3rd Grade Local Rocks Program (Piedmont and Blue Ridge rocks)

On this page you can download the graphics, lesson plans, and Google Earth files developed by Roadside Geology of Georgia
co-author Dr. Bill Witherspoon of Fernbank Science Center (FSC), during more than 15 years of working with students in DeKalb County Schools. These lessons have been presented at meetings of the National Science Teachers Association, the Georgia Science Teachers Association, and/or the Geological Society of America, and are posted here by request. 


 Kids Rock! games

Middle School Investigating Rocks Program

Middle School Virtual Volcanoes and Earthquakes Program

In the Local Rocks and Minerals program, third graders are guided through simple observations about the five most common stones (rocks or minerals) in their area. In DeKalb County, as in much of the Blue Ridge and Piedmont, these are granite, gneiss, schist, amphibolite, and vein quartz. FSC instructor Nathaniel Haeck co-developed this activity.



Middle School Timecraft at the Grand Canyon Program

Middle School Electricity from the Sun program

Middle and High School Fossils and Evolution Program

Students work in teams of three or four to place each sample at its labeled place on a mat, and then each student is self-tested. Click here to download the Blue Ridge/Piedmont set of activities as a 2.2 MB zip file.

The activity evolved into the Kids Rock! game now available from Georgia Rocks in four editions covering local rocks throughout the state and Southeast.

High School Rock Transformations Lesson



The Investigating Rocks program for middle school presents eight rocks and how their textures tell the stories of their origins. Four are igneous rocks: scoria, obsidian, volcanic breccia, and granite. Three sedimentary rocks, conglomerate, sandstone, and limestone, and a metamorphic rock, slate, round out the set.

The rocks are placed on a sheet of pictures, showing the typical environment in which each rock begins.  The students also work with an identification flow chart specific to the eight rocks, and a "rock textures and what they tell" chart to match up specific textures with rock histories. Download the activities as a 2.9 MB zip file.



Virtual Voicanoes and Earthquakes is a program for use in a computer lab in which each student has access to a computer loaded with Google EarthTM. A Google Earth .KMZ file contains placemarks that guide students to volcanoes, active faults, and undersea features, as well as path lines that let them generate topographic profiles across plate boundaries, and overlay maps showing  3D earthquake patterns. A simple scavenger hunt exercise is also included in the 1.1 MB zip file.



Timecraft at the Grand Canyon is a lesson on geologic time based on a foam rubber model of the Grand Canyon. Involve your students in building the model – actually two models, one consisting of layers put down one at a time representing the long history of deposition, and a second model of the same layers cut to demonstrate stages in eroding the canyon. Once the model is built, you can teach with it for years using a script that imagines students traveling through the Earth’s 4.6 billion years in a “timecraft” (like a spacecraft) while geologists in Arizona and Georgia describe the local geologic evidence. A follow-up activity is a card game with rules similar to gin rummy, the “Grand Time Game,” which teaches about the kinds of evidence that fossils provide. The model instructions, card game, and script are found here on Fernbank Science Center’s web site.


Electricity from the Sun is a lesson about the Sun as the ultimate source of most of the electricity we use, whether it be generated by burning fossil fuels such as coal or by harnessing renewable sources such as wind and water. You will need two hand cranked generators (such as GeneconTM), a small photovoltaic cell, and a VernierTM voltage probe with LoggerLiteTM software to do the lesson as designed. A PowerPoint slide show and cards for playing “Electricity Concentration” are included in the 25.7 MB zip file. FSC instructor Mary Breen co-developed this activity.


Fossils and Evolution was developed to give students hands-on experience with fossils. It was built around a collection of trays of five fossils, each tray representing one of the thirteen geologic periods from Cambrian time to the present. Students look up the fossils in a catalog of pictures of the fossils making up the collection. They record information such as name and range of the fossil and its major group, then they read information about the major group off a “Tree of Life” chart. The chart, developed for Fossils and Evolution, shows the branching of major groups and their abundance in the fossil record, along with the geologic time scale. It is part of a 7.7 MB zip file.




In the Rock Transformations lesson for high school Earth Systems students, the student works with 17 different rocks and learns the transformations that generated each rock. An 11X17 color mat diagrams the rock transformations. These include magma–basalt-amphibolite, magma-peridotite-soapstone, magma-granite/pegmatite, sand-sandstone-quartzite, sand+clay-graywacke-metagraywacke-gneiss, clay-shale-slate-phyllite-schist, and carbonate skeletons-limestone-marble. Note that the end products are rocks commonly found in the Georgia Piedmont and Blue Ridge.

As students recognize the rocks they lay them out on the mat and then memorize the mat layout and rock identification as one activity. The mat and lesson plan are in this 741 KB zip file.