A science project on the rock cycle gives you an excellent opportunity to integrate technology into your communicative repertoire by filming yourself performing a demonstration. As you work through your chosen model, you can explain the three types of rock, sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous, and elaborate on the natural forces of weathering, erosion, pressure and heat necessary to create each one. Alternatively, you can practice at home and give your demonstration on-site at the science fair, live and in person.
Marshmallow Fudge Rock Cycle
Using a hotplate, large spoon, saucepan, can opener, some rectangular baking pans, red food colouring, waxed paper and plastic zip bags, jumbo marshmallows, butter, chocolate chips, sugar and canned milk, you can follow Sandra Hunt's example of setting the process within the life story of a single rock. The marshmallow represents the sediment that chips off the mountain and lands in the stream where it becomes sedimentary rock. Cover the marshmallows with waxed paper and press down to represent the pressure that changes it to a metamorphic rock. Add marshmallows, butter, sugar and canned milk to the saucepan and heat to simulate the effect of volcanic heat on the rock and explain where the Earth's heat comes from. Pour the mixture into a greased baking pan to cool. If you place leftover marshmallows and chocolate chips in one container, the pressed marshmallows in another and display the cooled marshmallow fudge in a third, you will have a working model of each of the three types of rock in the rock cycle.
Crayon Rock Cycle
Another simple visual demonstration of the rock cycle from Thinkquest uses crayons, aluminium foil, a couple of boards or other flat heavy object, a hammer, and a candle. The crayons represent the mountain. With a crayon sharpener, create several colours of sediment that erode from the rock through weathering forces. Fold the shavings securely into a piece of aluminium foil and press between two boards. Inspect the result and explain how it is like metamorphic rock. Press again and explain any changes. Refold the foil packet and heat over the candle for several minutes. The new type of rock you have now is igneous rock. Write a report or make a poster explaining how each step of this demonstration illustrates a part of the rock cycle.
Sugar Rock Cycle
A sugar cube, foil and candle flame will suffice to complete this straightforward demonstration. The sugar cube symbolises the sedimentary rock. Crush it and it is sediment eroding from the mother rock. Pour the crushed sugar into a foil boat to represent the metamorphic rock. Heat it over a flame and cool to show how volcanic heat produces igneous rock.
Ride the Rock Cycle
If you enjoy writing or drawing, you can write your own version of the life story of a rock. Science Spot suggests writing a diary or a children's book, or drawing a cartoon version of the rock cycle. Another option is to have an interactive exhibit by creating a game that uses Stacy Baker's rock cycle dice at Science Spot and let visitors learn by doing.
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- Oracle Education Foundation: Thinkquest: This Planet Really Rocks: Rock Cycle Activity
- Science-Class.net: Sugar Rock Cycle
- Riverdeep Interactive Learning Ltd.: Teacher Universe: Teaching the Rock Cycle with Marshmallow Fudge: Sandra L. Hunt, PhD
- The Science Spot: Earth Science Lesson Plans: Ride the Rock Cycle