Rock Art 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.

Are you looking to integrate more art into your rocks and minerals unit? This lesson describes several ideas for rock art activities that are sure to stimulate students in the science classroom.

The Push for STEAM Education

You've probably heard of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education. The idea behind STEM is that a strong integration between its component parts will help students become competitive in today's highly analytical world. However, a new push with the addition of art has been gaining momentum lately. STEAM education (you guessed it, the 'A' is for 'art') focuses on the whole child, championing the idea that a well-rounded education includes strong aspects of science, technology, engineering, and math alongside the study and practice of art. STEAM encourages students to take on the creative process in a more holistic way. In the spirit of STEAM education, the activities presented in this lesson are designed to encourage students to look at rocks in a very different manner. By capitalizing on students' creative talents, science topics will be reinforced more deeply than with rote learning.

Sandstone Carvings

  • Small pieces of sandstone
  • Carving tools (metal cutlery works in a pinch)

There is a certain satisfaction that comes from turning a nondescript piece of rock into artwork. Students will become deeply intimate with the concepts of weathering and erosion as they shape a piece of sandstone into anything they can imagine. As sandstone is a medium that very few artists use, it is often not used in school-based art classes. For this reason, students of all artistic abilities can feel comfortable with this activity. As students are working, encourage them to share tips and strategies with their peers. Also encourage them to think of other ways they could carve their sandstone. Be sure to connect all of these discussions back to weathering and erosion. This will ensure that science learning is deeply embedded in the lesson.

Pet Rocks

  • Small rocks (various types)
  • Art supplies
  • Googly eyes
  • Glue

In a throwback to the 1970s trend of pet rocks, have students get up close and personal with a rock. This is a hit with younger students but can also be a fun way to explore rocks with older students. First, have students study the qualities of the rock they chose. Then they can get creative and bring their pet rock to life. Provide students with paints and other art supplies, glue, and googly eyes. You may want to group students by the type of rock they chose and allow each group to present their pet rocks and what they learned about that particular type of rock.

Rock Balancing

  • A large space (outdoors is best)
  • Access to a variety of rocks, large and small
  • Work gloves

Part art form, part meditation, rock balancing is the practice of stacking rocks in creative ways using no adhesives or other materials. The goal is whatever the student desires (e.g. tallest column, an arch, most impossible-looking stack). Apart from requiring that students gain a deep understanding of the texture and other physical properties of rocks, they will be participating in an exercise in patience. Once students are finished with their balancing piece, take high quality photographs to print out and hang around the school. You can also invite other teachers or the administration to view short student presentations of their work.

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