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Characteristics of Rocks and Minerals Lesson Plan

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Lesson Plan #:AELP-GLG004
Submitted by: Kathryn Ann Fisher
Email: k.fisher@m.cc.utah.edu
School/University/Affiliation: Center for Integrated Science Education – Salt Lake City, UT 84112-9202 Date: January 28, 2000

Grade Level(s): 2 Subject(s):

  • Science/Geology

Duration: 50-60 minutes Description:  Students are divided into groups and given a study tour.  During this tour students will learn about the characteristics of rocks and minerals, how rocks and minerals are identified and classified, and finally the chemical propoerties of these rocks and minerals using acid tests.

Goals: Students will demonstrate an understanding of the characteristics and properties of rocks and minerals.

Objective(s): Students will:

  • observe different classification characteristics and uses of rocks and minerals
  • identify different rocks and minerals
  • Materials:

    • Materials for Station 1:
      aluminum foil  vitamins  soda can coins
      film  wiring cement food
      batteries  paints  items not
      made of minerals
      nails china glass animal feed
      salt  mortar  mirrors magnets 
    • Poster from the National Energy Foundation;
    • From Mountains to Metals
    •  Rocks and Minerals and How We Use Them
    • Deseret News Article Minerals in Your Life
  • Materials for Station 2:
    • rock and mineral box from University Geology Department
    • igneous (granite, obsidian, basalt and pumice)
    • metamorphic (slate, marble and staurolite)
    • sedimentary (shale, brachiopod limestone and sandstone)
    • minerals
    • 10 hand lenses
    • 1 field guide book
  • Materials for Station 3:
    • paper towels
    • bag of mineral and rock samples
    • 5 petri dishes
    • 5 -10% HCl
    • 1 cup baking soda
    • 1 cup vinegar

    Procedure: NB: 3 volunteers per class


    See attachment for details.

    Rocks are aggregates of one or more minerals and are classified by how they were formed (a mineral is a homogenous crystalline chemical element or
    compound and is classified according to physical characteristics).

    Introduction:  5 minutes

    The volunteers should review the background information prior to the activity.

    Introduce volunteers to class. Two volunteers will set up the three stations while the third volunteer speaks with the class.
    Ask the students What do you know about rocks and minerals?  Where do they come from? Accept all answers.
    Ask the students Why should we learn about rocks and minerals?
    Divide the class into three groups and assign one volunteer to each group. The groups will rotate through the three stations.

    Station 1: Learning About Rocks (10 minutes)

    Show the group items in the box of products. Some of the items will list ingredients, read over these with the students and let them discuss
    where that ingredient originates from and what function does it have in the product.  Can the students identify items not made of minerals? Ask the
    class if they can think of other uses for minerals. Refer to the Deseret News handout and the Rocks and Mineral poster. As a group let the students
    trace the route from mining to production of products.  Ask the students to think of Kennecott Copper Mine and how it may be similar to our poster.

    Encourage them to discuss the major role rocks and minerals play in helping us maintain and improve our way of life; can the students list ways
    rocks are used in agriculture, arts, communication, construction, consumer goods, energy, manufacturing, medicine, transportation and science and
    technology?  Guide and encourage their responses.  If they look around the room, can they identify items that are made from rock or minerals, or
    distinguish between those things that are not made of rock or mineral materials?  Continue to look over the poster of Rocks and Mineral as the
    students discuss more ways in which we use this resource.

    Station 2: How Rocks are Classified:  (15 minutes)

    In this station students will look at samples from the rock and mineral box.
    Take the group through one box at a time.

    Igneous Rocks

    • Granite, obsidian, pumice and basalt are examples of igneous rocks.

    Let all the students handle the rock samples and look at them with the hand lenses. Have students describe the color, texture, shape, weight etc.
    Ask the students why some rocks are smoother than others are.
    (Round and smooth rocks have been moved and formed by water and ice).  See if the students can pick out obsidian, a shinny, black and very smooth,
    glass like rock.  Next, let them discover the characteristics of pumice relative to the other types of rocks (pumice is a rock that will float in water).
    As they are looking at the rocks, ask bout weight, flexibility, texture, size, shape and the other properties that we can use to classify rocks.
    Encourage them to compare the rocks.
    With the background information as reference, discuss with the students how igneous rocks are formed. Metamorphic Rocks

    • Slate, marble and quartzite are examples of metamorphic rocks.

    Let the students explore all the metamorphic rocks and try to identify them using the field guidebooks and hand lenses.
    Ask them to describe what they see. Are some of the rocks very similar to others?  Can they see any signs of intense weathering on some of the rock?
    What may have given the rock samples their shape? Discuss the background information with the students and let them compare and contrast metamorphic
    with igneous. Be careful not to mix up the rocks from one box to another. Sedimentary Rocks

    • Sandstone, shale and limestone are examples of sedimentary rocks.

    The most familiar type of sedimentary rock found in Utah is sandstone.
    Ask the students where the sand comes from in this process.
    Review briefly how sedimentary rocks are formed.
    Let the students explore all the rocks and try to identify them using the field guidebooks and hand lenses.
    Have the students look at all the layer lines in the sedimentary rock samples.  Ask them to imagine the pressing and cementing together to form
    this rock. Station 3: Experiments: The Acid and Magnet Tests  (15 minutes)

    Explain to the students that some substances react to certain chemicals, and detectives often use chemicals as tools to uncover clues.  We will use
    a chemical test to determine which minerals in the mineral bag contain calcium carbonate, a substance found in toothpaste, vinyl, chalk, glass,
    and the coating on chewing gum.
    Hand out a petri dish to each student in the group.  Put a paper towel on a flat surface and place the petri dish on top. Put 1/4 teaspoon of
    baking soda into the petri dish. Add several drops of vinegar (an acid) onto the baking soda.  Observe what happens.  Baking soda is made of a
    carbonate and will fizz when it comes in contact with an acid like vinegar.
    Let each student take 5 samples from the mineral bag and try to guess which will react with the acid.  Place the samples on the paper towel and
    add several drops of  M10%HCl acid M to them. Observe what happens.  ( Be very careful not to get the acid on you ).
    Have students design their own experiment.
    Objects that contain iron are attracted to magnets.
    Look at the flasks with iron filings and magnets inside then let the students describe how they could test for iron in the mineral samples.
    Then let them try it.


    Rocks are classified into three main groups depending on how they are formed. Sedimentary rocks are made from sand and silt that have been pressed
    together into layers.  Igneous rocks are rocks that became so hot that they melted, then cooled down and solidified again.  Metamorphic rocks are
    sedimentary or igneous rocks that have been altered by the action of heat or pressure.  There are many ways that rocks can be changed.  Igneous rocks
    beneath or on the Earth’s surface are constantly subjected to physical and chemical conditions that change them. As a result of these changes,
    sedimentary rocks, metamorphic rocks, or new igneous rocks are formed. Students should be able to describe and characterize different types of
    common rocks, use a guidebook to identify rocks and minerals and be aware of the many uses for rocks and minerals in today’s world.

    Clean up:

    Place all the samples back into the museum box.  Make sure that the desks are wiped clean and all the hand lenses and acid vials are returned to


    Observe students will engaged in the various activities at each station.
    Make sure that each students gets a chance to correctly identify one from each category of the rocks and minerals.

    Useful Internet Resources:

    Petrology Basics

    Rock Doctor 2000

    Identifying Rocks

    Background Information:
    Rocks are solid clumps of minerals that make up the Earth’s crust.  A mineral is a substance, which has a definite chemical composition and
    distinctive physical properties such as hardness, crystal structure and luster.  Some examples of minerals are quartz, pyrite, gold and copper.
    There are three different ways in which rocks are created, so geologists usually classify rock according to how it was made. The three main types of
    rocks- igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic, can all be found in Utah!


    Igneous rocks originate from magma, or liquid rock, from within the earth.  Tremendous heat within the Earth’s crust produces the liquid magma.
    When the magma cools and hardens either underneath or on the Earth’s surface, it produces igneous rocks. The rate at which a rock cools from a
    liquid state to a solid influences its shape and texture, characteristics that help to classify the rock as igneous.

    In the Salt Lake Valley we find granite in the Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons. Granite is an igneous rock that cools below the earth’s
    surface.  It is a hard rock with speckles of quartz crystals. Other igneous rocks cool above the surface of the earth and are known as volcanic rocks.
    Two examples of this, obsidian and pumice look very different from each other. The most rapid cooling of lava results in obsidian.


    Metamorphic implies a change of form or composition. Metamorphic rocks are formed deep within the earth when previously existing rocks
    undergo changes due to intense pressure, chemical reactions and heat. Often these rocks are former sedimentary rocks that have been
    recrystallized (a repetition of the rock forming process). E.g. slate is recrystallized shale, marble is recrystallized limestone and quartzite is
    recrystallized sandstone.


    Sedimentary rocks are made up of sediments or small pieces of rocks, shells, or the remains of plants and animals. Over millions of years
    these sediments have settled to the bottom of the oceans or lakes. When layers of sand and mud are pressurized together over time it produces
    sedimentary rocks. The most familiar type of sedimentary rock found in Utah is sandstone. The layers in sedimentary rock are quite evident.  Shale is
    the most abundant sedimentary rock.  It is made from mud and clay deposits, is very soft and weathers rapidly.


    Minerals are either free, uncombined native elements or elemental compounds.  Our definition in this activity is simply that they are the
    substances that make up rocks. A mineral is a natural occurring inorganic solid (with the exception of water, mercury and opal) with a definite
    chemical composition (atomic structure) and crystalline structure. Each mineral’s composition varies within fixed limits.