Saturday, January 7, 2017

(Star)bursting for Rocks!

There’s nothing like candy to motivate learning. . . our fourth grade earth science unit focuses on patterns in rock formations and fossils in rock layers (4-ESS1-1) and the effects of weathering on the rate of erosion (4-ESS2-1). We’ve conducted many hands-on experiments (read about them {HERE} and {HERE}), but this Starburst rock cycle is definitely the most visual (and yummy) & one of our favorites!
Give each student 4-5 Starburst candies and a sandwich-size ziploc bag. Model cutting them into smaller bits, forming sediment. Stop often for students to draw diagrams and take notes in their science notebooks
With the heat from your hand, squeeze the sediments into a ball, forming a sedimentary rock. The Starburst are colorful and the layers are visually evident.

Next, place the warm sedimentary rock in the ziploc bag, put under a textbook and press hard to flatten. The pressure and heat form a metamorphic rock.
The next step was modeled by the teacher only, under the document camera. I took my metamorphic rock and placed it in heavy-duty foil on top of a hotplate. Within seconds, the candy began to bubble and melt. The class watched this change into an igneous rock on our Smartboard. (I quickly turned off the hot plate, afraid the smoke detectors would go off!)  After the "rock" cooled, it easily peeled off the foil, and the blackened parts looked just like molten magma and lava.
Students recorded their results as scientists. This is an area we still need more practice in (recording with detail and description!)
After all our experiments, reading, and studying about rocks and minerals, we played I Have, Who Has. This fast-paced review game reinforces concepts learned during this earth science unit. You can check it out by clicking on the picture below.
What are some other ideas you have for teaching the rock cycle? I'd love to hear from you!
For more great resources & tips, click on the buttons below!


  1. I could not love this idea more! I actually used candy in different ways to teach about types of rocks and the rock cycle, but never thought of using starbursts! This is beautiful, fun, and effective!

    1. Thanks, Retta! I'd love to hear about your ideas for using candy & teaching rocks!!

  2. This is an excellent lesson! What a great way for students to learn about the rock cycle. Thank you so much for sharing this!

    1. Thanks! My students really were engaged and keep referring to the experiment :)

  3. Love this idea! Hands-on science, all the way! :)