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Anchor Phenomena: Rocks are constantly changing


Students are introduced to one part of the rock cycle (matter cycling) as they observe the energy and the force of water as it breaks apart and weathers rocks.  Students are engaged by investigating why a clay flowerpot left out over winter broke apart into pieces of sand and chunks of clay.  Students discover that the freezing and thawing cycle is a very powerful weathering force that contributes to how rocks are constantly changing.


Students continue to explore the power of water in the rock cycle as they study the occurrence of a large amount of naturally occurring arches in southern Utah.  Students discover that an old shallow ocean deposited salt and sand beds which overtime turned into sedimentary rock.  As the area was uplifted, cracks broke through the sedimentary rock allowing water to seep through the Entrada  layer until it pooled on top of the Carmel Layer.  Students discover that the Carmel layer has a high clay content which doesn’t allow water to seep through unlike the sandy layer of the Entrada layer.  Rainwater will pool on top of the Carmel layer thereby eroding the sedimentary rock in that area quicker by chemical and physical weathering.  Time scale will be investigated as students work to comprehend the significant amount of time it took for these arches to form.


Students observe a set of unidentified rocks looking for patterns and formulating questions.  Students use these questions to investigate the patterns they observed and explain the formation of certain characteristics and features.  Students use their research to create a model of  the rock cycle that explains where each unidentified rock they observed would have been formed.


To build real life experiences (elaborate) into the Rock Cycle, students study the North Salt Lake landslide of 2014.  Students are introduced to a geotechnical engineer (one who uses knowledge of the Rock Cycle everyday) and how humans work to prevent damage to property from natural disasters such as landslides.  Students work to understand the cause of the landslide and how knowledge of the Rock Cycle can prevent such disasters in the future.

Evaluation of student proficiency is determined by the assessment.

Conceptual Understandings

Freeze and thaw cycles can break down large objects such as flowerpots and rocks.

What else can water weather?


Students investigate what happened to cause the flowerpot to break apart into sand and pieces of clay.

Episode 1


What happened to the flowerpot?

Anchor 1

Episode 2


How can water create an arch?


Students obtain information about the formation of the Colorado Plateau, fins, and layers of sandstone. Students develop and use models to show the causes and mechanisms for their formation, construct an explanation, and develop a model to show how fins are formed. The model should include the time frame for which the arches were made.

Conceptual Understandings

The colorado plateau is a raised portion of an old sea bed.  The salty ocean floor was eventually covered by sediments as nearby landforms became weathered and eroded depositing their sediments onto the old ocean floor.  Overtime the sediments formed sedimentary rock. Pressure from above pushed up the salt bed where cracks in the rock let water seep into this layer which was quickly dissolved leaving an open space or arch.

Why do rocks look different?

Anchor 2

Episode 3


In what ways can rocks be classified?


Students observe several unidentified rocks, find patterns, and create questions.

Conceptual Understandings

Rocks have patterns that allow them to be classified

Why do rocks have the characteristics they have?

Anchor 3

Conceptual Understandings

The difference between sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous rocks including where they formed, melting, crystallization, deterioration, and energy needed to create the change.

In what ways is this information used?


Students use questions from episode 3 to research the formation of rocks and rock features.  Students create a model (drawing) of the rock cycle and then identify each of their numbered rocks. The model should indicate where in the cycle each rock would be found.

Episode 4


Why do rocks have the appearances that they do?

Anchor 4

Episode 5


How do engineers use this information about the rock cycle?


Students investigate careers that use their knowledge of the rock cycle on a daily basis.

Conceptual Understandings

Engineers must study bedrock and sediments to determine if land can be developed.

Anchor 5
Anchor 6
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