Modeling Rock

By Laura Hospitál on May 31, 2015

Students begin to learn about the three types of rock found in the Earth in elementary school.  These three types of rock are:
  • igneous rock - Forms when magma or lava cools
  • sedimentary rock - Forms when sediments are compressed into a solid
  • metamorphic rock- Formed when heat and pressure act upon sedimentary or igneous rock
The following mini-lab is appropriate after students have learned about the types of rock.
This simple hands-on activity gives students an opportunity to "create" sedimentary rock.  It requires only about 20 minutes to complete.  If a simple balance or a triple beam balance is utilized instead of an electronic balance, it may add 20 minutes to the time necessary. 
This activity is from the Glencoe Science - 8th grade book, 2002.   It has been adapted to allow the rock to harden more quickly.


  • Prepare the attached procedure in the appropriate reading mediums for the students.
  • Gather the materials necessary (See materials)
NOTE:  I would not recommend having the students measure the glue as it is quite messy.  A small container of glue has enough glue for 3 groups.  The student should add the glue WITH teacher supervision so as not to add too much.


  • sand - 40 grams per group
  • paper cups (DO NOT use plastic cups)
  • white glue 40 milliliters per group
  • plastic spoons - one per group


Grade 8 Science Try at Home Mini-lab-Modeling rock   NOTE:  I would not recommend having the students measure the glue as it is quite messy.  A small container of glue has enough glue for 3 groups (about 120mL)  The teacher should add the glue.   The students should measure the sand either on an electronic balance, a simple balance, or a triple beam balance.    Please see the following links for instructions on adapting a simple balance and a triple beam balance
  1. Mix 40 mL of white glue with 40 g of sand in a paper cup.
  2. Stir the mixture and then allow it to harden overnight.
  3. Tear away the paper cup carefully from your mixture.


  1. Which rock type is similar to your hardened mixture?
  2. Which part of the rock cycle did you model?

NGSS Standards:

Grade 2: Earth's Systems:  Processes that shape the Earth
ESS1.C: The History of Planet Earth
Some events happen very quickly; others occur very slowly, over a time period much longer than one can observe. (2-ESS1-1)
ESS2.A: Earth Materials and Systems
Wind and water can change the shape of the land. (2- ESS2-1)
ESS1.C: The History of Planet Earth
Local, regional, and global patterns of rock formations reveal changes over time due to earth forces, such as earthquakes. The presence and location of certain fossil types indicate the order in which rock layers were formed. (4-ESS1-1)
Grade 4 : Earth's Systems:  Processes that shape the Earth
ESS2.A: Earth Materials and Systems
Rainfall helps to shape the land and affects the types of living things found in a region. Water, ice, wind, living organisms, and gravity break rocks, soils, and sediments into smaller particles and move them
around. (4-ESS2-1)
Grade 5 - Earth's Systems
ESS2.A: Earth Materials and Systems
Earth’s major systems are the geosphere (solid and molten rock, soil, and sediments), the hydrosphere (water and ice),
the atmosphere (air), and the biosphere (living things, including humans). These systems interact in multiple ways
to affect Earth’s surface materials and processes. The ocean supports a variety of ecosystems and organisms, shapes
landforms, and influences climate. Winds and clouds in the atmosphere interact with the landforms to determine
patterns of weather. (5-ESS2-1)
Middle School: History of Earth
ESS2.C: The Roles of Water in Earth’s Surface Processes
Water’s movements—both on the land and underground—cause weathering and erosion, which change the land’s surface features and create underground formations. (MS-ESS2-2)
Middle School: Earth's Systems
ESS2.A: Earth’s Materials and Systems
All Earth processes are the result of energy flowing and matter cycling within and among the planet’s systems. This energy is
derived from the sun and Earth’s hot interior. The energy that flows and matter that cycles produce chemical and physical
changes in Earth’s materials and living organisms. (MS-ESS2-1)
High School:  Earth's Systems
ESS2.C: The Roles of Water in Earth’s Surface Processes
The abundance of liquid water on Earth’s surface and its unique combination of physical and chemical properties are central to the planet’s dynamics. These properties include water’s exceptional capacity to absorb, store, and release large amounts
of energy, transmit sunlight, expand upon freezing, dissolve and transport materials, and lower the viscosities and melting points of rocks. (HS-ESS2-5)
layers of rock collage
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