Interactives: Rock Cycle

Thirteen/WNET New York
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Animation/Movie , Informative Text , Tutorial
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.



Interactives: The Rock Cycle is a collection of activities, with accompanying readings and animations, that provides information on rock types, the processes that affect rocks and the interrelationships among the three types.  In Part 1,Types of Rocks, students read information on igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks, concentrating on the characteristics that can be used to identify these general types. A short quiz that provides immediate feedback concludes this section.  In Part 2, How Rocks Change, students read text and view animations that describe the processes that transform rocks from one type to another. The processes discussed in this section are Heat & Pressure, Melting, Cooling, Weathering & Erosion and Compacting & Cementing. Again, this section ends with a brief interactive challenge that provides immediate student feedback. In Part 3,  students complete a diagram of the rock cycle that combines the processes studied in Part 2 with all three rock types and magma, creating more of a “rock web” than a simple rock diagram. All questions in this quiz involve one of the physical processes involved in the cycle. There is an additional “Test Your Skills” interactive quiz which teachers can use to assess student knowledge.  The site includes an “About This Interactive” page for teachers and a glossary for student use.  

Intended Audience

Educator and learner
Educational Level
  • Middle School
  • Grade 8
  • Grade 7
  • Grade 6
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 is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
This website does not ask students to develop a model for the rock cycle; rather, the emphasis is on understanding the processes involved in the cycle that transform the different rock types. The model that is presented is not the simplistic version of sedimentary to metamorphic to igneous and back to sedimentary; instead, it presents a multi-directional model. Within the module, students are tasked with figuring out which specific process is involved in the transformation of one rock type into another. Thus, the emphasis here is on both the cycling of materials and the flow of energy involved in the process. If teachers wish to have students construct their own model, they could consider using the “Develop Your Own Rock Cycle Worksheet” found at ( Teachers can download both a worksheet and answer sheet for classroom use.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
In Interactives: Rock Cycle, students use a model of the rock cycle to help build their understanding of the physical processes involved and the non-linear nature of the cycle. The drag and drop questions that students must answer, particularly at the end of the “How Rocks Change” section, require a strong understanding of the processes involved in the rock cycle. In order to bring this activity more in line with the practice, teachers could opt to have students construct their own model of the rock cycle using the resource mentioned above in the Performance Expectation. This worksheet provides five bullets of information that students can use to create the pathways in their model. Students could then evaluate their “model” to see if any pathways are incorrect using the completed chart found in The Rock Cycle Diagram section of this activity.

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
This tutorial addresses the part of the Disciplinary Core Idea dealing with the flow of energy and matter within one of Earth’s systems: the rock cycle. In these activities, students study the changes that occur in rocks due, in part, to the energy found in Earth’s hot interior. The energy from the Sun is only indirectly mentioned; teachers will need to remind students that the driving force behind weather is the Sun. The site does not differentiate between the physical and chemical changes (i.e. physical versus chemical weathering) found in the cycle.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this crosscutting concept.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
In this activity, students read informative text and view animations in order to investigate the processes involved in transforming rocks from one type to another. Since the site does not distinguish between physical and chemical weathering in the cycle, teachers may need to incorporate information on carbonation, oxidation and hydration.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: Interactives: The Rock Cycle incorporates all three dimensions of the NGSS. It is strongly aligned in the areas of the Disciplinary Core Idea of Earth Processes and in the Crosscutting Concept of Change and Stability. The site emphasizes the processes involved in transforming rocks from one type to another and is careful to present the cycle more as a web than as a simple circle. It is weakest in the Practices area since students are using and not developing their own model of the rock cycle. To strengthen the Practices Dimension, teachers could use the Develop Your Own Rock Cycle Worksheet found at (

  • Instructional Supports: The information and concepts presented in the module are scientifically accurate and grade appropriate. Since this is a self-paced tutorial, students are not provided with the opportunity to present ideas or to receive feedback from others. To increase student interaction, teachers may decide to have students work in pairs. No guidance is provided for differentiation.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: Interactives: The Rock Cycle provides traditional self assessments in the form of multiple choice questions; however, it does not include pre- or formative assessments. In addition, aligned rubrics or scoring guidelines to assess student achievement are not included; however, since students receive immediate feedback on their choices, the value of such tools would be limited. The tasks and vocabulary used to monitor student understanding are unbiased and accessible.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: In this tutorial, students watch animations, complete timed challenges, drag and drop icons to answer questions and check their knowledge by taking quizzes that provide instant feedback. Because of the variety of the tasks, middle school students should remain engaged throughout the tutorial. In all assessments, students are answering questions that have only one correct answer; therefore, interactivity is limited.