Earth Science Rocks!

Crayon wax melted using a Bunsen burner mimicked the process of sedimentary rock formation

Earth Science teacher Burt Breuker has hit on a way to use all those good-for-next-to-nothing, stubby crayon nubs and at the same time engage hundreds of eighth-graders: make rocks.

Alyssa Miles and Kenzie DeBold liquify crayon shavings in boiling water to mimic the creation of sedimentary rocks

“I’ve always wanted to do something like this, switch to more of a problem-based learning model,” said Breuker, as he divided his attention between students holding aluminum foil-wrapped crayon shavings over the blue flame of a Bunsen burner, or submerging them in a pan of boiling water. “This way, they’re doing the thinking, the design, I’m just giving them the tools to work with.”

Some 300 Lowell Middle School Earth Science students took part in the recent lab, whose goal was to teach them how compression, heat and moisture form sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous rocks.

“They’re actually making rock rather than reading about it,” Breuker said. “This is a natural process of discovery of what happens inside earth.”

Students kept journals during the process to document their findings.

“Earth Science should be a class that they’re looking forward to coming to,” Breuker said.

Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio

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