Geological Terms: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Jennifer Lowery

Jennifer has taught elementary levels K-3 and has master's degrees in elementary education and curriculum/instruction and educational leadership.

Geology is the study of natural materials on Earth and processes within the Earth. In this lesson, learn some geological vocabulary, what these terms mean, and how scientists use them to learn more about the materials on our planet.

What is Geology?

Quick! Look around the room where you are right now, and see if you can count how many things are made of metal or stone. It's probably way more than you might have realized. These items are things you enjoy thanks to geology, which includes natural materials found on Earth and processes that take place within the Earth and on its surface. Let's explore some vocabulary words to help you become a geologic scientist!


Are you amazed at volcanic eruptions or earthquakes? So are geologists. Scientists who study geology are interested in a process called plate tectonics. This means that the surface of the Earth is divided into sections, or plates. When these plates move, they create different natural events, like earthquakes. They can also create openings in the surface for hot, molten rock to escape, which creates a volcano.

Volcanoes are examples of geologic processes.

Sedimentary Rocks

Rocks are divided into three main categories. One type is called sedimentary rock. This includes rock that is formed from small bits of other rocks or plants and animals that have died. Some examples of sedimentary rocks include coal and limestone. Over time, sedimentary rocks can layer on top of one another, and this creates something called strata. Strata look like lines along the sides of hills and cliffs, so when you see them you're looking at something that took thousands of years to create.

An example of sedimentary rock
types of rock

Igneous Rocks

What happens to all of that hot, molten magma when it escapes from a volcano and comes onto the Earth's surface? It cools and dries, and becomes igneous rock. This is another category of rocks, and it includes over 700 different rocks! Some examples of igneous rock are granite and shiny black obsidian. One igneous rock, pumice, is actually used to scrub people's feet!

Igneous rock from hardened lava

Metamorphic Rocks

Have you ever seen a marble statue? If so, you were looking at a metamorphic rock, which is the third type of rock. Metamorphic rocks are created from existing rocks that change form due to intense pressure and heat, usually under the Earth's surface. They are pushed onto the Earth by movement of the tectonic plates. Some examples of metamorphic rocks include slate and quartzite.

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