Open-and-go lessons that inspire kids to love science.

Science curriculum for K—5th grades.

90 sec
  • Hands-on lead students in the doing of science and engineering.
  • NGSS-aligned and Common Core make the transition to the Next Generation Science Standards and support Common Core.
  • Less prep, more learning prep in minutes not hours. Captivate your students with short videos and discussion questions.

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The Birth of Rocks

Rock Cycle & Earth's Processes

3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade

NGSS Standards covered: 4-ESS2-2 , 4-ESS3-2 , 4-ESS1-1 , 4-ESS2-1
This unit takes the perspective that every rock has a story. Students will develop an appreciation for the processes that shape the Earth’s surface. After considering where volcanoes form and how they erupt, they turn to investigations of rocks breaking apart and creating potential hazards. Through hands-on investigation, students explore the world of rocks and design ways of protecting humans from their dangers. Less
  1. Lessons
  2. Activity Prep
  3. Assessments

Mystery 1: Volcanoes & Patterns of Earth's Features

Mapping Volcanoes

In this Mystery, students explore the past and present pattern of where volcanoes exist on the earth. In the activity, Mapping Volcanoes, students plot volcano locations on a world map and look for patterns. Students analyze these maps to discover that volcanoes form a “Ring of Fire” around the Pacific Ocean.

Number of students:
Colored Pencils
We suggest using red colored pencils or crayons because they are the color of volcano lava. Crayons also work.
15 pencils
Volcano Discoveries printout Print 15 copies
Volcano Discoveries Answer Key printout Print 1 copy
Volcano Mapping printout Print 4 copies
Volcano Mapping Answer Key printout Print 1 copy
Prep Instructions

We suggest students work in pairs. Each pair of students will work on one quarter of the Volcano Map. At the end of the activity, four pairs of students will bring their maps together to form one complete Volcano Map.

Homeschool students can work on their own, but will need to complete all four parts of the Volcano Map so that they can analyze the global volcano pattern.

You will need enough wall space to display the completed maps. There will be one map for every 8 students, so a class of 32 students will have 4 completed maps. Each complete map measures approximately 22” x 17”.

Prepare Volcano Discoveries Printouts

Cut each Volcano Discoveries printout in half to make two worksheets. Each student needs a half sheet for the activity.

Display Maps (Optional)

At the end of the activity, you may want to display the completed Volcano Maps. Depending on the wall surface, attach the maps using tape or push pins.

Mystery 2: Volcanoes & Rock Cycle

Bubble Trouble

In this Mystery, students will investigate how differences in lava types explain differences in the shape and eruption patterns among volcanoes. In the activity, Bubble Trouble, students compare two different types of "lava" -- thin and thick. They use this information to figure out why volcanoes have different shapes and how the type of lava explains why some volcanoes explode.

Number of students:
Table Covering (eg. Trash Bags)
30 bags
Clear Plastic Cups (10 oz)
Dixie cups will also work.
30 cups
2 cups
Measuring Cup
1 cup
Paper Plates
15 plates
Plastic Spoons
15 spoons
Plastic Straws (Not Bendable)
30 straws
Ziploc Bags (Gallon)
Used to mix the flour and water. Can also use a large mixing bowl.
1 bag
Lava Experiments printout Print 30 copies
Lava Mat printout Print 15 copies
Prep Instructions

You will need access to water for this activity.

We recommend students work in pairs. Homeschool students can work on their own.

Prepare the “Lava”

To prepare the “lava,” you will need water, flour, a 1-gallon Ziploc bag (or large mixing bowl), measuring cups, scissors, and (optional) red food coloring.

For thin lava, use plain water. You can optionally add a drop or two of red food coloring to make it look more like lava. A few cups of water will be enough for about 30 students (15 pairs).

To make thick lava, mix up the flour with water and (optional) red food coloring. Watch this video to see how we mix up a batch in a plastic Ziploc bag without making a mess. You can also mix your lava in a mixing bowl. This should make enough thick lava for about 30 students (15 pairs).

Fill Cups with “Lava”

Fill half of the cups about halfway with the “thin lava.” Fill the other half of the cups about halfway with the “thick lava.”

Mystery 3: Weathering & Erosion

Sugar Shake

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, Sugar Shake, students use sugar cubes as a model for rocks. They perform an experiment with this model to understand the process of weathering and how this process explains why rocks at the tops of mountains are jagged, while those at the bottom are rounded.

Number of students:
Washable. Do not use permanent marker.
30 markers
Paper Plates
15 plates
Plastic Containers w/ Lids
15 containers
Sugar Cubes
75 cubes
Sugar Shake Data printout Print 30 copies
Prep Instructions

We suggest students work in pairs. Homeschool students can work on their own.

Each pair of students will experiment with 5 sugar cubes. You may want to count out 5 sugar cubes and place each on a paper plate prior to class for easier distribution.

Mystery 4: Erosion, Natural Hazards, & Engineering

Slide City

In this Mystery, students will learn about the types, causes, and dangers of landslides. In the activity, Slide City, students are faced with the engineering problems of protecting a house from a landslide and preventing a landslide from happening. They use a brainstorming technique to design creative solutions.

Number of students:
Post-Its (3")
300 post-its
Saving My Slide-City Home printout Print 30 copies
Prep Instructions

You will need a large wall or board space where you can put up student Post-it notes.

Watch a 1-minute Video

To prepare for this brainstorming activity, we suggest teachers watch this short video demonstration of brainstorming.