Rocks Project

A Project by Second grade Students at Grafton elementary School, Grafton, Illinois

Length of project: 2 months
Teachers:  Dot Schuler, Eileen Borgia

Phase One—Beginning the Project

The teacher made a web to brainstorm the avenues of investigation the children might pursue. The teacher and the children told personal stones about rocks. They drafted, proofread published, illustrated, and displayed the stories around the room. They answered open-ended questions about rocks: What sizes are they? What colors? What is good and bad about them? What are they made of? Where do they come from? What are they used for? Children wrote their ideas in their journals. Cooperative teams made charts of the responses, which served as early documentation of what they knew and wanted to know about rocks. Each child wrote a paragraph, responding to one of the questions, incorporating the five stages of writing-prewriting , first draft, revision, proofreading, and publishing.

Phase Two—Developing the Project

On our field experience to the hills adjacent to the school, we gathered data, measured, sketched, and studied rocks. Children discovered many formations in rocks. They hypothesized which was stronger, a tree growing out of a rock or the rock itself.   Discoveries were documented. In activity centers, the children: painted; dictated stories; graphed the number of rocks in each collection; categorized rocks; and made Venn diagrams. One visiting expert demonstrated experiments to determine rock properties. Another expert, a geologist, donated samples of rocks. Our third expert helped the children construct a rock garden / terrarium. Children conducted experiments to determine properties of rocks. Two groups interviewed people in the school. Another team made a paper-mache model of Devil's Tower, a National Monument in Wyoming.  Jonathan froze a rock in water to observe changes and recorded findings on a flow chart. One group planted seeds in a glass and poured plaster of Paris over the top, to see if the seed would grow through the rock. Shannon and Kayla created a puppet show. Another group made a paper-mache model of a volcano. Others made a rock from plaster of Paris s mixed with small rocks. Two children were in charge of transforming our wall into a bluff.

Phase Three—Concluding the Project

Our three-dimensional bluff, complete with paper vines, trees, small rocks, a cave at the bottom, and houses on top, was the focal point of our final display. In Nelson's words, "It was something for people to remember." Invitations were sent to parents, colleagues, and the community. Representations were stored in boulder folders. Each child selected two work samples for the display. Children's paintings and writings adorned all the walls. The project culminated on an evening in mid-April. The superintendent, principal, teachers, parents, siblings and neighbors (64 in all) listened to a child-produced puppet show on rocks, and then circulated in our crowded space, viewing our displays and listening to the children's explanations. Our volcano "erupted" many times, to the delight of our guests.


Throughout the project, reading, dialogue through journals, and discussions about investigations helped the children share their experiences.  Children often chose to work in lieu of afternoon recess.  When small group investigations were finished, they often helped others make vines and trees for the bluff, weigh large rocks on balance scales, or conduct small investigations of their won.  curriculum areas were easily incorporated, providing ample opportunities for children to apply skills,  Parents and members of the community heard about the project, and occasionally sent in an object, a picture, or an offer of help.  at the culmination, we heard positive comments, such as, "They did so much work," "This really turned out great," "You've worked so hard," "You don't even need explanations, the displays tell it all."

Project Summaries

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