NASA "ROCKS" Problem-Based Learningby: Carla Johnson

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With the National Science Education Standards as a driving force behind instruction, science educators must move toward classroom activities that allow students to guide their own learning experiences and form their own questions for investigation in order to promote inquiry skills. This hands-on, problem-based learning unit centers on the identification of unidentified rocks in which students are presented with unknown rock samples to test, observe, classify, and ultimately identify.

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Reviews (7)
  • on Wed Jun 26, 2019 4:03 PM

This is a great article that teachers can used to apply real world scenarios. I like how the students are able to think critically and apply the knowledge.

Samiyyah B  (District Heights, MD)
Samiyyah B (District Heights, MD)

  • on Tue May 05, 2015 10:04 PM

This article is a great read for future educators who are still trying to learn how to create a classroom based on inquiry learning. The students were able to take over the role of a geologist when presented with a real-life learning experience identifying unknown rocks. Students also are able to think scientifically and practice problem solving which helps with classroom engagement. There are many extensions that can stem from this activity and it is useful when basing a classroom on scientific inquiry.

Katie Vaughn
Katie Vaughn

  • on Thu Feb 16, 2012 10:08 PM

This article discusses a rock investigation that was set up as a problem-based learning mini-unit for the author's seventh grade integrated science students. At the beginning, the author explained to her scholars that NASA sent them a container of rocks that they needed identified. The students assumed the roles of geologists and came up with some ways to classify and identify the rocks. Students were introduced to the problem in the form of a letter which was posted on the school's webpage. This lesson is open inquiry. Students are presented with the letter and told that there were testing materials in the room, but they had to conduct some research to determine what type of tests they could perform with the materials and what they could determine from the tests, before they are permitted to do any testing. Great activity...inquiry at its best!

Lorrie Armfield  (Laurel, MD)
Lorrie Armfield (Laurel, MD)

  • on Wed Dec 29, 2010 8:39 PM

This article really is outstanding at showing how you can implement a lesson on ROcks using science inquiry. I loved it!!!

LeRoy A
LeRoy A

  • on Mon Feb 04, 2013 9:47 AM

The strength of this article is the problem-based learning based on a pretend letter from NASA asking students to help NASA classify and identify several rocks. The chart included is helpful in this lesson.

Betty Paulsell  (Kansas City, MO)
Betty Paulsell (Kansas City, MO)

  • on Fri Nov 04, 2011 12:35 PM

This article is about an open-ended inquiry lesson to learn about and classify rocks based on a fictional letter asking for help from a NASA School Outreach Scientist. The author describes how she sets this activity up and how students go through each process. An extension is also provided. Classifying rocks can often be difficult and frustrating for students. This idea adds an element of excitement based on the fictional request letter.

Adah  (San Antonio, TX)
Adah (San Antonio, TX)

  • on Fri May 06, 2011 2:05 PM

This is a great inquiry based geology lesson that is sure to excite students. Students are asked, by NASA, to identify several different rock samples. The article includes a a student classification chart and defines all key terms. I find this activity intriguing because it not only enables students to learn about geology, but also helps them investigate careers in STEM disciplines.

Maureen Stover  (Seaside, CA)
Maureen Stover (Seaside, CA)

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