The Weathering of Rocks and Minerals
This unit contains resources about chemical and physical weathering of rocks. The product of weathering is sediment that can form sedimentary rocks.

Workshop Presentations

PowerPoint Click to download the MS Powerpoint file (9.6 Mbytes).

PDF. Click to view or download the presentation in PDF (1.3 Mbytes).

HTML. Click to view the presentation in html..

Online lecture Click here to view a streaming lecture. (~24 minutes)

Instructional Case

The Weathering Instructional Case (IC) consists of a series of five lessons and formative assessments that focus on the physical and chemical weathering of rocks and minerals. This IC was written by a team of middle school science teachers in the Integrated Middle School Science (IMSS) Partnership funded by the National Science Foundation. The documents for this IC are available as PDF's for printing and as Microsoft Word documents so that teachers can adapt them for use in their classrooms.

Overview. Click to download an overview of the Weathering Instructional Case. IC Overview PDF

Teacher Background. Click to download a primer for teachers on mechanical and physical weathering of rocks and minerals. PDF

Glossary. Click to download a glossary of scientific terms with definitions and explanations from a scientist and from the perspective of a student. PDF

Unit Timeline. Click to download a Unit Timeline that includes unit objectives and vocabulary. Timeline PDF

Lesson 1 Introduction to Weathering. In this lesson, the teacher will assess the students’ prior knowledge on weathering and erosion using the Page Keeley probe, “Mountain Age”. This probe allows the teacher to assess misconceptions and start the lesson sequence with a “Friendly Talk” probe where students will build their group and scientific process skills. Students will receive an introduction to the Claim-Evidence-Reasoning (CER) protocol and learn how to construct scientific explanations based on evidence and reasoning.

Teacher Lesson. PDF Word Document

Lesson 2 Mechanical Weathering - Salt and Chalk Lab. Students will create a simple model of mechanical weathering using colored gypsum sidewalk chalk and salt. The salt, as the agent of abrasion, slowly weathers the sidewalk chalk. Because of the color of the chalk, students can visualize the weathering taking place. Students engage in the practice of modeling and use the model to construct explanations on the phenomenon of mechanical weathering. Teacher Lesson PDF Word Document

Lesson 3 Types of Weathering. After engaging in a pre-assessment probe and an inquiry-based activity, the students will now be able to place the information and vocabulary into context with a card sort. Students will be able to identify and recognize the important factors that affect the rates of weathering. Students will also be able to differentiate between mechanical and chemical weathering.

Lesson 4 Effervescent Antacid Weathering. Students will now explore chemical weathering and analyze dissolution rates of effervescent tables. Students will then explore the practice of planning and carrying out investigations. Students will explore the effect of temperature on dissolution rates using different temperatures of water.

Lesson 5 Weathering Competition. Students will culminate this instructional case with in an inquiry-based “Weathering Competition” in which student groups must choose weathering agents to reduce the mass of their rock and justify their choices (hypothesis testing). Different groups will present their data, analyze class data and determine the most effective weathering agents (following the C-E-R format).

Other Classroom Activities

Frost Wedging. This simple classroom activity models frost wedging that breaks rocks at the Earth's surface when water freezes. PDF Word Document

Biological Activity. This simple classroom activity models how tree roots can break rocks as they grow. PDF Word Document

Oxidation. This simple classroom activity models the oxidation of iron to form iron oxides. Oxidation is an important chemical weathering process. PDF Word Document

Online Video and Media Resources

The Forest and the Soil Cycle This video reviews the basics of soils and looks at the cycle of nutrients in a forest. WHRO

The Rock Cycle This interactive rock cycle explains the role of the weathering of rocks. Annenberg Learner.

Useful Websites

USDA Soils This USDA site is the main entry point for information on soils .

USDA Soil Education This USDA site has education materials about soils including lesson plans and other instructional materials.

NRCS photo library This National Resources Conservation Services site is a photo library of images including agriculture and soils.


NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas

Grade 2
ESS2.A: Earth Materials and Systems. Wind and water can change the shape of the land. (2-ESS2-1)

ESS2.C: The Roles of Water in Earth's Surface Processes. Water is found in the ocean, rivers, lakes, and ponds. Water exists as solid ice and in liquid form. (2-ESS2-3)

Grade 4
ESS2.A: Earth Materials and Systems. Rainfall helps to shape the land and affects the types of living things found in a region. Water, ice, wind, living organisms, and gravity break rocks, soils, and sediments into smaller particles and move them around. (4-ESS2-1)

ESS2.E: Biogeology. Living things affect the physical characteristics of their regions. (4-ESS2-1)

Grade 5
ESS2.A: Earth Materials and Systems. Earth's major systems are the geosphere (solid and molten rock, soil, and sediments), the hydrosphere (water and ice), the atmosphere (air), and the biosphere (living things, including humans). These systems interact in multiple ways to affect Earth's surface materials and processes. The ocean supports a variety of ecosystems and organisms, shapes landforms, and influences climate. Winds and clouds in the atmosphere interact with the landforms to determine patterns of weather. (5-ESS2-1)

ESS2.C: The Roles of Water in Earth's Surface Processes. Nearly all of Earth's available water is in the ocean. Most fresh water is in glaciers or underground; only a tiny fraction is in streams, lakes, wetlands, and the atmosphere. (5-ESS2-2)

Middle School
ESS2.A: Earth's Materials and Systems. All Earth processes are the result of energy flowing and matter cycling within and among the planetÕs systems. This energy is derived from the sun and Earth's hot interior. The energy that flows and matter that cycles produce chemical and physical changes in Earth's materials and living organisms. (MS-ESS2-1)

ESS2.C: The Roles of Water in Earth's Surface Processes. Water's movements - both on the land and underground - cause weathering and erosion, which change the land's surface features and create underground formations. (MS-ESS2-2)

High School
ESS2.A: Earth Materials and Systems. The geological record shows that changes to global and regional climate can be caused by interactions among changes in the sun's energy output or Earth's orbit, tectonic events, ocean circulation, volcanic activity, glaciers, vegetation, and human activities. These changes can occur on a variety of time scales from sudden (e.g., volcanic ash clouds) to intermediate (ice ages) to very long-term tectonic cycles. (HS-ESS2-4)

ESS2.C: The Roles of Water in Earth's Surface Processes. The abundance of liquid water on Earth's surface and its unique combination of physical and chemical properties are central to the planetÕs dynamics. These properties include water's exceptional capacity to absorb, store, and release large amounts of energy, transmit sunlight, expand upon freezing, dissolve and transport materials, and lower the viscosities and melting points of rocks. (HS-ESS2-5)

Common Scientific Misconceptions

The atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere do not cause changes in one another; these systems operate independently on Earth.

All bed rock is solid, non porous material.

Hazards are random in both time and place.

Human activities cannot affect geological processes like river floods and mass wasting.

Soil must have always been in its present form


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