Sedimentary 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.

Looking for activities to explore sedimentary rock with your students? This lesson contains several ideas for activities that can be modified to fit the needs of your students.

The Importance of Hands-on Learning

It is a common misconception that there isn't a lot to learn about rocks. Students often have the idea that rocks are just inanimate objects with no real history or scientific importance. And when learning about rocks, traditional forms of learning may be too dull to help students understand the scientific importance of rocks to the study of our planet.

For these reasons, it is important to engage students in hands-on learning about rocks whenever possible. The activities below are sure to be engaging to students, and can be modified to fit their needs.

Sedimentary Rock Activities: No Rock Sets Needed

Many of the processes and scientific principles involved with sedimentary rocks can be studied meaningfully without the need of rock sets. The activities listed here are fun and engaging, and can be modified to fit your context.

Jell-O Sedimentary Column

A great way to help students think about the processes of sedimentation and concretion is to have them create a column of 'sedimentary rock' out of food. Jell-O is great for this, since it has to set overnight between each layer, which really hammers home the idea that rock layers cool and set over time. You can also create other food-based sedimentary columns with things like parfaits or pudding snacks, so it might be fun to have students decide how they want to do this. The main scientific principle at work here is the Law of Superposition, which states that each layer on top of another layer is younger.

Sedimentary Rock Puzzles

Looking at diagrams of sedimentary rock layers that have been disturbed and added to over time can often be confusing. If you approach it like a puzzle, however, it can be much more engaging for students. Find some sedimentary column diagrams on the internet (or draw your own!) and distribute them to students. Ask them to figure out which layers are oldest and which are youngest. Be sure to have them explain their reasoning using scientific principles. You could even turn this into a race!

Sedimentary Rock Hunt

Once students have a basic understanding of what sedimentary rocks are, you can do an outdoor rock hunt. Chances are that your school is positioned in an area with plenty of sedimentary rocks. Have students collect rock samples and bring them back to the classroom to perform simple tests to determine if they are sedimentary.

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