Rocking with Smarties

The rock cycle is often a boring topic for middle school students. In NSW, Australia, students learn about the rock cycle in year 7 or year 8. Many students also don’t fully grasp the rock cycle because it is something they can’t see happening in front of them and they can’t picture the long time scale (millions of years) in their minds.

I have often used food to make the rock cycle more interesting (see my previous post using cake to learn about the structure of the Earth). So when I came across this prac activity on using chocolate to model the rock cycle, I couldn’t resist. I used Smarties to model the rock cycle with my year 7 class. Here are some photos.

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My year 7s loved it. Some boys who usually vocalise very clearly they found this topic boring were the most eager to show me the chocolate sedimentary rocks they made. “Miss, when we placed the textbooks to squash the Smarties. That’s like compaction but we did it in a really short amount time, right?”, said one of these boys. They had fun and learnt a quite abstract and complex concept at the same time. What more can you ask for as a teacher?

I did modify the worksheet slightly to include the benefts and limitations of scientific models.

If you are planning to do this activity with your class, have a hand-held vacuum cleaner ready. No matter how careful kids are, there will be chocolate crumbs everywhere.

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