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Rocks and the Rock Cycle
The following materials are necessary to complete this exercise and should be available in the laboratory. The quantities depend upon the number of students in the laboratory and whether or not students are to work
independently or in groups.
igneous rocks metric ruler
sedimentary rocks glass plate
metamorphic rocks iron nail
hand lens dilute hydrochloric acid
Recommended igneous rock specimens: granite, diorite, gabbro, rhyolite, andesite, basalt, porphyritic basalt,
obsidian, pumice, tuff
Recommended sedimentary rock specimens: conglomerate, breccia, sandstone, shale, coquina, fossiliferous
limestone, chalk, dolostone, chert or flint, rock salt, bituminous coal
Recommended metamorphic rock specimens: slate, phyllite, schist, gneiss, marble, quartzite, anthracite coal
Tarbuck and Lutgens, Earth Science, 12th edition, 2009. Chapter 3
Tarbuck and Lutgens, Earth Science, 11th edition, 2006. Chapter 3
Lutgens and Tarbuck, Foundations of Earth Science, 5th edition, 2008. Chapter 2
Murphy and Nance, Earth Science Today, 1999. Chapters 2 and 18
Skinner and Porter, The Blue Planet, 2nd edition, 1999. Chapters 6 and 18
Thompson and Turk, Earth Science and the Environment, 2nd edition, 1999. Chapter 3
PROCEDURES AND STRATEGIES
• The time required for completing this exercise can be controlled by the number of igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rock specimens to be identified.
• Student samples of igneous rocks, sedimentary rocks, and metamorphic rocks should be kept separate so that
the different rock types can be compared. Two possible methods for presenting the student specimens are: 1)
place each rock type (preferably with each specimen numbered) in separate, labeled trays (or labeled plastic
containers) so each group of 2–4 students has a complete set; or, 2) for those with a limited number of rock
samples, place several separate sets of igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks on separate numbered
cards or in separate numbered trays (i.e., I1, I2,…S1, S2,…M1, M2…) around the laboratory.
• Prior to beginning the laboratory session, a general review of the occurrence, characteristics, textures, and
mineral compositions of the three rock types may be beneficial.
• Special instructions should be given on the use of dilute hydrochloric acid before beginning the exercise.
• To assist students in checking their identifications, we recommend that the classification charts for each rock
type be filled in and posted after the laboratory session is over. Also, if possible, a set of identified and labeled rocks should be displayed in the laboratory.
• Throughout the laboratory session, it should stressed that the goal of the exercise is to learn how to describe and
identify rocks and not to simply “put a name” on them.
ANSWERS TO EXERCISE TWO QUESTIONS
1. B, C, D, and G
2. B and G
5. A, F, and H
6. A and F
10. Igneous = A and F Sedimentary = B, C, D, G, and H Metamorphic = E
11. B and G
12. Larger crystals are phenocrysts and the surrounding crystals are called groundmass.
13. A, B, and E
14. At great depth; slowly; intrusive
15. C and F
16. On the surface; rapidly; extrusive
19. The different appearances of samples A and C are the result of slow cooling of magma (A) vs. rapid
cooling of lava (C).
20. Label a quartz crystal on sample A.
21. Label a feldspar crystal on sample B.
23. a) A and F b) C and D c) B d) E
24. Answers will vary depending upon the samples supplied.
25. Shape of the particles—rounded (A) vs. angular (B)
26. I and J
28. The fact that calcite reacts with diluted hydrochloric acid would aid in identification.
29. Both samples are composed of fossil fragments. However, in fossiliferous limestone, the fragments are
cemented tightly together, while coquina is a less dense, loosely cemented aggregate of fragments.
30. Both are crystalline in appearance, but sample A is composed of at least two or more minerals whereas
sample G is more uniform with only one mineral.
31. Both rocks are composed of microcrystalline quartz.
33. The simplest test would be hardness—calcite is much softer than quart. You could also use diluted
hydrochloric acid to test for calcite since quartz does not react with it.
34. Potassium feldspar
35. Answers will vary depending upon the samples supplied.
36. Rock gypsum = D; Conglomerate = G and possibly A; Sandstone = C, G, J, and L; Shale = H, J, and K;
Bituminous coal = F; Travertine = B
37. Coral reefs are found in warm, shallow marine environments with clear water.
38. The rocks in Zion National Park formed in an ancient desert environment with well-sorted sands and large
39. Answers will vary depending upon the samples supplied.
ANSWERS TO EXERCISE TWO SUMMARY/REPORT PAGE QUESTIONS
1. A = sedimentary B = metamorphic C = igneous
2. Marble = limestone; Slate = shale; Phyllite = shale or slate; Gneiss = granite; Quartzite = sandstone;
Anthracite = bituminous coal
3. Igneous = E, I, K, and M
Sedimentary = B, D, F, H, J, N, and O
Metamorphic = A, C, G, and L
4. Schist, gneiss, slate, phyllite (upper left to lower right). In order of increasing metamorphic grade = slate,
phyllite, schist, and gneiss.
5. A = scoria; igneous B = schist, metamorphic C = granite; igneous
D = obsidian, igneous E = gneiss, metamorphic F = shale, detrital sedimentary
G = conglomerate, detrital sedimentary H = porphyritic granite, igneous