughout the class as a way for them to play simple matching games while we talked about vocabulary important to our topic. 

We wrapped up by completing a double-sided worksheet on their favorite type of rock from all those we had looked at in our classes (on one side) and they drew a picture of one rock type and one mineral type on the other, as we reviewed the difference between rocks and minerals.  Here are the pages I used to create this worksheet:

(Comparing How Minerals are Different than Rocks)


(My Favorite Type of Rock) - both of these are from

I then went through a simple illustration of the layers of the earth with them, adding the outer core to a diagram I downloaded from ABC Teach:

After talking more about the various layers, they completed this diagram about the different layers:

For all such work that we did throughout the class, if we had time, then I allowed them to color or at least begin coloring their work (at their request), but if we didn't then I let them take that home to complete.  In order to save time in class, I always had all the parts of any diagrams or worksheets cut out so that all they had to do was glue them in place.  I put each person's kit in a little Ziploc bag (and I re-used those bags to send home rock samples, etc. throughout the class, too).

I did discuss the Magnetosphere created by the spinning outer core, as well as the convection currents created in the Mantle.  It was in the context of this last that I talked just a wee bit about the earth's tectonic plates.  I use an old Nat Geo map that shows the tectonic plates and volcanoes/earthquakes of the world.  I got it laminated years ago and so I can write on it with dry or wet erase markers, then clean it off again.

Suggested reading for the last class:

Volcanoes, Seymour Simon (Mr. Simon also has an educational website where he provides lesson plans for teachers, including parents of homeschoolers - you just need to register with him. He has created a lot of great science related books. Most contain tons of great photographs.)

Volcanoes, Franklyn Branley (main author of many of the Let's-Read-and-Find-out-About-Science series of books)

The Eruption of Krakatoa, Rupert Matthews

Earthquake Games, Matthys Levy - this book contains lots of experimental activities you can do together to learn more about earthquakes. We own it and have had fun with it!

Volcano, Ellen Prager

Welcome to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Teri and Bob Temple

Inside Volcanoes, Melissa Stewart

Eruption! The Story of Volcanoes, Anita Ganeri

Our Changing Planet: How Volcanoes, Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and Weather Shape our Planet (Scholastic, vol. 17)

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Margaret Hall

Mt. St. Helens Volcano: Violent Eruption, Carmen Bredeson

This is long, but might also prove interesting to them: Diving to a Deep Sea Volcano, Kenneth Mallory

Tsunami: Helping Each Other, Ann Morris - use discretion with all these as this topic may be too disturbing for younger children....

Tidal Waves Wash Away Cities, Kate Perry (I Didn't Know series)

Tsunamis, Thomas Adamson

Earthquakes, Ellen Prager

Earthquakes, Franklyn Branley

Danger! Earthquakes, Seymour Simon

I made suggestions for them to make their own volcanoes and bring them to class if they wanted.  The best thing I've found to do this is Crayola's air dry clay.  I suggested small bottles so that less clay would be needed.  These can be spray painted after they dry and this paint can be renewed over time as the vinegar wears it away with use.  I already owned three different volcanoes we had created over the years (one each of the three main types; with the strato including side vents).  I set these up ahead of time to be ready to explode, and kept extra baking soda and vinegar on hand for the rest of the volcanoes.  For the shield volcano, I actually used a half round of Styrofoam with a hole hollowed out inside to fit a very small juice glass.  The larger vent demonstrates the even flow that may characterize shield volcanoes....

Last Class (8):

We had to go out with a big bang, of course, so we talked a little more about plate tectonics, reviewing the layers of the earth and getting into a little more depth on plate movements (looking more at the above mentioned map on this date), then moved on to volcanoes.

I got into talking about the five basic types of mountains, showing them some little models I've made out of clay (fold vs. fault block), or using simple models created with two hand towels coming together (for folded mountains), my hands (to illustrate a plutonic dome forming), etc.  I always keep a small white board handy, too, for drawing illustrations/diagrams as we talk and I use this throughout all my classes.

I saved volcanoes for last and talked to them about the 3 main types (shield, cinder cone, and composite or stratovolcanoes).  They created a volcano flip book.  I will try to take a picture of this at some point and post it, but it is very simple, really. 

I take large sheets of brown construction paper (I'm not sure on the size, but the length is about 17 inches, I guess - I get these from art/craft supply stores) and make a triple fold (folding in first one side, then the other).  I then cut around the top (one end) to make a mountain shape.

I have a form I made years ago that fits the middle of this booklet when you open it up, so I just made multiple copies for the class and cut them out.  I just drew a shape that would fit inside the middle of the booklet and then drew a magma chamber at the bottom with various conduits coming up out of the volcano. 

I also created a form for smoke, with a small flap on the bottom so that it could be attached with glue coming out of the mountain at the top.  I copied and cut these out for the class.

I've done different things in past, but this time I found bits of info from the USGS on volcanoes and transferred them to a Word document, then changed the margins so that they would fit on the flaps on either side. 

On one side, I have info on where volcanoes occur, including a small map showing the Ring of Fire, as well as info bits.  This includes Hot Spot volcanoes, as well as those occurring at plate boundaries.

On the other side, there are info bits about how volcanoes erupt.  This includes info on magma vs. lava, explosive vs. non-explosive, etc.

They had just enough time to glue the pieces together, but had to take these home to finish them as we had "real" volcanoes to explode!  (I didn't even get to earthquakes and tsunamis!)

We lined all the volcanoes (mine and theirs) up on my driveway and "exploded" them, noting differences in eruption types and experimenting with stopping up the main vent on the stratovolcano so that we could see the side vents spew (as well as a crack that has developed in the side - great learning!)  I left them exploding and experimenting as I went off to teach my next class.  Every volcano was a slightly different shape and exploded slightly differently, so I think they were all delighted.

My parting gift to them was a stick of "rock candy"(what else, LOL?) and a small Dover sticker book on rock identification:

<p class="pzoomtext">See larger image</p>

It was the first time I've ever taught to such a young group, but I had a lot of fun with it!


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