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The Birth of Rocks    Mystery 3

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In this Mystery, students will explore how solid rock breaks apart into smaller pieces through a process called weathering (including root-wedging and ice-wedging.) In the activity, students will model the process of weathering that occurs when rocks tumble and crash into each other using sugar cubes in a container.

Will a mountain last forever?

Beginning Exploration (1 of 6)
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Beginning Exploration (2 of 6)

Discuss:
Here’s a close-up of one of the trees before they removed it. What do you think is going on here? What do you think happened to the pyramid?
treebeforeremoval

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Beginning Exploration (3 of 6)
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Beginning Exploration (4 of 6)

Discuss:

Has anyone ever told you not to put a can of soda in the freezer? Why do you think people say this?

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Beginning Exploration (5 of 6)
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Beginning Exploration (6 of 6)

Discuss:

Can you think of some experiments you could do to figure out what happens to a rock as it tumbles downhill?

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Beginning Activity: Sugar Shake
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Activity Prep

Get supplies and print worksheets.

Students work in pairs. Each pair of students will need:

  • a container with a lid (we use plastic food storage containers like these.)
  • 5 sugar cubes (available in the grocery store)
  • two washable markers (available at Amazon )
  • a paper plate
  • 2 Sugar Shake Data Sheets (2-pages each)
  • 2 pencils
Beginning Activity: Sugar Shake
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Beginning Activity: Sugar Shake
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Beginning Activity: Sugar Shake
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Beginning Activity: Sugar Shake
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Beginning Activity: Sugar Shake
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Beginning Activity: Sugar Shake
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Beginning Activity: Sugar Shake
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Beginning Activity: Sugar Shake
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Beginning Activity: Sugar Shake
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Beginning Activity: Sugar Shake
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Beginning Activity: Sugar Shake
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Beginning Activity: Sugar Shake
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Beginning Activity: Sugar Shake
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Beginning Activity: Sugar Shake
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Beginning Complete!

You've completed the Exploration & Activity!

If you have more time, view the assessment, reading and extension activity in the optional extras.

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Optional Extras

Below are ideas for extending this topic beyond the activity & Exploration you just completed.
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Activity Extension: More Sugar Shaking

In the Sugar Shake experiment, you are modeling a situation where identical rocks are tumbling together. You can see what happens when rocks of different types are bumping into each other by adding croutons (softer, more breakable “rocks”) and/or dried beans (harder, less breakable “rocks” to the container before you shake it.

How does the addition of other "rocks" affect the changes in the sugar cubes? How do the croutons and beans change with your shaking?

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Demonstration: The Mighty Beans

beansbefore

Use dried beans to demonstrate the power of seeds. Put beans into a paper or plastic cup until it’s about one quarter full. Add water until all the beans are completely covered. Set another cup on top, and add pennies (or other weights) so the cup presses down on the beans. Make a line with a marker to show the cup’s position.

Wait an hour, then check on your beans. (For the “after” photo, see next slide.)

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Demonstration: The Mighty Beans (after)

beansafter

Dried beans are seeds — you can plant them and grow a bean plant. When you add water to dried dried beans, they start soaking up the water and swelling as they get ready to grow.

This is the first step in root wedging -- getting bigger and pushing against the surrounding rock. The beans in this cup lifted the weight of many pennies when they swelled.

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Activity: Plant Walk

Take your class for a walk in your schoolyard and look for plants that have taken root where they don’t belong. You may find grass growing in cracks in a sidewalk or plants sprouting between stones or bricks in a wall.

The roots of these plants are ever-so-slowly expanding the cracks in which they grow. Just as the plants on the side of a mountain break rocks apart, the plants in your schoolyard are breaking the sidewalk and the stone walls.

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Image & Video Credits

Mystery Science respects the intellectual property rights of the owners of visual assets. We make every effort to use images and videos under appropriate licenses from the owner or by reaching out to the owner to get explicit permission. If you are the owner of a visual and believe we are using it without permission, please contact us—we will reply promptly and make things right.

Lesson Image
El Capitan by Octagon , used under CC BY
Exploration
Everest by Luca Galuzzi , used under CC BY-SA
Halfdome by Scott Catron , used under CC BY-SA
Mt. San Jacinto by Wattewyl , used under CC BY
light brick wall by Titus Tscharntke
Complejo Danta by Ronyrocael , used under CC BY-SA
El Mirador by Geoff Gallice , used under CC BY
Puna lava flow by DVIDSHUB , used under CC BY
Annona Atemoya seeds by takoradee , used under CC BY-SA
cement texture by Titus Tscharntke
pavement by Simon Law , used under CC BY-SA
sidewalk & tree roots by Doug Caldwell , used under CC BY
weathered rock by Natursicilia , used under CC BY-SA
rock parts by Lamiot , used under CC BY
Mount Hood by Thomas Shahan , used under CC BY
Mont Saint Honorat by Zil , used under CC BY-SA
Nuna Island by Kim Hansen , used under CC BY-SA
Activity
horses by Ben Salter , used under CC BY
pencil by Charm
Other
pebble beach by Paul Allison , used under CC BY-SA
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