Igneous Rock Activities

Instructor: Josh Corbat

Josh has taught Earth Science and Physical Science at the High School level and holds a Master of Education degree from UNC-Chapel Hill.

Thinking about adding a few activities to your rocks unit? You've come to the right place! This lesson includes ideas for activities that will engage students in learning about igneous rocks in fun, meaningful ways.

Igneous Rocks: Born from Magma

Students tend to struggle a bit when learning about metamorphic and sedimentary rocks. It's hard to imagine a rock changing over time due to heat and pressure, and the idea that rocks can start out as tiny particles is quite complex.

Igneous rocks, though, are usually a bit more straightforward for students to think about. Magma from within the Earth cools and hardens, creating igneous rocks. A hot material cooling into a solid is easy to think about; candles do this when wax solidifies, after all. The activities that follow are designed to help students explore the wide variety of igneous rocks and the unique qualities they possess.

Be sure to read each description carefully; some of the activities require very specific materials. For your planning convenience, materials needed are listed at the start of each activity.

Make Your Own Rock Activity

  • A variety of old, used crayons
  • A heat source (like an oven or a hot plate)
  • Aluminum foil (one piece per student)
  • Popsicle sticks (one per student)

Especially for younger students, this activity is an effective way to introduce how igneous rocks form. The process of melting the crayons and allowing them to re-solidify can help to start the conversation about the formation of igneous rocks.

1.) First, have students choose a few old, used crayons and remove any remaining pieces of the labels.

2.) Then, heat the crayons until they are melted. (You will likely want to do that part for them.)

3.) As the crayons are heating, have each student create a small box out of aluminum foil by folding up the sides.

4.) Pour the liquid wax into the foil boxes and have students use their popsicle sticks to mix it around a bit.

5.) Allow the wax to cool, after which students will have a simulated igneous rock!

Igneous Rock Identification

  • Samples of igneous rocks
  • Rock identification equipment (streak plates, metal files, glass plates, magnifying lenses, etc.)
  • Internet access

If you have the equipment and rock samples available, having students perform an identification activity is a valuable way for them to explore igneous rocks. You can have students do this activity either individually or in groups, but groups typically work best for this inquiry-based exploration.

1.) First, have students search the Internet for information about the unique qualities of igneous rocks.

2.) Next, have students share the characteristics they find and write the most important ones on the board.

3.) Then, give students plenty of time to identify each of the rock samples you provide.

4.) Throughout the activity, remind students that they must be able to justify their choices with data from the activity and the Internet.

Pumice Boats Activity

  • Several small samples of pumice that can float in water
  • Aluminum foil (at least one piece per student)
  • Pennies or other small, uniform objects (at least five per student)

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