Over the past couple weeks we have been discussing the various rock types, identification tests, the rock cycle and plate tectonics.
We began the unit by looking at 5 million year old fossils from the Burgees Shale. This immediately captivated students, but boggled their minds. How can we know that the fossils are that old? How do we know the world used to look different than it does today? And much, much more. After, we discussed the movie “The Core”. This gave students the opportunity to think critically about a Hollywood movie; what is fake and what is factual. Following the movie, students worked in collaborative groups to determine which parts of the movie fell under the following headings, Good Geology, Bad Geology, Bad Physics and Bad Biology.
Following this, students cut out a Pangea Puzzle to see how geologists are able to determine how the Earth used to look. Students were able to see the evidence of fossils and how this evidence points at the existence of Pangea prior to what we know to be modern day world.
Students engaged in a rock lab where they were able to perform hardness and streak tests in addition to record information about colour, luster, cleavage and fracture. This gave students a hands-on experience to identify the types of rock they were analyzing. Tomorrow, students will be writing a practical rock exam – they will be given 10 rocks and asked to perform various identification tests. With a table, they will have to determine the unknown identity of the rock.
Students took part in a Rock Cycle Activity, where they rolled various dice, which took them through stations. Each station was a different part of the rock cycle. After, students were asked to create a comic, story or other product to showcase their learning and understanding of the rock cycle. At first, students took this project to be simple, but soon realized there was a large amount of deep thinking required to determine the type of rocks formed at each stage and how the stages are interrelated. I purposefully hadn’t talked very much about plate tectonics at this point and questions frequently came up (most commonly the concept of subducting oceanic plates), but students were re-directed with another question and various resources to help them seek out the answers to their questions.
Today, we tied everything together with “Snack Tectonics“. In this activity, we investigated the various boundaries that exist on Earth. I took the students outside and we looked at the interaction between oceanic plates (fruit rollups), continental plates (graham crackers) and their interactions with each other, pudding was used to represent magma. At one point, when we looked at Convergent Boundaries, and I brought up students prior question about subducting oceanic plates from the Rock Cycle activity many of the students were still interested in learning exactly what it meant. When I was able to say, look in front of you – the fruit rollup (oceanic plate) is subducted below the graham cracker (continental plate) because it is denser, the “AH-HA” moment was amazing. There was this look in many of the student’s eyes that said, “Now I really get it”. In future, I would use only vanilla pudding, not chocolate and definitely take students outside!
I often push my students and am careful to not give them answers too quickly. Instead, I answer their questions with a question, play devils advocate (on a daily basis) and/or refer them to various resources that may give them more information. I think it’s extremely important as an educator to facilitate student knowledge and growth. Of course, this requires me to know each of my students and understand how much each of them can be pushed and more importantly, how to push them.
Until next time,