Rock Cycle Journey

Type Category
Instructional Materials
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be "fully aligned," the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



This is an activity out of one of the DLESE Teaching boxes. The Teaching Box is titled Mountain Building. This activity is from Lesson 4 Activity #2 called Rock Cycle Journey. Stations are set up to represent different parts of the rock cycle. There is a die at each station. Students begin at one point and roll the die. The students record on their data sheet what happens to them (the rock). The student may end up staying where they are at or going to another station. Students continue individually through a set number of rolls of the dice. Students then look at their data and answer some questions. At the very end they share their information with others.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Grade 8
  • Grade 7
  • Grade 6
  • Middle School
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

MS-ESS2-1 Develop a model to describe the cycling of Earth's materials and the flow of energy that drives this process.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on the processes of melting, crystallization, weathering, deformation, and sedimentation, which act together to form minerals and rocks through the cycling of Earth’s materials.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include the identification and naming of minerals.

This resource was not designed to build towards this performance expectation, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
This activity provides some understanding of the different processes in the rock cycle and a sense of the length of time it takes for the processes. Students share their data which allows them to see that there isn’t one path a rock can take. The activity should be extended to include developing a model. In groups, students should combine their data (the paths they took through the rock cycle) to begin creating a model (a drawing) on how rocks get from one type to another. It is helpful to have them look at their data and see if they have a rock in common. This can be their starting point. When they have added all their data to the diagram (model) it will still be incomplete. To complete the model a whole discussion should take place using all the data from the class. If it is still incomplete students should have enough information to fill in the gaps. Another suggestion would be to have each group display their data. Each group would then use the additional data to improve their model. The activity does not explicitly describe the flow of energy and more discussion would have to take place to cover that part of the Performance Expectation.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Students use a model (the “game”) to see what processes a rock can experience in the rock cycle. But the experience is incomplete and while it has students discussing their results it does not have them pull it all together to develop a model. Students should share their data with others in their group to create a model. Then using data from the class, groups can revise their models to more completely show the relationships between the processes, rocks, and materials involved.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
The activity has students beginning to see the processes that change rocks (matter) from one type to another. To strengthen the idea that matter recycling produces chemical and physical change, samples could be set out. At the rock stations, various samples could be placed, a lava lamp could be placed at the molten rock station, and bits of gravel/sand should be placed at the sediment station. Students could also be asked to make observation that could then be used for discussion after completion of the “game.” The energy part is not addressed and will take additional lessons.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
The activity does involve change over time. Students will experience this differently. Some students may find themselves “stuck” at a particular station. Others will change at every roll of the die. The changes that take place are over long periods of time that cannot be easily viewed on short time scales. The activity does have the students calculate the length of time it took their rock with each roll being worth 200,000 years. The instructor will have to explicitly bring up the idea of stability and change through group/class discussions. Some questions that could be asked are: Do rocks move through the rock cycle at the same pace?, How long does it take for a rock to change? These do not have exact answers but the results should be that it takes a long time and the rate of change varies.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: The activity does somewhat cover the 3-dimensions. Students are using a model to better understand the processes that rocks and materials undergo as they cycle through the Earth system which touches upon part of of the Disciplinary Core Ideas and Science & Engineering Practices. It also touches upon stability and change as students think about the long periods of time involved. However, students only experience part of the rock cycle although they do share their journey. As written the activity does not have them develop a model and gain an understanding of the entire process. Bringing students together to build a model of the rock cycle would strengthen the alignment to NGSS. The activity does not include the flow of energy that drives the process so other activities would need to be included to cover energy flow.

  • Instructional Supports: This activity does support understanding of phenomena through a meaningful activity. There are clear instructions and materials both for the student and the teacher. There is a document that can be downloaded to create dice, labels for stations, and worksheets for students to use. There is an example of what the students might fill in during their “game.” Since this is a part of a larger unit the journal link is the whole journal but the activity refers to page 19 for the part of the journal for this activity. There are suggestions as to how students can extend the lesson. While the activity has students sharing their data, using it to build/describe a model of the rock cycle would make it much better.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: There are worksheets for recording progress and students are asked to summarize their trip. But assessment is vague, “evaluate the student’s journey logs, scripts, cartoons, and review reflection.” The instruction doesn’t take the data gathering far enough so that students create a whole model of the rock cycle. This make it difficult to know if students thoroughly understand the processes involved in the recycling of Earth’s material. A model that takes into account several students’ trips or data from the entire class would be much more helpful in determining if students understand and can describe a model of the rock cycle. A rubric would also be helpful to determine the degree to which students’ understand the processes and how they relate to each other.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: This resource has no technological component.