Rocks and Minerals

Calcite Crystals
Learning about rocks and minerals gives students a deeper appreciation of the story behind the scenery in our national parks.

Photos courtesy of Heather Walborn

Rocks and minerals are all around us! They help us to develop new technologies and are used in our everyday lives. Our use of rocks and minerals includes as building material, cosmetics, cars, roads, and appliances. In order maintain a healthy lifestyle and strengthen the body, humans need to consume minerals daily. Rocks and minerals play a valuable role in natural systems such as providing habitat like the cliffs at Grand Canyon National Park where endangered condors nest, or provide soil nutrients in Redwood where the tallest trees in the world grow.

Rocks and minerals are important for learning about earth materials, structure, and systems. Studying these natural objects incorporates an understanding of earth science, chemistry, physics, and math. The learner can walk away with an understanding of crystal geometry, the ability to visualize 3-D objects, or knowing rates of crystallization.

Natural objects, such as rocks and minerals, contribute to the beauty and wonderment of the National Parks and should be left, as they were found, so that others can experience a sense of discovery.

Educational Resources

petrified wood pile

How Rocks are Classified

With this handout learn how igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks are classified. 3.72 MB PDF

Sunset Crater volcanic rock

Magma Mash

In an exploration of magma behavior, students role-play minerals that are cooling at different rates, and then examine rock samples. For Grades 4-8.

bowens reaction series

Bowen's Reaction Series

In the early 1900's N. L. Bowen determined that different minerals crystallize at different temperatures during the cooling of magma. This chart demonstrates the reaction rates. Source: Trista L. Thornberry-Ehrlich, Colorado State University. [273 KB JPEG]

National Mall

Webquest: The National Mall

Through this webquest the student will discover how the many quarried stones at the National Mall not only provide the building blocks of each structure, but also strengthens the themes and ideas which are representative of the monuments and memorials as well.

rock cycle

Rock Cycle

Rock cycle diagram showing the associated geologic processes where the three types of rock are found: sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic. 163 KB PDF

oldest rocks

Oldest Rocks

Learn about the oldest rocks found in the parks that range in age from 3 billion to 600 million years old.

Geology Field Trip Guides: Rocks & Minerals
These geology field trip guides were developed by Anabelle Foos (Professor Emeritus, University of Akron) and focus on parks with unique features associated with rocks and minerals.

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