A "Rock Hound's" Webquest
Exploring Rocks and Having Fun

This image was taken by Matthew Durant
on the Skookum Volcano Trail.
(Wrangell St. Elias National Park)


Can you follow the clues that will help you to identify your rock?




  • Join me on a case study of Alaska's volcanic rocks

  • Gather clues while collecting your own rocks

  • Learn to read the geological clues

  • Identify your rocks



 Case Study

You probably have found yourself wondering about rocks just as I have. Why does this rock look so rough, and this one so shiny, or even how do these pieces get so mixed up together? These are common questions almost everyone has when they see rocks. During my recent trip to many of Alaska's Parks, (Wrangell St. Elias National Park, Denali National Park, and Chena River State Park).  I was wondering about the variety of rocks I saw there and the fantastic formations they made. I was becoming a "Rock Hound".  Here are four of the rocks I wanted to know more about. …..

As a "Rock Hound", I follow geology clues to identify the rocks that I find.  You, too, can identify the rocks that you find by following the geological clues, investigating, and testing your rocks.  Here are some of the clues that I look for:

Where did I find this rock?
What rock formations are in the area where I found this rock?
Did my rock sample come in layers?
Does my rock sample look like a bunch of rocks that have been smushed together?
How would a geologist test this rock? 



Identifying Rocks

Geology Clues to Identify Rocks  If you want to identify a rock that you find, then you need to follow the clues, inspect and test the physical properties of rocks.

How to Identify Rocks  Most common minerals can be identified by inspecting and testing their physical properties

Identification of Rocks & Minerals  Great information on identifying rocks and minerals.

Ask-A-Geologist  Ask-A-Geologist questions are answered by United States Geological Society (USGS) employees, retirees, and contractors who have volunteered to participate in this project.


Start Your Own Rock Collection

Create Your Own Rock Collection  Great tips for the beginning "Rock Hound"

Starting Your First Rock and Mineral Collection Great information on starting your first rock collection.

Pebble Pups  Good resources for the beginning geologist.

Rock Hound Collection Safety  Be safe while collecting rocks.

Safe Rockhounding  Stay safe while you're collecting your rocks.

Ask-A-Geologist  Ask-A-Geologist questions are answered by USGS employees, retirees, and contractors who have volunteered to participate in the project.




Chesterman, Charles  National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Rocks and Minerals.   National Audubon Society of Guidebooks Nature Viewing Regions Plant and Mineral Guides.  1979.

National Wildlife Federation  Geology: The Active Earth (Ranger Rick's Naturescope) McGraw-Hill. 1997.

Fredrick H. Pough.  A Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals (The Peterson Field Guide Series).  Houghton Mifflin Company. 1997.

Martin Prinz.  Simon and Schuster's Guide to Rocks and MineralsFireside. 1978.

Ricciuti, Edward R. Rocks and Minerals (National Audubon Society First Field Guides) Scholastic Trade. 1998.

Zim, Herbert S. and Paul R. Shaffer  Minerals: A Guide to Familiar Minerals, Gems, Ores and Rocks  Golden Press.  2003.



Investigating Local Geology:  Join me as we embark on a "Rock Hound's" mission, following the geology clues to investigate what types of rocks and rock formations are common in your area.  

  1. Review the "Start Your Own Rock Collection" resources.  Brainstorm rock collecting, safety tips and tricks after you and your friends have reviewed three of the websites.

  2. Collecting Rocks:  Gather rocks from your local area.  Make sure that you take notes (worksheet) on where you found your rocks, any rock formations in the area, and whether the rocks were formed in layers.

  3. Identify Your Rock:  With the other people in your small group, review the Geology Clues to Identify Rocks.  Make sure that you know how to read the clues and conduct the tests to identify the rocks that you found.  With the other members of your group, collect geology clues.  Then, fill out the worksheet to keep track of your clues.  Your group will work together to make sure that they accurately follow the clues to identify the rocks.   While following the clues and conducting tests, each member will play an important role to help the whole group move forward.  

    • Materials Specialist  Makes sure that you have all the materials you will need to conduct your tests and observations.  The materials specialist is in charge of making sure all equipment is used properly.  Finally, the materials specialist is in charge of making sure all supplies are returned in as good of shape as when they got it.

    • Artist in Residence Is in charge of taking digital photographs of each member's rock.  Make sure you get that photo to the owner of the rock in a format that they can use. 

    • Task Master Makes sure that tasks are accomplished on time; keeps the group aware of the amount of time left to work and ensures that everyone is staying on task and pulling their own weight.

    • Field Geologist:  Is in charge of making sure each member of the group conducts all of the observations and tests to gather clues on what rocks they have found.

    Note: Even though you will work with other members of your group to follow the clues and to conduct tests, you must ensure the quality and accuracy of your own findings throughout this activity.

  4. Develop a Local Geology Field Guide:  Now that you have followed the geology clues to identify your rock, it is important that you share what you found with others.   Download the field guide form (MS Word) and record your findings.  After you print your form off, get together with your friends and create your Local Geology Field Guide to tell others about the rocks that are found in your area.

  5. Extension:  E-mail your field guide to the "Rock Hounds" at iwebquest.com (rockhounds@iwebquest.com).  We'll post your field guide on the Internet.  

More Fun Rock Activities:

Discover How Rocks Are Formed
Build a Volcano Activity
Volcano Games & Fun Stuff
Rock Arts and Crafts
Rock Crafts for Fun
Rock Activities
Rock Recipes  (Igneous, Metamorphic, Sedimentary)




Click here to see a rubric to help you assess and revise your own work.



 the Question

Can you follow the clues that will help you to identify your rock?



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