How do you help your kids understand geology? By using Starburst of course!
In today’s post, I will be explaining a fun experiment that parents can do with their children to help them learn about the rock cycle. In this experiment, we will be learning about three rock types: sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous.
The supplies needed for this experiment are; 9 starburst, aluminum foil, parchment paper, a can (or something heavy), and an oven.
1. To prepare, unwrap the starburst and cut out 3 squares of parchment paper and 3 squares of aluminum foil. When I did this, I accidentally cut the parchment paper too small, causing the starburst to stick to the foil, so make sure the pieces of paper and foil are big enough to securely wrap around the starburst!
2. Have your children take one piece of aluminum foil and put it on the table. Then, have them put the parchment paper on top, and put three starburst on the paper. Make sure that the starburst chosen are different colors so that they can see the difference between them in the rock forms.
Take the parchment paper and wrap it around the starburst stack. When doing this, make sure the starbursts stay stacked! One time when I did this, the top starburst fell off the stack. Next, wrap the foil around the parchment paper. This will be repeated for all three of the rock types, so you can either do them all at the same time and have them ready to go, or have your kids do them one at a time for each experiment.
3. First, we will create a sedimentary starburst rock, formed by pressure. Give your children a can, or another hard object, and press down on the starburst. For me, I tried using a hard covered book and realized it didn’t apply enough pressure. You can use any hard object that is heavy enough to apply pressure. After applying pressure, you should see the starburst wrap is flattened. What happens here is that the can is applying pressure to the starburst, just like how a sedimentary rock is formed! Instruct your children to unwrap the foil and paper. They will be able to see that the starburst went from a stack of three to one object, and due to the pressure, the colors are stacked. Below is a comparison of the starburst sedimentary rock and a real sedimentary rock.
4. The next rock type is metamorphic, which is formed due to heat and pressure. Either repeat the steps in #2, or grab the new wrapped starburst stack you previously made. Parental supervision is required for this one. Please make sure your kids do not use the oven or touch the starburst until you tell them to. Turn your oven on to 350 degrees fahrenheit and carefully place the starburst stack in there. After 2 minutes, take the starburst stack out. Wait a few minutes for it to cool, and then touch it to make sure the foil is cool. Have your child grab the can (or whatever object you used in #3) and apply pressure to the stack. Now, unwrap the foil and paper for your child. The starburst should be softened and flat. This is what happens when a metamorphic rock is formed, which is due to heat and pressure! Have your children take the starburst off the parchment paper and they should be able to see that the lines between the starburst are less defined. Below is a comparison of the starburst metamorphic rock and a real metamorphic rock.
5. The last rock type is igneous, formed by extreme heat! For this one, parental supervision is also required. Either repeat the steps in #2 or grab your last untouched stack of starburst. Place the stack in the oven for 5-7 minutes. Keep an eye on it to make sure that nothing is burning. When I did this one, I noticed some of the parchment paper was sticking out, and it turned a bit brown, so just make sure that everything looks okay! When you think it’s melted, take the stack out and put it on the counter for a few minutes to cool. Make sure your children do not touch it! Once cooled, unwrap the foil and paper, and the starburst should be melted and mixed a bit. This is how an igneous rock is formed, due to extreme heat. Below is a comparison of the starburst igneous rock and a real igneous rock.
Finally, grab all three of the starburst rocks and ask your children to explain how each was formed, as well as the difference between the three. This experiment helps to differentiate the different rock types, but also shows how each are formed. Now, your kids know about the rock cycle, and a bit about geology.
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- Roshnee Gulati