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Explore the three different types of rocks and learn how they’re formed and create your own sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous rocks out of old crayons.
Sedimentary rocks are formed when rocks on the surface of a landmass are eroded by wind, water and ice, and then deposited at the bottom of rivers, oceans and lakes for thousands or millions of years. Gradually, the particles are cemented together and hardened as a solid layer by pressure and heat.
Metamorphic rocks are formed when sedimentary, igneous or even other metamorphic rocks deep below the Earth’s surface are altered by pressure and heat. One type of metamorphic rock is marble, which forms from limestone. Use your sedimentary rock from the first stage of this experiment to create a new metamorphic rock, or start with a fresh pile of crayon shavings if you’d like to keep your first rock.
Igneous rocks are formed when molten rock, also called magma, cools and solidifies. Magma found deep underground forms igneous rocks slowly over time. If magma is exposed to cooler air—for example, if it is sitting on a volcano slope—it can harden much more quickly. One type of igneous rock is granite, which is usually made up of the minerals quartz, feldspar and mica. Use your metamorphic rock to create a new igneous rock, or start with new crayon shavings.
For billions of years, rocks have been formed, broken down andreformed by natural forces. The rocks you see outside today are old as dirt—well, actually, they’re old as rocks! The rock cycle is the process by which one type of rock becomes another. An important part of the rock cycle is something called uplift, which occurs when rocks that were once underground move up to the Earth's surface.
Some sedimentary rocks have fossils in them! When the remains of plants or animals are buried in sediment, they are sometimes preserved as fossils. This piece of shale from the Don River in Toronto contains the partial remains of a trilobite, which is a type of marine arthropod that has long gone extinct. Over 400 million years ago, this rock was mud at the bottom of a tropical sea!