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Geology Facts

Rocks, rocks, and more rocks

SculptorRocks are all around us. You can see rocks inside your house, in your yard, on your street, on a country road, everywhere you look. Statues, chalk, marble, pencil lead, sandpaper, glass, tombstones, bricks, the walls of your room, mountains, pebbles, soil, and volcanoes are all rocks!! Rocks are used to build homes, an aluminum baseball bat, a washing machine, video games, airplanes, cars, and jewelry! Rocks aren't always solid. Sand and mud are rocks. No matter where you are you are always close to rocks and minerals. They are fascinating and exciting so let's begin our investigation to learn more.

Sundial

Let's start at the beginning…

We'll begin with a look at the structure of the earth because that is where all rocks come from. They have been on Earth for almost 4 billion years. Geologists record time with the Geologic Time Table.

Where do rocks come from?

The Earth has 3 layers: the crust, the mantle and the core (which is subdivided into the outer and inner core.) Each layer is unique and you can find the interesting details of the layers at: The Structure of the Earth.

Earth Layers

How do we classify rocks?

There are 3 main types of rocks depending upon how they were formed in the different layers of the Earth.

They are: Igneous, Sedimentary, and Metamorphic.

Rock Classifications
Type of Rock How is it formed? Where is it formed? Other Facts & Examples

SEDIMENTARY

River

Sedimentary rock is weathered into many pieces of rock and soil which then settles into layers. The layers are squeezed together until they harden into rock.

Found in locations where oceans, lakes, or other bodies of water exist or once existed.

Is layered, soft often containing fossils.

Examples: limestone, chalk, coal, sandstone, shale

IGNEOUS

Shield volcano

Igneous rock is formed when melted rock cools and hardens.

Created by lava from volcanoes or magma that cools inside the Earth.

Can be shiny or glossy

Examples: basalt, granite, pumice, quartz, obsidian

METAMORPHIC

Heavy rock

Metamorphic rock forms when igneous, sedimentary, or other metamorphic rock is changed by heat and pressure.

This type of rock is buried deep within the Earth where it is created from the heat and pressure found there.

Is hard, often contains crystals, may have bands or layers.

Examples: marble, slate, gneiss, schist

Rock On!
By Cherry Carl

Rocks! Rocks! They're not the same!
Each one has its claim to fame.
Rocks are grouped in three main types:
Some have layers … some have stripes.
What makes them different, do you know?
Let's take a look at rocks on show.

This rock star is "igneous."
It's made when earth seems furious.
Liquid rock erupts and cools,
Forming solid glasslike pools.

"Metamorphic" means some changes.
Mother Nature rearranges.
Using heat and pressure, too,
She makes old rocks appear as new.

"Sedimentary" means small pieces
That nature generally releases.
Using wind and water, too,
It makes new rocks for me and you.

Rocks! Rocks! You're not the same!
It's easy now to know your name.

This poem was written especially for Dialogue4Kids - courtesy of Cherry Carl. For additional poems on science, history, language, and holidays visit her website at: Carl's Corner

Changes

A rock can begin as one type and can change many times. In fact, rocks are always changing. However, the changes happen so slowly that they are difficult to see. We have seen above that heat and pressure can change rocks which then break down by weathering and move by erosion. It can take thousands of years for rocks to weather and erode. This process of changing is called the rock cycle.

Rock arch

Weathering

is the process that breaks rocks down into smaller pieces. Weathering can be caused by: wind, rain, ice, running water, plant roots, chemicals, freezing and thawing.

Round hill

Erosion

is the movement of rock pieces from place to place. Erosion can be caused by: wind, rain, running water, waves, gravity, and moving ice.

Fascinating Facts

Mt. RushmoreThe heads at Mt. Rushmore are carved out of an igneous rock called granite

The heat of lightning striking the sand of a beach can melt the sand to form a glassy rock called "fulgurite."

Don't miss the amazing crystals at the Smithsonian Gem & Mineral Collection.

SaltMelted rock is called magma when it is inside the earth, but called lava when it runs out onto the surface of the earth.

The mineral, salt, was so valuable in ancient times that it was traded ounce for ounce for gold.

A diamond is the hardest mineral.

Meteorites are rocks from space and they can help scientists learn about the solar system.

What else do we know about rocks?

A rock is a material made of one or more minerals. Minerals are made from 92 elements that join together in many different ways. Some minerals are made of only one element, such as silver. Most are a combination of two or more elements, such as granite which is made of quartz, feldspar, mica. Scientists have identified over 3,000 minerals. The particles of minerals are arranged in a repeating pattern called a crystal.

Recognizing a mineral is not an easy job. There are several different properties of minerals and tests that are used to identify them. The properties are: luster, hardness, color, streak, cleavage, crystal shape, and magnetism.

Crystal

Stalactites and Stalagmites

Stalactites

Stalactites form when mineral deposits and water seep from the walls or rocks inside caves. This drips slowly and creates an icicle-type formation. To remember the difference between these two mineral deposits, remember stalactites stick tight.

Stalactite

Stalagmites

Stalagmites are the collection of mineral deposits that build up on the floor of a cave. The dripping minerals stack on top of previous deposits to form a type of tower. Sometimes they connect to stalactites to form a column.

SpelunkerSpelunking

 

People who visit caves for the sport of enjoying the stalactites, stalagmites and other rock and mineral formations that can be found there are known as spelunkers. Visit Spelunking Wonderland to learn more about spelunking.

VolcanoVolcanoes

Learn more about volcanoes from Dialogue4Kids.

Earthquakes

Earth scientistThe crust of the earth is floating on the mantle layer. When one section of the crust slides or bumps against another layer, the earth under us shakes. A fault or crack in the earth's surface is often the primary location of many earthquakes. The point where that shaking happens takes place below the surface. This strong collision happens at a location known as the focus. Just above the focus, on the earth's surface, is the epicenter of an earthquake. The earthquake shakes the ground in waves that can be measured by scientists known as seismologists. The Richter Scale for identifying the strength of an earthquake is used by measuring the size of the waves.

Want to learn more about the rock cycle?

The rock cycle is complex but you can learn a lot by revisiting the idea of it over and over. Check out these sites for more information:

Discover more as you learn how to think like a geologist and mineralogist.

Rock hunter

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