Ride the Rock Cycle – Comic Strip Adventure

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  • Rock Cycle Comic Strip Lesson Plan (link – pdf) or ScienceSpot.net or NSTA
    • Note there is a typo with the numbering on the handout – it should be numbered 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 in case you want to make corrections prior to photocopying it
  • Laminated Station Cards
    • Stations as Google Slides – public
    • Rock Cycle Comic Stations (pdf)
    • For 2016-2017 I updated some of the stations to have more variety in the outcomes and introduce some higher level concepts for my 6th graders to lead into our unit on Plate Tectonics
  • Dice: 2-4 at each station
  • Pencils
  • Colored Pencils

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Tips for running the lesson:

  • Use this lesson after introducing the Rock Cycle to students.
  • Having 2-4 dice at each location allows multiple students to be at each station at the same time. In the past when I used the paper dice that come with the lesson, it took time for each student to write down the outcome from the dice. Having the outcomes on the station cards helps speed things up.
  • Set up stations around the room, depending on the number of students you have, you can make multiple stations for each one.
    • For example, for the Soil Station or the Earth’s Crust & Interior Station, you can have more than one of each to spread students out around the room. They get a lot of traffic.
  • If students get ‘stuck’ at a station, explain that they can be stuck in the Earth’s Interior for millions of years and their whole comic would be just that one station, but allow them to ‘roll out’ of a station if they are there for a 3rd time.
    • For example – A student will end up at the Soil Station and roll “Sediments Being Formed Remain Here” and write that on their handout. Then they will roll “Sediments Being Formed Remain Here” again, and write it down. If on the 3rd turn they roll “Rocks Break Down, Remain Here” have them roll again until they get something different. They may then get “Flooding Occurs, Go to River” and write that down and go to the River Station. They may end up back at the Soil Station on a later turn, but that is OK. They will visit some stations more than others.
  • Once students are done with their journey, check over their work and then have them start their comic strip. They might need some tips on how to draw certain geological processes.
  • I have used this lesson for many years and the students really enjoy making their comics and come away with a better understanding of how rocks change over time.

First Day of School – Science Classroom Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger Hunt Handout
Scavenger Hunt Handout

The first day of school is always so exciting and the kids are eager to explore their new surroundings. As part of my first-day procedures, along with expectations and all the things I need to cover/explain, I like to do a scavenger hunt. This usually takes place during the last 20 minutes of the class period (we have 50 min periods) to help students become familiar with their new classroom, satisfy their curiosities, and burn off some of that energy.

While the students are completing the scavenger hunt, it really gives me a glimpse into the dynamics of each class. Some students like to work alone, some like to work with a partner, some are super focused and task driven, some students prioritize what they want to find first and make a plan, some students are more relaxed and let the answers find them as they walk around making quiet observations, some students pair up and find half of the items and share their information, some will trade answers for things they can’t find. It is really interesting to watch it unfold.

The scavenger hunt will continue into the first 10 minutes of the second class and then we will go over the answers. (If they don’t find all the answers, that is OK, it isn’t graded.) Each student checks their work, making corrections as needed. (This also gives me a good segway into talking about corrections – many students view corrections as something they did ‘wrong’ and I want them to view them as opportunities.) This will stay in their notebook and can be used for reference. There are always a few tricky ones that very few students have correct, for example, the outlets for the laptops are hanging from the ceiling on rolled up extension cords – we don’t use the wall outlets.

Just for fun, at the end, I have all the students stand up. We then determine who found the most items. If they have 5 or more correct, they stay standing, if not, they sit down. We continue until the last person is left standing for each class. I write their name on the board and write “Sally – 25”.

To view my version of Scavenger Hunt handout click on the image above or here (pdf)

Making & Sharing Observations: A Telephone Game

Image Source – Wikipedia Commons

Updated July 2016


  • Google Slides  (Public)  – includes directions and photos of damselflies
  • Lesson Plan – (pdf-Instructions)
  • Images to print out and laminate (pdf)
  • 1 Index card per team

I used this activity with my 6th graders to emphasize observations, communication skills, and team work. It is a variation on the classic Telephone Game that many students are familiar with. Depending on the number of students you have, I found that 7-8 per team worked really well. The more students on a team, the more difficult it is to relay the information to each student, and less than 7 was much easier. If your teams aren’t exactly even, that is ok. When grouping students, be sure to mix abilities and plan accordingly for teams that are larger/smaller.

How the game works is I have 10 color photos of damselflies, and each team will make & share observations for one of the photos. The only person who will see the photo, however, is person #1. The rest of the team will not see the photo, and they don’t know what the photos are of. The only information they will have are the 10 observations person #1 will give them. Once each group determines who #1 is, #1 will come up to make and record 10 observations about their photo for 3 minutes. The rest of the team will determine who will receive the information from #1 and the order they will go in. Some strategies will go into determining the order, for example, someone who has a really good memory may want to be person #2.

Students will spread out around the room and take a seat. When the 3 minutes are up, person #1 will go to person #2 and whisper the 10 observations to them for 1 minute. Person #1 will have their index card, but can not give the index card to person #2. Person #2 can ask questions and repeat the information until the 1 minute is up. #1 will take #2’s seat and #2 will go to #3 and share the 10 observations from memory. This will continue until all members have had a turn sharing the observations.

The last member of the team will share the observations with the class and then pick out the photograph from the 10 I have. We will then compare the last set of observations to the original 10 and find out if they were able to choose the correct photo.

This was a fun and challenging activity, and it lead to some really great discussions about making and sharing observations. Many groups had difficulty picking out the original photograph because the information changed or went missing somewhere along the line, just like when they play the game telephone.


  • Asking Questions and Defining Problems
  • Analyzing and Interpreting Data
  • Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

Cup Stacking Collaboration Challenge

Cup Stacking Challenge


  • Students will collaborate, problem solve, and persevere to accomplish each challenge

Materials – per group of 3-4 students

  • Task Cards – cut apart, laminate, and secure with a metal ring or brass brad
  • 6 cups
  • 1 rubber band
  • 4-6 pieces of string of equal length

This is one of the team building exercises I plan to use with my 6th graders during the first week of school. Many variations of this lesson can be found online. For this version, I created 6 different challenges for the students to tackle – each one increasing in difficulty. Not every group will get to complete all 6 challenges, and that is OK. The objective is to learn to work together as a team and not give up.

Updated: Pictures September 2015

Working as a team to complete a task
Working as a team to complete a task
Trying to pick up a cup that fell over.
Trying to pick up a cup that fell over.
Almost done with Challenge #4!
Almost done with Challenge #4!

Discussion & Reflection

  1. Which challenge was the easiest for you group to complete? The most difficult? Why?
  2. Did your techniques change as you advanced to each challenge? Explain why or why not.
  3. Describe a technique that worked best within your group.
  4. Compare using two hands vs. one hand when holding the string to guide the cups. List advantages and disadvantages for each.
  5. Compare using verbal and nonverbal communication, what were some of the challenges your group faced?
  6. If you were to complete this activity again, what would your group do differently? What would you do the same?
  7. Why are collaboration and communication skills important characteristics for scientists to have?
  8. Did you feel like giving up at any point? How did you and your group deal with frustration?

Charles Darwin Survival Game

Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 11.11.19 AMWill your species survive for a million years? Will it survive a viral outbreak, meteorite impacts, predators, temperature changes, and changes in food sources?

In this natural selection simulation, students will choose 3 individuals as their starter population. What traits do they think will increase the chances of survival for their species? Long legs? Long necks? Stripes? Furry or bulky bodies? Only time will tell!

My 6th graders enjoyed playing this game and many were much more successful than I was 🙂


  • Introduction page (link)
  • Natural Selection – how are traits passes on?
    • Click on Natural Selection in the menu options
  • Who wants to live a million years?
    • Click on Survival Game in the menu options

“Pour to Score” – Interactive Website for Volume

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 7.03.20 PM“Pour to Score” is an interactive website created by PBS. The objective of the game is to pour the water between the larger container and the smaller container to create 8 different volumes of water.

At first glance, it may seem like an easy exercise in addition and subtraction, but it requires problem solving skills, logic, and patience. My 5th graders have enjoyed using this game as part of our volume unit. Some students will figure out the pattern quickly, and advance to the next few levels, while for others, it will require trial and error, and perseverance.


  • Pour to Score (link)
  • Can you fill it? (link)  and Fill it Up (link)
    • Try to fill up the container in the least amount of moves, and without over filling
  • additional games from PBS (link)

‘Alien Juice Bar’ – Cabbage Juice and pH Values

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 11.29.30 AM

This classic interactive website is a great way to practice identifying acidic, basic, and neutral substances along with reading pH values. There are three different levels which increase in difficulty as the students complete each activity.

Challenge 1 – students have to identify and categorize the different ‘juices’ that they will serve to the aliens as either Acids, Bases, or Neutral.

Challenge 2 – students will practice serving requested juices to aliens, but if they serve a juice from the wrong category, aliens can become sick, or worse!

Challenge 3 – students have to change the pH values of the juices on the tray by either adding acids or bases to raise or lower the pH values.

NASA Spinoffs Interactive Website

NASA Spinoffs Interactive Website
NASA Spinoffs Interactive Website

NASA has a great interactive website for students to explore how technologies developed for space exploration are used to improve our daily lives. I made a handout to help guide the students through the website and learn more about items that they used or found interesting. Using their handout, they listed and compared how NASA used or developed the technology to how we use the technology.

  • NASA Spinoffs handout (pdf) and (link)

Blood Types Flashcards & Games

I used this hands-on activity as a review/reinforcement with my 7th graders and it really helped them understand the different blood types, about blood donation, and basic Punnett Squares. Plus they had fun playing the games and making up their own games.


  • One set of laminated flashcards (pdf) per person, or two sets shared in a group of 4 students
  • pencil and lined paper to make Punnett Squares

All of the instructions and different games to play are explained in the handout. Some examples are: Who can donate? Punnett Square Practice, Identification, Memory, and Matching.

Other ways to use the cards:

  • Flashcards –  Students can print their own at home and use them to study
  • You can set up a station/rotation to play the games as they are, or as ‘make your own’ game stations. Or a combination of both. Place one game at each station and have the students rotate every 7-10 minutes (see below for logistics)
  • Rotation Directions – students will rotate from table to table and learn to play the game at each station
    • Need a group of 4 students at each station.
    • When it is time to rotate, only 2 go to the next station, and 2 stay.
    • The 2 that stay are the experts on that game.
    • The 2 experts teach the 2 novices how to play when they rotate to the table.
    • When it is time to rotate, the 2 experts who stayed go to the next group, and the novices are now the experts and teach the 2 new novices that came to the station.
  • Quiz-Quiz Trade
    • give each student a RBC card and have them identify it, then trade
    • give each student a blood-type card and ask for the genotype (ie AA or AO)
    • Or mix both decks and play both games
  • Find your Partner
    • give half or your class Blood Type Cards and the other half of the class RBC cards and have them find the matching set

Interactive Links for further practice

  • Blood Typing Game – can you make the right choice? (link)
  • Are you my blood type? can you find the donor? (link)
  • Emergency Room – figure out the blood type and correct transfusion (link)
  • NatGeo – interactive heart (link)
  • BrainPOP:  Blood & Blood Pressure

If you use this lesson in your classroom, I am always happy to hear how it went!

For related lesson plans, please visit my Life Science page.

Quiz, Quiz, Trade – Apollo Missions

Recently, I tried the “Quiz, Quiz, Trade” (QQT) method of review to help my students study for their Apollo Missions assessment. How does it work? See the video below:



Before starting the activity, I modeled how to ask, answer, and trade using student volunteers. We also discussed ‘quizzing etiquette’. What do you do if your partner is stuck? How can you give clues to help jog their memories? What are some things that you should or should NOT say if someone can’t answer the question, even with hints? After you go over the answer with your partner, are there any tips to help your partner remember the answer? I stressed the importance of helping each other learn. It is not just about getting the answers right or wrong and no one ‘wins’ if they answered the most questions correctly.

Each student was given one question to start the activity. Because I had more questions than students in my class, after a student makes 3 trades, I had the students hand in/trade their cards with me to introduce new questions into the mix as needed. Some students will answer more questions than others, and that is ok. The students quizzed/traded with each other for about 20 minutes. While they were quizzing each other, they kept track of which questions they answered correctly, and which ones they needed to work on using this handout: Quiz, Quiz, Trade Numbers  (pdf)

Sample Question Card
Sample Question Card

For the second half of the review activity, I divided the class into two teams. I would randomly pick one question to ask each team. Before I asked the question, I announced the number of the question I was going to ask them. The students on each team then looked at their sheets to see who had that answered that numbered question correctly and chose one person to come up to answer the question. If no one had the numbered question answered correctly (or did not have a chance to answer it during QQT), they would volunteer a ‘tribute’ to try to answer the question. If the first team answers correctly after I read the question to the class, they earned a point. If answered incorrectly, the other team had a chance to steal and earn the point. We really enjoyed playing QQT and I plan on using it again in a variety of ways.

This is also a great way to practice vocabulary words. Using index cards, students can write the vocab word on one side and the definition on the other. You can also use it for identification skills – show a picture on one side, and the identification on the other. For example, one side can have a picture of a beaker, and the other side will have the word ‘beaker’ to practice identifying lab equipment. Other ideas include: plant identification, constellation identification, cloud identification, metric conversions or abbreviations, etc…