Rock Cycle - Rocks (1A)
Pre Lab 

  • Learning that minerals are different from rocks.
  • Comparing minerals and rocks.
  • mineral
  • pure
  • rock

Students list the difference between rocks and minerals.


The Rock Cycle is a very important concept for children to understand. It is a model which explains how one type of rock can become another type of rock if the environment where the rock "lives" changes. For example, rocks at the Earth’s surface can be pulled into the crust, where they experience high pressures and temperature conditions. This environmental change may cause the rocks to melt, eventually forming a new rock.

In the first grade, it is difficult for the students to understand all the processes of the Rock Cycle, but an explanation of the environments where rocks can form will help students to understand how rocks are "recycled."

Minerals make up rocks. Rocks and minerals are related but they have different characteristics. A person, for example, has organs like a liver or a stomach, but when the parts are put together they form a person. A liver by itself does not provide any information about the kind of a person it came from, and although we know there is a heart inside each person, we cannot see it from the outside. The same problem arises with rocks. We know that minerals make up the rocks, but we cannot always see them.

Rocks are usually ugly to the eyes of a child. They are usually gray or brown, unless they live in areas where rocks are spectacular like the Sierra Nevada exposures of granites , the sandstones of Colorado and Utah, or the basalt flows in Hawaii.


  1. The connection between minerals and rocks can be illustrated by getting several balls of different color clay. A red ball of clay is a "pure" red mineral. A blue ball of clay is a "pure" blue mineral. A yellow ball of clay is a "pure" yellow mineral. Take a piece of the blue, red, or yellow and make another ball. This mixed mineral ball would represent a rock. If you keep mixing the "rock" all the colors of the clay will mix and you will get a grayish brown color. You know the red, blue, and yellow are there, but you just can’t see them. Minerals make up rocks.

  2. Review the characteristics of rocks and minerals, using the chart below. As you review each characteristic, explain its meaning carefully. Be aware that these distinctions are generalizations. Many exceptions occur, due to the wide variety of mineral and rock compositions. The students will find identification becomes easier with practice.




pure (made of same substance)

more than one mineral

some have crystals

not single crystals

usually pretty

not usually as pretty

usually have a shape

no definite shape

color is usually the same

color is not the same

no fossils

some have fossils

  1. As you discuss the differences on the chart, have the students copy down the information (it is also present on the worksheet). Make sure students are aware that some of the differences are hard to distinguish. When they are finished, have them draw a picture of a mineral and of a rock.

[Back to Rock Cycle Grid]   [Back to Rocks (1)]