Compare And Contrast Essay On Rocks And Minerals

Nomenclature and classification are very important in science. Being very precise about what you are investigating helps scientists communicate findings and results across geographic and cultural boundaries. Non-scientists commonly use the terms “mineral” and “rock” interchangeably in everyday language, but in science they mean very different things. The International Mineralogical Association describes a mineral as an element or chemical compound that is normally crystalline. Crystalline refers to the orderly geometric spatial arrangement of atoms in the mineral. Table salt or sodium chloride (NaCl) is a familiar mineral that forms cube-shaped crystals. Typically the chemistry and crystalline structure of a mineral help scientists to classify it. Minerals are formed as a result of geological processes.

An example of a mineral is quartz. Quartz is made up of a crystalline structure of the compound silicon dioxide, SiO2 (SF Fig. 7.10 A). By contrast, rocks are mixtures of minerals. The mixture may be homogenous or heterogeneous in nature. Homogeneous rocks are made up of more than one type of mineral, but are uniform throughout and usually one color. In heterogeneous rocks, the minerals are distributed unevenly, so they are often not uniform in color. Slate is an example of a homogeneous stone, with even mineral distribution and color. Granite is an example of a heterogeneous rock that contains a mixture of the minerals quartz, mica, and feldspar and is variable in color (SF Fig. 7.10 B).


Title – Rocking With Minerals
By – Amanda White
Primary Subject – Science
Secondary Subjects – Art, Language Arts, Computers / Internet
Grade Level – 4th grade

Science Objectives:

      2.01 describe the composition of a mineral.


      2.02 Analyze the mineral composition of rocks.


      2.03 Assess the uses of rocks and minerals.

Essential Questions:


      What are the three main types of rocks?


      How do rocks change over time?


      What are the ways humans use rocks and minerals?


1 day    KWL Chart on rocks and minerals; do independent, partner, group, and class
1 day    Rock Walk to find a special rock
2 days  Rock Centers (three centers one day and other three next)
1 day    Rock Out Game (learn about the three types of rocks)
3 days  Rock and Mineral research (one day computer, one day book research, and one day to type up report)
1 day    Chalk Paintings
1 day    Field Trip
1 day    Sharing Day

Sample Calendar (January 2004):

of Earth
What is
a rock?
What are minerals and their characteristics?
Type up
Field Trip to
Rock Journal


1. Rock and Mineral Research

Students will make the connection between rocks and minerals and commonly used items. The teacher will explain that ore minerals provide metal for household appliances, and cars, quartz used in televisions and radios, and gypsum is used to make plasterboard and paint. Students will look at items located on a table (it will have a drill bit, a filled saltshaker, and a light bulb, a can of white paint, container of bath powder, a glass, and a roll of film). Students will then be given an index card with one of the following rocks and minerals: diamond, halite, quartz, silver, chalk, titanium, and tungsten.

Students will use an encyclopedia and the internet to research their rock or mineral to find its common uses. Once they research and print it out and they will use the computer to type a summary of their rock or mineral and its common uses.

2. Chalk Painting

Students will learn that thousands of years ago people crushed rocks to obtain colors for paints. The teacher will hold up a piece of chalk and ask the students what it is. Then the teacher will tell the students that the chalk is limestone. The chalk powder has been used as a white pigment (coloring). The teacher will supply the following items to the students and then guide them through the steps shown to make their own chalk painting. When all the paintings are done the work could be placed on a bulletin board.

Materials for each student:

  • 1 piece white chalk
  • glue-water solution (1 tbsp glue with 1 tbsp water)
  • newspaper
  • 9″ x 12″ sheet black construction paper
  • 1 paintbrush
  • 1 paper cup
  • 1 plastic spoon
  • hammer

Step 1: Put your chalk inside the plastic bag, flatten the bag to remove the extra air, and close the bag securely.
Step 2: Place the bag in between layers of newspaper for cushioning.
Step 3: Use a hammer to carefully crush the chalk into a powder.
Step 4: Pour the chalk powder into the paper cup and add the glue solution. Mix thoroughly with a spoon.
Step 5: Use the chalk paint and the paintbrush to create a picture on the black construction paper

3. Rock Out Game

Before the activity cut an equal number of red, blue, and brown rock shapes from construction paper so each child will have a rock. Distribute randomly to students, one rock per child. Explain that the red rocks are igneous, the blue ones sedimentary, and the brown ones metamorphic. Define and describe each type of rock before playing the game and how they can change through the rock cycle. Three people will bring their rocks to the front.

Say “Heads down, rocks out!” All students who are seated will put their rocks on their desks, close their eyes, and put heads down. The three people walk around, exchange their rocks with three who are seated and then return to the front of the room. Next, call out “Heads up, rock check!” The seated students who now have different rocks stand up. If each one can state the change and why it happened, he takes the place of the student who exchanged rocks with him. If not, he sits back down. Keep going until everyone has had a turn being a part of the rock cycle.

4. Field Trip to a good rock finding area (Hiddenite, North Carolina)

Students will get the chance to dig for their own rocks and minerals.

5. Rock Search

Students will make a rock booklet to record data on a rock that they find. The students will take a nature walk around the school to find a special rock that they would like to collect data on.

6. Rock Centers

Students will go through various centers to gather data on their rock they found on the nature walk. There will be six little centers and they are as follows:


      Students will clean their rock and look at it with a hand lens. They will draw what it looks like, and record it in the data journal.


      B. Finding the True Color


      Students will find the true color of their rock by performing the streak test. Students will rub the rock across an unglazed ceramic tile. The streak of the color left on the tile’s surface is the rock’s true color. If no streak is left then it is harder than the tile. Students will record the information in their rock journal.



      Students will learn about the Mohs scale. A mineral will scratch other minerals that are softer than itself and will be scratched by minerals that are harder. Put pennies, a knife, a glass jar, in the center. Students will try to scratch a penny, a knife, and the glass jar with their rock. Students will record what his rock scratched in the rock journal.



      Students will learn that rocks with limestone will effervesce or bubble when they come into contact with a weak acid such as vinegar. Students will conduct an experiment by using vinegar in a dropper to see if bubbling occurs. They will write their findings in their rock journal.



      Place magnets in a center area. Students will learn that a rock containing metal will be attracted to a magnet. Students will hold the magnet to their rock and see if it is attracted. Then they will record their findings in the rock journal.



    Students will find out if their rock sinks or floats. The students will learn that a pumice rock will float. Students will place their rocks into a cup of water and they will watch to see if it sinks or floats. Then they will record their findings.

7. Writing Activities (choose one a week)

      – Students will write a paper comparing and contrasting different minerals using their own characteristics.


      – Students will imagine they are a certain type of rock (igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic) and explain how the rock was formed and how it changed from one type of rock to another. Throughout the story students will describe how the rock feels as the changes are occurring.


      – Students will compare and contrast two different types of rocks first using a Venn diagram and then writing it in a paragraph.


    – Students will write a paper detailing how life would be different if there were no rocks and minerals.
ActivityMultiple Intelligence
Rock and Mineral ResearchVerbal/Linguistic
Chalk PaintingVisual/Spatial and Bodily/Kinesthetic
Rock Out GameBodily/Kinesthetic
Field Trip to HiddeniteNaturalist; Visual/Spatial
Rock SearchNaturalist; Bodily/Kinesthetic
Rock CentersVisual/Spatial; Verbal/Linguistic

Assessments: (Can be given any time during the unit after the information is covered)

      – Given a list of characteristics of several minerals, students will be able to identify the mineral. (can be done after mineral research and presentations)


      – Students will describe characteristics of the three types of rocks. (can be done after the rock out game)


      – Students will describe the rock cycle and describe hoe the rocks change from one type to another. (can be done after the rock out game)


      – Given a type of rock, students will identify it as igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic rock. (can be done after the rock out game)


    – Students will list the many ways rocks and minerals are used in everyday life. (can be done after mineral research and presentations)

Resources: Investigating Science: Rocks and Minerals

ScienceWorks for Kids Series – Geology

Rocks and minerals

      . Carson-Dellosa Publishing Company. CD 7295

The Magic School Bus: Inside the Earth

      . Joanna Cole, Scholastic, 1989

Discover Rocks and Minerals

      . Joel E. Arem, Publications International, 1991

Everybody Needs A Rock

    . Byrd Baylor, Aladdin Paperbacks, 1987.

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