Rocks and Minerals

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R o ck s & M inerals

Hi ghlights From Issue 6 (September 2008) GOODGE. Photo courtesy of John Goodge, U.S. Antarctic Program, National Science Foundation.

Table of Contents

Rocks & Minerals, Issue 6 (September 2008) Science Content Knowledge

The Basics of Rocks and Minerals and Polar Geology

By Julie Codispoti


Literacy Content Knowledge

Determining Importance: Helping Students Recognize Important Points in Content Text

By Tracey Allen and Clarissa Reeson


Feature Story

Reader of the Rocks

By Stephen Whitt



Common Misconceptions about Rocks and Minerals

By Jessica Fries-Gaither


Across the Curriculum: Lessons and Activities

Using Rock Swaps to Teach about Geographic Diversity

By Jessica Fries-Gaither


Science & Literacy: Lessons and Activities

Hands-on Lessons and Activities about Rocks and Minerals

By Jessica Fries-Gaither


Off the Bookshelf


Rocks and Minerals: Virtual Bookshelf

By Kate Hastings


Science Content Knowledge The Basics of Rocks and Minerals and Polar Geology By Julie Codispoti Rocks and minerals make up the earth around us. But what exactly are rocks and minerals? What is the difference between them? How do they form? Where are they found? This article provides content knowledge about minerals, the three types of rocks, the rock cycle, and polar geology as well as online resources for further learning and connections to the National Science Education Standards. MINERALS Minerals, quite simply, are the building blocks for making rocks, and a rock is made up of one or more minerals. When you look at a rock and see different colors, those colors are minerals that make up that specific rock. There are over 3,000 named minerals; however, there are really only about 30 minerals that people who are not geologists will come across or need to concern themselves with. There are four criteria that must be met in order for something to be called a mineral:

1. Not formed from the remains of plants or animals; that is, inorganic 2. Naturally occurring, not manmade 3. Has the same chemical makeup wherever it is found (Ex: Quartz is always SiO2) 4. Has a crystalline structure, which means that it has a specific repeating pattern of atoms. If all four of the criteria are not met, the substance is not a mineral. Therefore, "minerals" made in a lab are not true minerals because they did not occur naturally. Here are a few tests that geologists rely on to identify what minerals they are looking at. • Color - Color is a very common way to try to identify a mineral; however, it should not be used on its own. Because any mineral can be any color, you cannot use color alone to identify a mineral. Color can merely help you. (Or, sometimes, confuse you!) • Shape - Minerals form in certain shapes based on the elements that make them up. Some minerals, such as quartz, only form in one particular shape. Others, such as calcite, can be found in

‘Minerals’ made in a lab are not true minerals because they did not occur naturally.

multiple shapes. Sometimes shape isn't enough and you need to use other tests to help you identify a mineral. • Hardness - How hard or soft a mineral is can tell you right away what mineral it could or could not be. The hardness of minerals is based on the Mohs Hardness Scale, which ranges from 1-10, 1 being the softest and 10 the hardest.

• Streak - The streak of a mineral is simply the color of a powder that's left behind when the mineral is scratched along a white, ceramic, unglazed tile. Even if the color of the mineral itself changes from one specimen to another, the streak color is always the same. • Luster - Luster simply means the way that light reflects off a mineral. Light can make a mineral look very dull or as shiny as a diamond.


Science Content Knowledge There are many other tests that geologists use; however, the tests listed above are usually sufficient for the amateur, and can help you identify the mineral. THE THREE TYPES OF ROCKS All of the rocks on earth are formed in one of three ways.

IGNEOUS ROCK Wonderstone. Photo courtesy of Dave Dyet, Wikimedia Commons.

SEDIMENTARY ROCK Conglomerate. Photo courtesy of Paul Bellah, Picasa Web Albums.

METAMORPHIC ROCK Photo courtesy of Shandchem, Flickr.


Igneous rocks form when magma or lava cools and hardens into a rock. Magma and lava are rocks that are so hot they move like a liquid. Magma is molten rock that is underground; lava is molten rock that is above the ground - and that is the only difference between them. A common igneous rock is granite. It is often used for countertops in homes because of its aesthetic appeal and its durability. Sedimentary rocks can form in one of three main ways. • Clastic sedimentary rocks: These sedimentary rocks form from the breakdown material of other rocks. When a rock is exposed to the elements, it will begin to erode. The small pieces that break off during erosion will collect in oceans and lakes. Over enough time and with enough pressure, these pieces will be compressed and cemented together to form a larger rock. This larger rock is a clastic sedimentary rock. A perfect

example of this kind of sedimentary rock is a conglomerate. It is easy to see that this rock formed from the breakdown materials of other rocks. • Chemical sedimentary rocks: These sedimentary rocks are formed when mineral-rich water evaporates and leaves material behind. An example is halite. Halite is formed when sea water evaporates and leaves behind the salt, which then hardens. • Organic sedimentary rocks: These sedimentary rocks are formed from fossils. They are formed from the hard parts of dead organisms, such as bones and shells, which are cemented together and form into a rock. Some organisms' hard parts are made of calcium and form a sedimentary rock called a limestone. Some organisms' hard parts are made of silica and they will form a sedimentary rock called chert. Coal is another organic sedimentary rock. It forms when plants die and are buried deep in the earth, where they are put under great pressure. Over enough time the pressure will change the plant remains into coal. Metamorphic rocks are formed when a rock is buried deep in the earth and is

Science Content Knowledge

subjected to extreme pressure and heat. The pressure and heat causes the minerals in the rock to change into different minerals. This ends up changing the rock into a completely different rock. We call rocks that have been changed from one rock to another by pressure and heat metamorphic rocks. A good example of a metamorphic rock is gneiss (pronounced like "nice"). Gneiss is granite that has been put under extreme pressure and heat, which caused the rock to change into something different, a gneiss. Sometimes granite and gneiss can look very similar. One distinguishing characteristic of gneiss is its banding. Due to the pressure and heat that the granite is subjected to, similar minerals in the rock begin to align with each other, producing the bands in gneiss. This feature is known as gneissic banding.

THE ROCK CYCLE The rock cycle helps to explain how rocks are formed from other rocks. The cycle is shown in the picture above. You will typically see a picture similar to this one when looking for diagrams of the rock cycle. It can be pretty difficult to follow rock formation in a circular pattern, so you may want to think of the pattern as more of a rock triangle than a rock cycle.

Looking at the rock cycle in this way helps you to realize that the cycle doesn't necessarily move around in a nice circle. If you are looking at the USGS rock cycle diagram, it appears as though the cycle goes: igneous forms sedimentary rocks, which form metamorphic rocks, which form back into igneous rocks. However, this is misleading. The triangle diagram shows how one type of rock can form any other type of rock. For example, starting at the top of the triangle, you can see that "Igneous" goes to both "Sedimentary" and "Metamorphic." This tells you that an igneous rock can make either a sedimentary or a metamorphic rock, depending on the forces that act upon it. One thing that helps the rock cycle along is the movement of the earth's plates. The earth's crust is broken up into several plates that float and slowly move around on top of the mantle. These plates move due to


Science Content Knowledge

Tectonic plates movement. Illustration courtesy of USGS, Wikimedia Commons.

convection currents in the earth's mantle. Places where hot magma rises up from the center of the earth cause the plates to spread apart from each other. These areas are known as divergent plate boundaries or rifts. One of the best examples of this type of plate boundary is the Mid-Atlantic Ridge in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. This ridge is slowly causing North and South America to move farther and farther away from Europe and Africa. Places where the magma is cooling and begins to descend toward the earth's core bring continental crust down with them. These areas are known as convergent margins or subduction zones. Because of the collision, these are areas in which deep trenches will form at the bottom of the ocean. The most famous trench is the 6

Mariana Trench, located several hundred miles southeast of Japan, near Guam. This trench is the deepest part of the ocean, reaching almost seven miles below sea level. It is formed by the collision of two oceanic plates; the less dense Pacific Plate is subducted under the more dense Philippine Plate. Rocks that are pulled down with the crust are put under extreme pressure and heat, which will cause them to turn into metamorphic rocks. If they are pulled down far enough, the heat and pressure may cause the rocks to melt into magma, which will then rise up toward the surface and cool as igneous rocks. Plate tectonics helps to recycle earth's rocks and to create new ones.

POLAR GEOLOGY Many geologists travel down to the South Pole to do research in Antarctica. Despite being a very cold, very windy, and seemingly desolate place, Antarctica holds a lot of clues to the past. Nearly 98 percent of Antarctica is covered in ice and snow, leaving only about 2 percent that is exposed rock. But these rocks can tell geologists a great deal about Antarctica's past, which ultimately tells us about the earth's past. Antarctica contains one of the longest mountain ranges in the world. The Transantarctic Mountains span a distance of nearly 3,000 miles and cut the continent into West Antarctica and East Antarctica. These mountains rise high above the surrounding snow and ice and even contain dry valleys - areas that are ice free.

Science Content Knowledge The Transantarctic Mountains are made mostly of a sedimentary rock that is known to Antarctic geologists as Beacon sandstone. This sandstone is between 200 to 400 million years old. There are areas where the sandstone has been intruded by a layer of igneous rock called dolerite. This is the result of volcanic activity, approximately 180 million years ago, that caused molten rock to be injected between layers of sandstone. Antarctica used to be part of the supercontinent Pangaea. Pangaea is the name given to the enormous landmass that existed millions of years ago when all of the continents were together as one supercontinent. The climate of Antarctica was very different from how we know it today. Antarctica was warm, with lush vegetation and animals that thrived. This all changed when Pangaea began to break

apart. It broke into two smaller supercontinents; Laurasia in the Northern Hemisphere and Gondwanaland, or Gondwana, in the Southern Hemisphere. Antarctica along with South America, Africa, India and Australia comprised Gondwana. After a few million years, Gondwana and Laurasia began to break down into smaller continents, which eventually became the continents as we know them today. When Antarctica broke away from Gondwana, ocean circulation patterns changed. This change in circulation had a tremendous effect on the climate of Antarctica. It became cold, and the plants and creatures living there could no longer survive. Some left behind their fossils for us to find. Each type of rock, whether igneous, sedimentary or metamorphic, can be found in

Antarctica. The rocks found in Antarctica really aren't any different from the rocks found elsewhere in the world. Antarctica rocks may have formed under different conditions, but they are essentially the same as rocks on other continents. The significance of these rocks, then, is their ability to tell of an Antarctica quite different from what we know today.

This Dynamic Earth: The Story of Plate Tectonics. Photo courtesy of USA: United States Geological Survey, Wikimedia Commons.


Science Content Knowledge RESOURCES Rocks for Kids: Identifying Minerals identification.html Explains the difference between rocks and minerals and the properties of minerals. The site also includes a list of field guides and books on rocks and minerals. Mineral Matters: How to Identify Minerals Provides an overview of the physical properties used to identify minerals. This site is appropriate for upper-elementary students as well as teachers. Rocks, Minerals, Technology, and Society science.aspx This Explore in Depth publication from the Middle School Portal of the National Science Digital Library provides background information for teachers. Ask GeoMan: The 3 Basic Rock Types geoQuerry13.html An overview of igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks and their characteristics.

Antarctica: Castle Rock Adventure. Photo courtesy of elisfanclub, Flickr.


Rock Hounds: How Rocks Are Created index.html Animations and concise explanations of the formation of sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous rock. The Rock Cycle earthsysflr/rock.html A one-page overview of the rock cycle. Interactive Rock Cycle Animation terc/content/investigations/es0602/ es0602page02.cfm This cutaway view of earth shows where some common rock-forming processes occur. Embedded animations illustrate the path of a rock moving through the rock cycle. Antarctica Geology antarctica_geology.asp An overview of the continent's geologic features. Antarctic Connection: Geology science/geology.shtml A description of Antarctica's geologic history and geologic features.

Science Content Knowledge NATIONAL SCIENCE EDUCATION STANDARDS: SCIENCE CONTENT STANDARDS A study of rocks and minerals aligns with the Earth and Space Science Content Standard for grades K-4 and 5-8. K-4 Earth and Space Science Properties of Earth Materials • Earth materials are solid rocks and soils, water, and the gases of the atmosphere. The varied materials have different physical and chemical properties, which make them useful in different ways, for example, as building materials, as sources of fuel, or for growing the plants we use as food. Earth materials provide many of the resources that humans use. 5-8 Earth and Space Science

forces include crustal deformation, volcanic eruption, and deposition of sediment, while destructive forces include weathering and erosion. • Some changes in the solid earth can be described as the "rock cycle." Old rocks at the earth's surface weather, forming sediments that are buried, then compacted, heated, and often recrystallized into new rock. Eventually, those new rocks may be brought to the surface by the forces that drive plate motions, and the rock cycle continues. Read the entire National Science Education Standards online for free or register to download the free PDF. The content standards are found in Chapter 6, record_id=4962&page=103.

Structure of the Earth System • Land forms are the result of a combination of constructive and destructive forces. Constructive

Antarctica: Hike to Castle Rock. Photo courtesy of elisfanclub, Flickr.


Literacy Content Knowledge Determining Importance: Helping Students Recognize Important Points in Content Text By Tracey Allen and Clarissa Reeson Determining importance is a strategy that readers use to distinguish between what information in a text is most important versus what information is interesting but not necessary for understanding. This practical reading strategy enables students to distinguish between the most and least important information presented in textbooks and nonfiction reading. Although teachers find this strategy difficult for many students to accurately execute, it is essential to comprehending complicated nonfiction text. As teachers we need to explicitly and systematically teach our students how to extract the most important information they read. To help students make connections with the strategy of determining importance, we bring a bag filled with camping items to the classroom. We tell the students that they must choose five of the most


important items needed for an imaginary camping trip and list a compelling reason for each item chosen. Once the students have had the opportunity to select and think about their chosen supplies, they turn to a partner and discuss their decisions. When students are given the opportunity to combine facts and ideas together in order to solve a given problem, higherorder thinking and reasoning skills are utilized. When we teach this strategy to students in grades 2-5, we tell them they need to become detectives and search for the most important points of the text. We remind them that along the way there will be distractors, or less important information, given to make the selection more interesting or clearer to the reader. This information, however, is not essential to understanding the point of the nonfiction text. In order to help students build their skill and confidence in this strategy, we must provide explicit instruction and ample opportunities for guided practice. This systematic instruction will give students many opportunities to practice before they are required to use the strategy independently. The following templates, What's It All About?, Interesting vs.

Important, and Strategy Focus Steps can be used to practice the determining importance strategy with the article "Reader of the Rocks" (see page 12). TEMPLATES The following templates can be used to help support students' understanding of "Reader of the Rocks" article by using the reading strategy, determining importance. The templates are designed to give students the opportunity to read, think, and talk about how they have prioritized the information given in the text. Depending on the academic needs in your classroom, the templates can be used to differentiate the comprehension activities for your students. • Strategy Focus Steps (To be used during reading) onramp:1137/ Strategy_Focus_Steps_Reader _of_Rocks.pdf This template is an instructional tool we use to explicitly guide our students through this particular reading strategy. The systematic steps make this difficult reading strategy manageable for all learners.

Literacy Content Knowledge • What's It All About? (To be used after reading) Grades 2-3: eserv/onramp:1138/ Whats_It_All_About_23_Rea der_of_Rocks.pdf Grades 4-5: eserv/onramp:1139/ Whats_It_All_About_45_Rea der_of_Rocks.pdf This template is designed for students to use after they have read the text. The goal of this template is to provide students with the opportunity to distinguish between the main ideas and the interesting details given in the text. • Interesting vs. Important (To be used during or after reading) onramp:1140/

Interesting_vs__Important_Rea der_of_Rocks.pdf We use Interesting vs. Important to give students a purpose for rereading the text. This activity gives students practice in recognizing what information is important in the text and what is interesting but not essential to understanding it. • Determining Importance Literacy Set ipy/fwd/ ipy_0809_set_lit_6013.html This Content Clips set includes all of the materials you need to teach the strategy of Determining Importance: this article (pdf document), printable and electronic book versions of "Reader of the

Rocks" for grades K-1, 2-3, and 4-5, and the student templates. ONLINE RESOURCES Determining Importance in Nonfiction mosaic/tools/Determinging %20Importance%20handout %20by%20Deb%20Smith.pdf This link gives a list of key points to share with students when working with determining importance. Determine Importance read_strats_importance.php This site gives ideas for additional opportunities to practice the strategy.


Mosaic of Thought. Ellin Oliver Keene and Susan Zimmerman. 2007. Heinemann. This book focuses on the seven core strategies that successful readers use to engage with text. Mosaic of Thought is grounded in the latest research and offers many classroom examples of teaching comprehension.

Strategies That Work. Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis. 2000. Stenhouse Publishers. The authors of Strategies That Work present a variety of practical ways to promote thinking while reading through authentic response options. This book includes examples of student work and instructional reading strategies.

Spotlight on Comprehension. Linda Hoyt. 2005. Heinemann. Spotlight on Comprehension is packed full of ready-to-use strategies for reading comprehension and assessing understanding. The book contains ideas from many of the top researchers in the field. Teachers will find useful tools such as rubrics, sample lessons, book lists, and strategy lists.


Feature Story Reader of the Rocks Stories for Students (and Teachers)!

This nonfiction article is written for use with upper-elementary students (grades 4-5). Students read about Julie Codispoti, assistant curator at the United States Polar Rock Repository, located at Ohio State University's Byrd Polar Research Center. Modified versions are available for students in grades K-1 and grades 2-3, or any student needing a simplified version. Students in grades K-1 explore the idea that rocks can tell stories about the past. Students in grades 2-3 are introduced in a simplified manner to the Polar Rock Repository and polar geology. As always, consider the reading level and needs of your students when selecting a version for classroom use. At each grade level, the article is available in three forms. Printable pdf files allow you to print this story in either text or a foldable book format. A new partnership with Content Clips has allowed us to create electronic versions of the articles. Your students can read along as they listen to the text - a wonderful way to support struggling readers! Interested in other nonfiction articles for your students? Browse all twenty sets from the Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears collection on our Stories for Students page, http:// information.php?topic=stories!


By Stephen Whitt

continent of Antarctica. Julie shares a secret. This rock is the fossil fuel we call coal. It formed many millions of years ago from trees that grew in an ancient swamp. Generation after generation of trees grew, died, and fell, squashing one another under their enormous weight. Over millions of years, the trees decayed and became coal.

"It's a little bit mysterious," says Julie Codispoti. She's talking about the pendant she wears around her neck. It's a deep green, polished mineral known as Julie Codispoti Here's the mystery. malachite. "See the There are no trees on Antarctica green circles here?" she says, today. There are no swamps. pointing out the details in the There are no towering forests. stone. "No one's really sure how The presence of coal on this they form that way." frozen continent tells us Julie isn't just talking about her something. It says that necklace. She's also describing Antarctica was not always like it her favorite subject, geology. is today. Antarctica has Julie works at the U.S. Polar changed. Rock Repository at Ohio State But this means more questions. University in Columbus, Ohio. It What changed? Why did it is like a library of rocks from the Arctic and Antarctica. Scientists from all over the world have sent rocks there to be carefully studied and stored. Â Julie is the assistant curator of the repository. This means that she is in charge of describing, photographing, and storing the rocks and minerals. But what she really loves is sharing the mystery of rocks with others. For example, take a black, crumbly rock from the cold


Feature Story change? Is Antarctica still changing today? How? Julie knows that the rocks can give us the answers. "Rocks have a story to tell," Julie says, "they have a language. You just need to learn to read that language to understand the story they're telling. "The rocks from Antarctica," Julie goes on, "are not all that different from rocks that come from other places in the world." This simple-sounding idea tells us something important about the world and how it works. Things change. What was once a seafloor is now a mountaintop. What was once a tropical swamp is now a frozen desert. We live on a world that is always changing. "Geologists ask, 'What is this rock trying to say to me?'" Julie says with a smile. Yet she wasn't always so enthusiastic about reading rocks.

Weighing a specimen. Photo courtesy of Jessica Fries-Gaither, Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears.

"Science was my second-worst subject in school, right behind math," Julie admits. "I never thought I'd do anything involving science. But I really liked being outdoors, so I wanted to do something that would let me be outside." In college, Julie began by studying natural resources. Then she took a geology class that studied the history of Lake Erie. As Julie learned the history of the lake and the rocks that make it up, she became hooked. "I was amazed," she says, "that the professor could learn all this information just from rocks." Now, Julie is becoming a reader of the rocks herself. "Professors make it look easy," she says, "but it’s not that easy. Science is still hard for me. But in a way, that makes it more satisfying. The fact that I can study something, work hard at it, and really understand it is very fulfilling to me."

Labeling a specimen. Photo courtesy of Jessica Fries-Gaither, Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears.

The wonderful thing about science is that the mystery is open to everyone. "If there's something you want to do," Julie says, "but you’re not necessarily good at it, go for it, anyway. You might just surprise yourself." GLOSSARY continent - one of seven large areas of land on Earth enthusiastic - excited fossil fuel - fuel formed from the remains of once-living organisms geology - the study of rocks and minerals Lake Erie - one of the five Great Lakes found in the Midwest region of the United States malachite - a green-colored mineral mineral - a natural, solid material with particles arranged in a repeating pattern pendant - an object that hangs from a necklace rock - a material made up of one or more minerals

Recording the date. Photo courtesy of Jessica Fries-Gaither, Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears.


Misconceptions Wind-weathered sandstone formation, East Greenland. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Common Misconceptions About Biomes and Ecosystems By Jessica Fries-Gaither Although the research base for geologic misconceptions is not as extensive as that of other disciplines within earth and space science, it is clear that students and teachers alike hold a wide range of incorrect ideas about rocks, minerals, and the rock cycle. To promote accurate scientific instruction, it is important that teachers are cognizant of their own understanding and seek to continually improve their content knowledge. Formative assessment can provide a great deal of insight into student thinking before, during, and after instruction. Finally, teachers should be metacognitive practitioners and reflect on how their methods of instruction may lead to the formation or strengthening of existing misconceptions. GEOLOGIC MISCONCEPTIONS Geologic misconceptions can take many forms - the language used to define and describe specimens, relevant properties for classification, the rock cycle, and geologic time.


COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN A major source of geologic misconceptions is the discrepancy between the use of geologic terms in everyday language versus scientific communication. In everyday usage, the term rock refers to a single, particular specimen; to a geologist, the term is used for a category of rock types. A single specimen, geologically speaking, is a clast. Other words, such as mineral and crystal, are also misused in everyday language. In a study of children and adolescents, students were asked to describe samples of rocks, minerals, and human-made materials. Students did not use the word mineral to describe any samples, and used terms such as rock, stone, and pebble in an intuitive, nonscientific way. It seems that the connotations of these words may supersede any scientific definition or understanding of how these terms should be used. SIZE REALLY DOESN'T MATTER Commonly used definitions also impact how students classify specimens. Several studies note that students often use criteria that are not relevant to a geologist. One such criterion is the size of the specimen, leading students to differentiate between large and small specimens. A

Misconceptions consideration of the many common terms used to describe rocks of various sizes (rock, stone, pebble, gravel, boulder, and so on) illustrates why students may consider size to be of utmost importance, while a geologist does not. GOOD LOOKS ARE SUPERFICIAL Physical appearance, color, weight, and shape are also criteria that may be used by students in classifying a specimen. In one study, students seemed to classify attractive specimens as crystals, while dull or unattractive specimens were considered rocks. While a geologist would divide specimens by their origin or formation, students tended to first group specimens into rocks/ nonrocks and then subdivide on the basis of physical characteristics such as size, weight, and appearance.

LONGER AND LARGER THAN LIFE Geologic misconceptions extend well beyond geologic terms and may include the rock cycle, weathering and erosion, and rock formation. In one study, students tended to describe geologic processes in human time frames rather than on the geologic scale. Students also described processes such as weathering, erosion, and rock formation as dependent on human involvement rather than operating independently of humans. Additionally, not all concepts were equally understood. While the majority of the students could describe erosion accurately, rock formation proved to be much more difficult. Firmly held beliefs about earth and its history also inhibit the acquisition of scientific knowledge. According to

Kusnick (2002), "humans have a deeply felt belief in the stability of the Earth...[which] surfaces in students' inability to believe in the transience of landscape...The flip side of this belief is that when change does happen, it must be catastrophic." The difficulty of conceptualizing and accepting long-term, large scale changes in earth's landforms, such as weathering and the rock cycle, is likely even greater for elementary students, who have limited experience with and understanding of the vast time scales associated with such changes. NOT 'JUST A ROCK' Finally, students may hold misconceptions regarding the utility of geologic concepts. The Grade 6 Science Framework of the Georgia Performance Standards (2007) lists some misconceptions (see below):

Students may think...

Instead of thinking...

All rocks are the same, and it's hard to tell how they originated.

Rocks can be distinguished in different types, based on their origins and compositions.

Rocks and minerals are the same thing; distinguishing them is not important.

Rocks and minerals are not the same thing; rocks are composed of minerals, which are naturally existing chemical compounds.

Humans can fabricate rocks and minerals; artifacts are the same as rocks and minerals.

Rocks and minerals are naturally occurring substances that are usually crystalline and solid.

Minerals are not important to my life.

Almost every product we use in daily life contains or depends on minerals that have to be mined. 15

Misconceptions HOW DO THESE MISCONCEPTIONS ARISE? In general, misconceptions result from students creating their own explanations for how the world works. Often, these ideas are formed well before a student arrives in science class - and serve their purpose well. Numerous studies and anecdotal evidence show that students cling to these ideas even in the face of discrepant events and explicit instruction.

isolation, a geologist draws from a rich knowledge of rock types, formation, and characteristics as he or she observes and classifies a particular clast. Elementary students and their teachers often lack this depth of content knowledge and, thus, may not know which properties to attend to and which to ignore. The end result is that a student learns to observe and classify rocks and minerals in a much different way than a geologist.

TEACHING MAKES A DIFFERENCE, TOO It is important to note that methods and strategies of instruction may also play a role in developing or strengthening misconceptions. Danielle Ford (2005) analyzed third graders' descriptions of rocks and minerals as part of a FOSS (Full Option Science System) kit unit. She found that while the students were successful in accurately observing and describing minute properties of the specimens, they, like students in other studies, tended to use nonscientific language and include irrelevant properties such as color, shape, size, and weight.

The integration of language arts and science may also promote the use of nonscientific terms and irrelevant properties. In an effort to save time and promote cross-curricular learning, teachers often pair descriptive writing and the geology unit.

Ford argues that for a geologist, specimen classification is a highly contextualized, disciplinespecific activity. Rather than noting all physical properties in


Rock study. Photo courtesy of woodleywonderworks, Flickr.

Students learn to use precise word choice, adjectives, similes, and metaphors through careful observation and writing. Subject integration is often necessary and effective, but the danger in this particular pairing is again the confusion of relevant and irrelevant properties and the use of nonscientific language. While describing the unusual shape of a rock may be perfect for a creative writing assignment, it is not useful in identification. In addition, the observation and description portion of the task may become the end itself, rather than the means toward classification. While rocks and minerals do provide an engaging opportunity to teach description, word choice, and creative writing, it may be necessary in this case to separate the geology from the language arts activities. Furthermore, a geologist's understanding of individual specimens is inextricably linked to knowledge of igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rock as well as the processes of rock formation. These topics are not always introduced at the elementary level, which means that students are learning to describe rocks without linking characteristics to formation. Including an introduction to the types of rocks and rock

Misconceptions formation and helping students link what they observe to the process by which a rock formed may help.

Related formative assessment probes in Volume 2 of Uncovering Student Ideas in Science: •"Is it a Rock? (version 1)" asks students to decide whether a number of objects are rocks or not. It elicits student ideas about whether rocks come in many sizes and shapes, as well as their understanding of words such as boulder, gravel, and sand.

See Teaching the Science for more information about designing a geologically accurate unit. TOOLS FOR TEACHERS Clearly, the discipline of earth science, and particularly the topic of rocks and minerals, is an area in which teachers need to be cognizant of student misconceptions and the implications of their own instructional practices. Formative assessment probes are helpful in gauging some of the ideas that students may bring to science class. In addition, simply being mindful of these issues as you plan and carry out a rocks and minerals unit may be helpful. PROBING FOR STUDENT UNDERSTANDING Volumes 1, 2, and 3 of Uncovering Student Ideas in Science each contain 25 formative assessment probes to help teachers identify misconceptions. The first two volumes of this series contain several probes that relate to geologic concepts such as rocks, minerals, and the rock cycle. Related formative assessment probes in Volume 1 of

Geology student breaks up a sample of igneous rock. Photo courtesy of Josh Landis, U.S. Antarctic Program, National Science Foundation.

Uncovering Student Ideas in Science: • "Cookie Crumbles" asks students to decide how the weight of a whole cookie compares to the cookie broken into pieces and crumbs. It elicits ideas about conservation of matter. Though not directly related, ideas about conservation of matter of ordinary objects will affect students' understanding of weathering of rocks and the rock cycle. • "Beach Sand" asks students to explain the origin of sand on a beach. It elicits student ideas about weathering, erosion, deposition, and landforms.

•"Is it a Rock? (version 2)" asks students to decide whether a number of objects are rocks or not. It is designed to determine if students can differentiate between humanmade, "rock-like" materials and geologically formed rocks (even ones shaped by humans). In addition to these probes, observe your students as they interact, discuss, and write. Observation, note-taking, and interviews with individual students can provide powerful insight into what your students understand about geologic concepts. TEACHING THE SCIENCE There are many ways to explicitly promote the development of correct geologic concepts in your elementary classroom. As you design your science unit, consider inviting a local geologist to speak to your class about how geologists observe, 17

Misconceptions describe, and classify rocks and minerals. Brainstorm a list of characteristics (size, color, shape, weight) and discuss which ones are useful in identifying a particular specimen. Consider keeping creative and descriptive writing assignments separate from scientific activities (at least in this particular unit). There is some evidence that with explicit instruction, even elementary students can begin to differentiate between relevant and irrelevant properties. Also consider linking rock and mineral formation with basic observable properties. For example, students could link evidence from a particular rock (the "holes" in basalt) with the hardening of a bubbling lava flow (Ford 2005). By teaching about CASTLEROCKHIKERS. Photo courtesy of Robyn Waserman, U.S. Antarctic Program, National Science Foundation.


igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rock, you can help your students begin to develop the background needed to look at rocks and minerals through the lens of a geologist. We've also created two interactive activities to help assess student ideas and promote the development of geologically correct concepts. These activities are developed in partnership with Content Clips, an interactive web environment designed to help K-12 teachers supplement their curriculum with compelling online resources and activities. By creating a free account, you can save resources and activities (such as these two) to your own collection. You can also create

your own interactive activities to use in your classroom. If you follow the links to the activities listed below, you will enter the site as a guest and will not be able to save them to your own collection. If you wish to save these stories in your own collection, create an account, login, and then search for "rocks." What Is It? fwd/ipy_0809_act_1_79.html This interactive activity involves sorting a variety of images into different categories: rock, mineral, crystal, stone, or other. Use before instruction to assess your students' use of these terms, or after instruction to monitor progress. An answer key is provided to help you assess student ideas.

Misconceptions Geologic Sorting fwd/ipy_0809_act_2_80.html This interactive activity is similar to What Is It? Students are presented with 13 images of rocks, minerals, and man-made objects and asked to create their own classification system. While elementary students should not be expected to know all the principles for correctly classifying and sorting specimens (and especially not from images), their responses will provide insight into the properties and principles they attend to while observing rocks and minerals. Individual interviews with students about their work will provide even greater insight into their thinking. A reference guide provides a simple categorization scheme

that might be used by a geologist. Again, elementary students should not be expected to have the "correct" answers in this activity. NATIONAL SCIENCE EDUCATION STANDARDS Read the entire National Science Education Standards online for free or register to download the free PDF. The content standards are found in Chapter 6, http:// record_id=4962&page=103. REFERENCES • Ford, D. 2005. The challenges of observing geologically: third graders' descriptions of rock and mineral properties. Science Education 89 (2): 276-295. (Abstract at http:// journal/109924880/abstract).

• Georgia Department of Education. 2007. Georgia performance standards: Science frameworks grade 6. • Happs, J. C. 1982. Some aspects of student understanding of rocks and minerals. Science Education Research Unit Working Paper 204. University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand (ERIC ED236034). http:// ERICWebPortal/detail? accno=ED236034. • Kusnick, J. 2002. Growing pebbles and conceptual prisms - understanding the source of student misconceptions about rock formation. Journal of Geoscience Education 50 (1): 31-39.


Across the Curriculum: Lessons Using Rock Swaps to Teach About Geographic Diversity By Jessica Fries-Gaither A unit on rocks and minerals in the elementary classroom provides an excellent opportunity for students to get out into their local community and learn more about its characteristics. Whether students collect rocks at home or on a class field trip, beginning with local specimens is an engaging and concrete way to start. In addition, a simple overview of your region's geologic history (through a web site, book, or guest speaker such as a park ranger or geologist) will help introduce the types of rock and processes of rock formation. With guidance and explicit instruction, students will begin to connect the rocks they find to their environment and its history. Once students have a firm footing in local geology, it is time to think on a larger scale. One way to do this is to organize a rock swap between classrooms. In a rock swap, students collect, describe, and classify local rocks. Teachers wrap the specimens and mail them to the other classes in the swap. In


return, the class receives rocks from the other participants.

described in the lesson plan Sampling Rocks.

Once the new rocks arrive, students can compare and contrast their local rocks with the ones sent from other locations. Are there similar specimens? New and unfamiliar ones? With assistance, students can make connections between the samples and the geologic history of that area. For example, a class receiving igneous rock samples from the Northwest might discuss the volcanic activity of the region.

Finally, a rock swap can include specimens from Antarctica! The United States Polar Rock Repository at the Byrd Polar Research Center in Columbus, Ohio, loans rocks to schools in the United States. A Rock Box includes rocks and fossils from Antarctica, a teacher's guide, and a variety of other materials. Teachers pay a $50 deposit for the box (refundable if the box is returned with all items in their original condition) and can keep the box for 21 days. This is an engaging way to incorporate polar science into your geology unit!

This type of collaborative activity promotes not only geologic understanding but geographic understanding as well. Rock swaps can fulfill Standard 7 of the National Geography Standards, which focuses on the physical processes that shape the patterns of earth's surface. The activity can be extended in other ways as well. Asking students to plot the locations of participating classes helps develop map skills. Learning more about each location sets a real purpose for reading, writing, and discussion. Art could be incorporated through drawing or painting the specimens. Email or letter exchanges can allow classes to ask follow-up questions about the samples. Collecting the local rocks can spur a simple discussion about the nature of sampling, as

RESOURCES Rock Swap fellow1/oct98/collab.htm Teachers may copy and use this project template to post on educational listservs. United States Polar Rock Repository: Educational Outreach rr/ The educational outreach page of the repository includes information on requesting and borrowing a polar rock box. Other features include activities for parents and educators, a kids' space, and a virtual tour of the repository.

Science & Literacy: Lessons Hands-on Lessons and Activities about Rocks and Minerals By Jessica Fries-Gaither Rocks and minerals are a common topic in the elementary science curriculum, typically appearing at an introductory level in the primary grades and again in more detail in third or fourth grade. Upper-elementary students usually learn the techniques for mineral classification, the characteristics of sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rocks, and the rock cycle.

sequence for the study of geology:

However, a dichotomy exists between national standards and benchmarks and common curricular concepts.

By the end of the 5th grade, students should know that:

The National Science Education Standards (National Research Council 1996) states that, at the K-4 level, "understanding rocks and minerals should not be extended to the study of the source of the rocks, such as sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic, because the origin of rocks and minerals has little meaning to young children." The Benchmarks for Science Literacy (American Association for the Advancement of Science 1993) provides the following

By the end of the 2nd grade, students should know that: • Chunks of rock come in many sizes and shapes, from boulders to grains of sand and even smaller.

• Rock is composed of different combinations of minerals. Smaller rocks come from the breakage and weathering of bedrock and larger rocks. Soil is made partly from weathered rock, partly from plant remains - and also contains many living organisms. It is not until the middle school years (grades 6-8) that either the NSES or Benchmarks discusses the types of rock or the rock cycle and their close relationship to the theory of plate tectonics.

ASHWORTH_UNDERGRADS. Photo courtesy of Peter Rejcek, U.S. Antarctic Program, National Science Foundation.

However, the reality is that, despite the recommendations of these documents, teachers and students are still required to follow their local standards and curriculum - which may include higher-level concepts. And a 2007 National Research Council publication, Taking Science to School, suggests that we, as educators, may underestimate children's ability to learn and do science. What, then, should an elementary teacher do? The best answer, as always, is to consider the abilities and needs of your particular students. As well stated in Taking Science to School (National Research Council 2007): • What children are capable of at a particular age is the result of a complex interplay among maturation, experience, and 21

Science & Literacy: Lessons instruction. Thus, what is developmentally appropriate is not a simple function of age or grade. What children do is in large part contingent on their prior opportunities to learn and not on some fixed sequence of developmental stages.

sequence of your school's curriculum as well as the backgrounds and preconceptions of your students will help you tailor your instruction in a way that fulfills standards and meets student needs.

As you well know, the students in your class are at a wide variety of maturity levels and cognitive abilities. Even when you are following state standards and prescribed curriculum, differentiated instruction is needed to meet the needs of all students. Even with such modifications, students will achieve at different levels depending on their abilities and past experiences with science. Complex concepts, such as the types of rocks and the rock cycle, are no different. Considering the scope and

It is also helpful to remember that these concepts are taught not only in elementary school but at the middle school level and beyond. Considering your efforts as the introduction to the science of geology is helpful and a good reminder that students will not necessarily master all the complex concepts on first exposure.

VENTIFACT. Photo courtesy of Chris Kannen, U.S. Antarctic Program, National Science Foundation.

In this article, we highlight lesson plans and activities that support science and literacy instruction that is consistent with the curricula used by many districts and schools. K-2 lessons and activities revolve around handson experience with rocks and

minerals and initial experience with description, measurement, and drawing. Lessons for grades 3-5 delve more deeply into the subject, introducing the three types of rocks, differentiating between rocks and minerals, and providing opportunities for classification and analysis. We have deliberately chosen to provide only a basic introduction to the rock cycle, as this difficult concept is inextricably linked to the theory of plate tectonics, a topic typically reserved for the middle school years. You may choose to include this in greater depth for students needing further challenge. As always, our philosophy is that the hands-on experiences found in the featured science lessons provide a natural context for reading, writing, and discussion. The recommended titles in this month's Virtual Bookshelf (see page 25) and Feature Story (see page 12) are meant to supplement and extend the activities described below. For each science lesson, we've included the appropriate National Science Education Standards. You can read the entire National Science Education Standards online for free or register to download the free PDF. The content standards are found in Chapter 6, http:// record_id=4962&page=103.


Science & Literacy: Lessons GRADES K-2 Rock Hunters (Grades K-2) DocID=365 In this lesson, students make detailed observations of rocks. Through their observations, students will begin to develop an understanding that there are different types of rocks with different attributes. Students record their observations through drawings and words. This lesson meets the National Science Education Standards: Science as Inquiry Content Standard and Earth and Space Science Content Standard. To further integrate literacy skills into this lesson, try the following: Using Children's Natural Curiosity to Lead to Descriptive Writing (Grades K-2) lesson_view.asp?id=52 Inspired by the book It Starts with an A this lesson invites students to combine their experiences with familiar objects (rocks) and descriptive writing. For this lesson, students will make a class book. Each student draws a rock on the back of a sheet of paper. On the front of the paper, they write three clues that describe the rock. Students can share this book with family members and peers before adding it to their classroom library. This lesson meets the following NCTE/IRA Standards: 3, 4, 5, 12. Sampling Rocks (Grades K-2) BenchmarkID=9&DocID=110 Students collect and analyze a sample of rocks from the schoolyard, create a rock guide for the schoolyard, and are introduced to the notion of samples. Reading Everybody Needs a Rock by

Wrapping fossils in rags for the voyage to the U.S. Photo courtesy of Kristan Hutchison, U.S. Antarctic Program, National Science Foundation.

Byrd Baylor and creating a rock guide provide literacy connections. This lesson meets the National Science Education Standards: Science as Inquiry Content Standard and Earth and Space Science Content Standard. To further integrate literacy skills into this lesson, try the following: How Does My Garden Grow? Writing in Science Field Journals (Grades K-2) lesson_view.asp?id=846 This lesson plan invites students to record observations of a class garden in a field journal, but the journal templates and lesson concept can be easily modified to accompany a rock sampling lesson. This lesson meets the following NCTE/IRA Standards: 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12.


Science & Literacy: Lessons GRADES 3-5 Minerals, Crystals, and Gems: Stepping Stones to Inquiry (Grades 3-5) educators/lesson_plans/minerals/index.html This issue of Smithsonian in Your Classroom introduces students to the basics of mineral science and teaches the scientific process by providing opportunities for students to observe, form hypotheses, and draw conclusions. A threelesson series involves creating a classroom exhibit of rocks and minerals, observing crystal formation, and conducting a mineral scavenger hunt. Detailed teacher content knowledge and resources include specimens from the Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of Geology, Gems, and Minerals at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. These lessons could be supplemented with pictures from the Smithsonian Gem and Mineral Collection, sgmcol/. These lessons meet the National Science Education Standards: Science as Inquiry Content Standard and the Earth and Space Science Content Standard. Rock Hounds with Rocky (Grades 3-5) index2.html A web-based, interactive site for students to learn about sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rocks. The site includes animations of rock formation, rock specimens (with color pictures and descriptive information), a lesson plan, and collaborative ideas for teachers, including a rock exchange between classrooms. These lessons meet the National Science Education Standards: Science as Inquiry Content Standard and the Earth and Space Science Content Standard.


BRIANDRILL. Photo courtesy of Mike Cheadle, U.S. Antarctic Program, National Science Foundation.

Rock Discovery (Grades 3-5) LPid=16293 This lesson integrates the three types of rocks with the rock cycle. This lesson meets the National Science Education Standards: Science as Inquiry Content Standard and the Earth and Space Science Content Standard. To further integrate literacy skills into these lessons, try the following: • Supplement the science lessons and activities with the books listed in this month's Virtual Bookshelf (see page 25). • Read this month's Feature Story, "Reader of the Rocks," to learn about the career of a geologist (see page 12). This story also provides an opportunity for students to practice the strategy of determining importance in text.

Off The Bookshelf Rocks and Minerals: Virtual Bookshelf By Kate Hastings We selected books for this issue's topic that may prompt your students to stop and ask themselves questions about the rocks they find on their way to school or near their homes. Where did the rocks come from? What stories do they tell? From these books, students can learn how to identify the three types of rocks: igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary. In related activities, they will use language

skills to describe the physical characteristics of rocks they find. They will also be asked to think about rocks and minerals in their daily lives...where did the graphite in their pencils come from? We often think of earth cycles only in terms of what we experience firsthand, such as the seasons or the water cycle. But the rock cycle is happening right now, too! Photographs and clearly labeled diagrams will help students begin to understand this ongoing, complex cycle. We've divided the books into six categories: Rocks and Minerals, the Rock Cycle, Geologists, Descriptive Language, Hands-on

Geology, and, of course, Penguins and Polar Bears. As always, we rely heavily on nonfiction books to expose your students to accurate scientific information and expository or informational text structure. These books, the ReadWriteThink lesson titled “Talking About Books to Improve Comprehension,� and the hands-on experiences in our science lessons will help students develop a rich understanding of the concepts involved. For more information see http:// classroom-resources/lessonplans/talking-about-booksimprove-913.html.


Rock Basics. Carol K. Lindeen. 2008. Nonfiction easy reader. Recommended ages: Grades K-1. This book does a great job of introducing the abundance of rocks around the earth, the people who study them, and the uses we have for rocks in everyday materials.

Let's Look at Rocks. Jeri Cipriano. 2004. Nonfiction easy reader. Recommended ages: Grades K-1. Photos show children with some of the rocks found all over the earth - on mountains, in streams, and as grains of sand. The last few pages show pictures of rocks being used in jewelry, statues, homes and classrooms.



Everybody Needs a Rock. Byrd Baylor. 1985. Picture book. Recommended ages: Grades K-2. Baylor describes her rules for finding the perfect rock. A great introduction to rock hunting. This book is used in the Science NetLinks lesson Sampling Rocks, BenchmarkID=9&DocID=110. Let's Go Rock Collecting (Let's Read and Find Out About Science series). Roma Gans. 1997. Nonfiction book. Recommended ages: Grades 2-3. A basic introduction to rocks and minerals, including the ways rocks form and how to identify them. The section on metamorphic rocks has photos of rocks "before" and "after" changes by heat and pressure. Minerals (Science Matters series). Patricia MillerSchroeder. 2005. Nonfiction book. Recommended ages: Grades 3-5. This book provides an overview of minerals, their characteristics, classification, and uses. Full-color pictures accompany the straightforward text. A table of contents, a glossary, and an index provide opportunities for practice with these organizational features.


Rocks (Early Bird Earth Science series). Sally M. Walker. 2007. Nonfiction book. Recommended ages: Grades 3-5. A clearly written, comprehensive introduction to the rock and mineral concepts covered in the elementary grades. Five chapters cover the definition of a rock, the three types of rocks, and the rock cycle. In each chapter, the author provides clear explanations that make these concepts accessible. For example, the chapter on metamorphic rocks includes simple descriptions of how the minerals in various rocks change. A note at the end of the book provides guidance for parents and other adults reading with students. Rocks and Minerals (A True Book). Ann O. Squire. 2002. Nonfiction book. Recommended ages: Grades 3-5. This book provides basic information about rocks and minerals, the three types of rocks, the rock cycle, and common uses for rocks throughout history.

Off The Bookshelf ROCK CYCLE These books help students begin to visualize the rock cycle, a difficult topic that is covered in more detail in the middle school years. The lesson plan Rock Discovery (see page 24) can be used in conjunction with these titles.

The Big Rock. Bruce Hiscock. 1988. Nonfiction picture book. Recommended ages: Grades K-5. A giant boulder sits on a hillside in New York state. How did it get there? Trace the formation of the rock from volcanoes to prehistoric oceans to mountaintop earthquakes, and finally a bulldozer glacier. This book can make children stop and think about the history behind a grain of sand, a pebble, or even the mountaintops on the horizon. The Rock Cycle (Earth's Cycles series). Cheryl Jakab. 2008. Nonfiction. Recommended ages: Grades 3-5. This book discusses the importance of rocks to both people and nature and how the rock cycle can be compared to other natural cycles. Each type of rock in the rock cycle is discussed - volcanic, sedimentary, and metamorphic. Photographs of landforms and rock specimens bring the text to life. Simple diagrams show how rocks are formed and how they change when exposed to heat and pressure. The rock cycle is then explored for its effect on soil, water, plants, and animals and people. There is also a brief discussion of mining and soil conservation.

How Mountains Are Made (Let's Read and Find Out About Science series). Kathleen Weidner Zoefeld. 1995. Nonfiction book. Recommended ages: Grades 3-5. How do fossils of shells end up in the mountains? The movement of the earth's tectonic plates puts the rock cycle in motion. Different mountains are formed in different ways: Some are created when plates smash into each other (like the Himalayas); some are formed by volcanoes where magma seeps up to the surface to make underwater ridges. Diagrams show each type of mountain. A map of the United States on the last page shows where different kinds of mountains can be found. These advanced concepts are not typically part of the elementary curriculum but may be of interest to students needing more challenge. The Rock Cycle (Science Matters series). Melanie Ostopowich. 2005. Nonfiction. Recommended ages: Grades 4-5. This book explains how the rock cycle can take millions of years to complete and is driven by plate tectonics. Each of the three types of rocks is discussed - sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic. Fun facts are highlighted on each topic.


Off The Bookshelf GEOLOGISTS Use these two books to introduce the discipline of geology. These titles would accompany this month's Feature Story, "Reader of the Rocks" (see page 12).

Rocks In His Head. James Stevenson. 2001. Picture book. Recommended ages: Grades K-5. Based on a true story of a boy whose hobby - collecting rocks eventually became his career as a curator in a science museum.

Geologists (Scientists at Work series). Heather Hammonds. 2004. Nonfiction book. Recommended ages: Grades 4-5. Geologists study more than just how rocks are formed. Some work with paleontologists to try to date fossils, some study glaciers, and others look at the composition of moon rocks. The book describes the education, tools, and future of geology and has interviews with geologists in the field. A great way to encourage future geologists.

DESCRIPTIVE LANGUAGE In all grades, studying rocks and minerals involves description. Use these books to help students become proficient in their use of descriptive language. The ReadWriteThink lesson Delicious, Tasty, Yummy: Enriching Writing with Adjectives and Synonyms, delicious-tasty-yummy-enriching-868.html, provides instruction and support for students in this mode of writing.

On My Beach There Are Many Pebbles. Leo Lionni. 1961. Picture book. Recommended ages: Grades K-1. A simple book about some of the unusually formed pebbles a child has found on the beach. Pencil-sketched illustrations - an unusual medium for children's books. A good discussion starter for children before describing their own rocks or pebbles in the classroom.


If You Find a Rock. Peggy Christian. 2000. Picture book. Recommended ages: Grades K-2. Descriptive language and photographs show different uses for found rocks - flat, rounded skipping rocks and large, cold and mossy resting rocks. What other uses for rocks can your students find? They could contrast these "uses" for rocks with manufactured goods using rocks and minerals.

Off The Bookshelf DESCRIPTIVE LANGUAGE (CONTINUED) Earthshake: Poems from the Ground Up. Lisa Westberg Peters. 2003. Poetry book. Recommended ages: Grades 3-5. Geology and descriptive language are married in this collection. "Plain Old Rock" describes the surprising beauty revealed inside a geode, and "Wyoming Layer Cake" describes the spectacular sedimentary layers in the western United States. Illustrations complement the poems.

HANDS-ON GEOLOGY These two books are perfect for individual exploration, enrichment, or learning centers. Teachers of grades K-2 may be able to modify activities for their students.

Geology Rocks: 50 Hands-On Activities to Explore the Earth. Cindy Blobaum. 1999. Nonfiction book. Recommended ages: Grades 3-5. Bring science to life with fun facts and demonstrations. Students use graham crackers and frosting to learn about plate tectonics, shake a jar of sediment to make layers, create a mini-glacier with a block of ice, and piece together a "paleopuzzle" of Popsicle sticks!

Janice VanCleave's Rocks and Minerals. Janice VanCleave. 1996. Nonfiction book. Recommended ages: Grades 3-5. Rip copy paper to learn about fractures, scratch rocks with everyday objects to find their Mohs rating, grow your own crystals, and make a metamorphic sandwich and faux igneous rocks from paper. Have lots of fun using simple materials and bring classroom concepts to life.


Off The Bookshelf PENGUINS AND POLAR BEARS Penguins. Seymour Simon. 2007. Nonfiction book. Recommended ages: Grades 3-5. Simon is well known for his informational text for young readers. The first half of the book provides a general overview of penguin characteristics and life cycle, while the second half describes particular species (but not all 17) in more detail. Although the text is dense in places, color photographs provide balance. Perfect for studying informational text or as a springboard for a research project. Teachers of younger students may want to read selected passages aloud, as the entire book may be too long for one sitting.

The Three Snow Bears. Jan Brett. 2007. Picture book. Recommended ages: K-5. An Arctic "Goldilocks" tale with polar bears and an Inuit girl named Aloo-ki, who stumbles upon three igloos - big, medium and small. She samples soup, tries on boots, and naps among furs. The artwork captures the Arctic landscape and Inuit culture. Although there is a misconception that Inuits sleep in igloos all the time (igloos are actually a temporary shelter), it works out well for these personified bears to live there.

Why Use Children’s Literature? Linking science instruction to children's literature has become increasingly popular in recent years for a variety of reasons: the literature connection motivates students, provokes interest, helps students connect scientific ideas to their personal experiences, accommodates children with different learning styles, and promotes critical thinking. Whatever the reason, we know that books about science can capture even the most reluctant readers and writers. Students are naturally drawn to the colorful photographs and layouts of nonfiction science texts. Using science books allow teachers to meet their reading and writing goals while filling a need to teach more science. Teachers can use books as a starting point for meaningful classroom discussions; some teachers even begin class by reading a poem or a picture book aloud, simply for the enjoyment of the literature. Some teachers project the book onto a screen so the class can read the text together. Picture books make wonderful writing prompts and can provoke good journal writing. Interdisciplinary thematic units can be broadened by use of children's literature. You’ll notice that most of our selected books are nonfiction. We believe that elementary students need exposure to this genre to set a compelling purpose for reading and to become familiar with the text structures used in expository and informational text. Reading nonfiction trade books also supplements scientific investigations and helps students connect hands-on experiences with abstract concepts. In other cases, the text provides valuable information that cannot be gained through hands-on experience. Finally, nonfiction books can serve as mentor texts, providing models after which students can pattern their own writing.


THE BEYOND PENGUINS AND POLAR BEARS PHOTO GALLERY In our polar photo gallery, you can browse color images from past cyberzine issues and polar researchers. We include rights and re-use information to help you use the images in your classroom! Visit to discover amazing images of icebergs, glaciers, polar animals, and much more!

BEYOND PENGUINS PODCAST SERIES In our series of podcasts, we trek across the poles to find ways to help you teach science in your elementary classroom! We also tackle common misconceptions your students might have about science and share stories, teaching activities, and the latest news related to the poles. You can listen to the podcast episodes through your audio player or iTunes. To see the entire list of episodes, go to

STANDARDS ALIGNMENT Are you wondering how the contents of each magazine issue align with the National Science Education Standards? On our Standards page, we’ve created two tables - one for grades K-4 and the other for grades 5-8 that show the alignment to the science content standards. Visit for more information.

EMPERORSTHREE. Photo courtesy of Robyn Waserman, U.S. Antarctic Program, National Science Foundation

Greenland Ice Sheet. Photo courtesy of chrissy575, Flickr.

The Polar Bears at Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. Photo courtesy of James Seith Photography, Flickr.


Abo u t U s Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears is an online professional development magazine for elementary teachers. It prepares teachers to integrate high-quality science instruction with literacy teaching. The magazine is available for free at Twenty thematic issues link polar science concepts to the scope and sequence of elementary science curricula. The result is a resource that includes issues devoted to day and night, seasons, plants and mammals, erosion, and other physical, earth and space, and life science concepts. Some issues are also interdisciplinary, focusing on polar explorers, the indigenous people of the Arctic, and the challenges of doing science in the polar regions. To browse the complete archive of issues, visit Other project features include a companion blog ( about polar news and research, a polar photo gallery ( and a podcast series ( Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears is funded by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0733024 and is produced by an interdisciplinary team from Ohio State University (OSU), College of Education and Human Ecology; the Ohio Resource Center (ORC) for Mathematics, Science, and Reading; the Byrd Polar Research Center; COSI (Center for Science and Industry) Columbus; the Upper Arlington Public Library (UAPL); and the National Science Digital Library (NSDL) Core Integration team at Cornell University and University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR).

Copyright October 2010. Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears is produced by an interdisciplinary team from Ohio State University (OSU), College of Education and Human Ecology; the Ohio Resource Center (ORC) for Mathematics, Science, and Reading; the Byrd Polar Research Center; COSI (Center for Science and Industry) Columbus; the Upper Arlington Public Library (UAPL); and the National Science Digital Library (NSDL). This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0733024. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. Content in this document is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Printed version layout and design by Margaux Baldridge, Office of Technology and Enhanced Learning, College of Education and Human Ecology, The Ohio State University. For more information email: