The Rock Hound

Whoopee!  My first story is being published on the “Issues in Earth and Space Science” web page!  It is a Young Adult story about a rock hound, a mystery, and how she uses forensic geology to help solve the mystery!

Below is a 5-E learning model classroom activity to accompany the story.  As you may know, the 5-E model goes hand in hand with the Next Generation Science Standards.  Let me know what you think!  Also, I would for you to email me some of your students’ presentations!


“The Rock Hound” CLICK HERE!

Why is there an isolated dome of granite in the Texas hill country?


ENGAGE: Have the students read the story, “The Rock Hound.”

Try a Socratic Discussion where the students first write 3 questions to ask each other.  The questions need to be at 3 different levels:

  1. Informational—was there something in the story they had a question about? Did they wonder what other students thought about the story?  Is anyone in the class a rock hound?
  2. Community—these are more open ended questions about the student’s school, home, or community. Are there any rock formations near your location?  Have you visited them?  What kind of rocks are there?  What do the rocks tell you about your community?
  3. Global—these are also open ended, but have broader implications, and greater depth. These might apply something in the story to something the student wonders about.  Would acid rain impact erosion of Enchanted Rock?  What is a granite dome doing there?  If it is a volcano that didn’t erupt, is there danger of it erupting in the future?

The teacher’s role during the discussion is that of a facilitator.  I used to use a “Power Ball” with my freshman students.  The student with the ball had the “power” to speak.  The student with the ball would ask a question, then roll the ball to the student of their choice to answer the question.  The teacher ensures that all students participate, serves as a resource when needed, directs students to resources, and might make a suggestion or ask a question if the discussion slows.

Be sure the students know they don’t have to limit their questions to the ones they have written—those are just starters to get them to think at different levels.  The student questions can be very revealing to the teacher, giving you an insight into student thinking, and misconceptions the students may have.  Be sure to have pencil and paper handy for your own notes.

In my experience, this works better with some classes than others, but all improved with practice!  Try it more than once!

EXPLORATION:  Provide each group of students with a group of rocks.  If nothing else, get some river rocks from a home improvement store.  You can have students bring one or more rocks from home, or you and your class can collect some, if you have an appropriate location.   Have each student describe one of the rocks.  Have the student put an initial or number on the bottom of the rock in pencil.  Then have the students trade their descriptions, and attempt to identify the rock (placed in a box with many other rocks), based on the other student’s description.  You can have them make measurements (length, width, mass), but you run the risk of their identifying the rock purely on size alone.  You can limit their observations to color, presence or absence of crystals, grain size, layers, bands, sand grains, or presence of fossils.  Since testing the limestone rock with vinegar was mentioned in the story, you can provide a dropper bottle of vinegar (and goggles) for the students to use.  You may want to have a hand lens available as well, as the bubbles can be very small.  They also may want to examine the rock features with it.

This is a good activity to improve the students’ observations and to get the students to observe the small details of the rocks.  What property helped them the most in their identification?



The student will perform several experiments to gather data to use as evidence in answering the title question about the rock cycle.

  1. Water Erosion

A group of rocks for each group (include some sandstone, if possible)

A pint mason jar with a lid for each group


Tap water

Provide students with a group of small rocks.  Ask the students how they think water erosion will affect the rocks?  How can they find out?  Tell them to use the provided materials to determine the effect of water erosion on the rocks.  (Hopefully, the students will mass the rocks, take turns shaking them in the water in the mason jar, and mass the rocks again after a period of time.  Other approaches are possible, and acceptable, though if you have a group really off track, the teacher/facilitator can certainly make suggestions or ask leading questions to get the group where it needs to be, such as, “Will the wet rocks weigh more than the initial dry rocks?” “What remained in the bottom of the jar after the rocks were shaken?” “If the rocks were shaken more, what would happen?”)

  1. Sediments to sedimentary

This activity compares sand only, sand mixed with clay, and sand mixed with plaster of Paris (gypsum or calcium sulfate) to show how sediments combine to form sedimentary rock.

  1. Some parts of the rock cycle are not possible to create in the classroom. Try this simulation activity with sugar cubes:  CLICK HERE FOR A PDF


ELABORATE: (Plate tectonics, intrusion, & conditions that lead to the formation of the granite dome) Try a Socratic discussion at the end of these labs! Tell the students to focus on evidence.

 Brief simulation of different plate boundaries

Plate boundary interactions activity

Ask the students what the above two articles/simulations have to do with the Enchanted Rock. Then have them read the article below.

Interesting account of the geology of Texas.  Ask the students to look for answers to the following questions as they read the article:

What was the Llano Uplift?  When did it occur?  What was the result?

EVALUATE:  Students create and present their argument from evidence to answer the question, “Why is there an isolated dome of granite in the Texas hill country? “ Allow students to be creative in their presentations, but be sure they include their claim, evidence, and reasoning.


 Photos of common rocks

 Interactive rock cycle


Next Generation Science Standards:

MS-ESS2-3. Analyze and interpret data on the distribution of fossils and rocks, continental shapes, and seafloor structures to provide evidence of the past plate motions.
HS-ESS2-1. Develop a model to illustrate how Earth’s internal and surface processes operate at different spatial and temporal scales to form continental and ocean-floor features.