Pasta Rocks! Easy DIY Sedimentary Rock Activity
As an elementary school science teacher, Mary Smith is well qualified to share this fun and easy sedimentary rock activity for curious kids.
Mary is a mother of two, who splits her time between changing diapers and working at a small charter school that is supportive of science education. She also creates and sells science activities on TPT. In her free time, she is studying Counseling for her M.Ed, which she will complete within the next year.
As a self-professed lifelong student, she has studied art, photography, nursing, education, and worked in many different industries. Naturally curious and eager to learn, she finally settled down into adult life choosing science education as her final career choice. Read more about her journey as a parent and teacher.
But first, let’s check out this sedimentary rock activity.
Whether you’ve got a little scientist, or specifically an aspiring geologist, or even the best little rock hound you know (who collects all the pretty grey rocks they come across), they are sure to have fun with this easy DIY sedimentary rock activity making pasta rocks to mimic nature.
Your Inquisitive Little Scientist
Can you think of anything young children love more than science?
If you think about it, science is in everything they do because they are always exploring, investigating, and asking questions.
Kids are the ultimate scientists!
As a science teacher, I am privileged to be able to nurture the natural curiosity of both my older students and my own young children.
Recently, my 6th grade class did a lab exploring the sedimentary rock formation process. I couldn’t help but think it could be simplified as a wonderful hands on activity for younger children.
I hope you and your child will enjoy doing this sedimentary rock activity together and learning about the rock cycle!
Sedimentary rocks are formed when weathered (broken down) pieces of sediment (fragments of minerals, rock, and organic material) are carried by moving water into a larger body of water like a lake or the ocean.
Over time, the layers build up and the force of gravity compacts the layers.
Minerals in the water seep between the empty spaces and cracks and form a glue-like substance which causes the layers to cement.
And voila! You have a sedimentary rock!
In this sedimentary rock activity, you will create a model of a rock called “coquina”.
Coquinas are a rock formed in the ocean from sediment, broken shell, and other organic material.
They have the classic “chunky” sedimentary rock look, making them easy to identify. They are unique because they typically include large pieces or even whole shells!
What You Need To Make Pasta Coquina-Style Rocks
- 3-4 types of uncooked pasta mixed together
- a hammer to crush pasta OR
a bag of really small alphabet pasta for the “sediments”
- pipettes or droppers
- glue (plain white, coloured, or glitter if you’re feeling funky)
- small paper cups
- stirs or popsicle sticks
- wax paper
- picture of a coquina:
Sedimentary Rock Activity Directions
Place a handful of the mixed pasta into the cup.
The pasta represents the layers of rock at the bottom of the ocean.
Use the pipette to squeeze water over the pasta. Use just enough to wet it.
There shouldn’t be any standing water in the cup. If you put too much, strain it out.
The water represents the ocean.
If you really want an authentic experience, I recommend finding a way to break the pasta down to represent weathering. The easiest solution would be a hammer or a large rock, but this might not be a good idea depending on the age of your child.
In class, we used small alphabet pasta to save time.
Place two pinches of small or broken up pasta in your cup and gently shake.
This represents how the sediments are deposited into the ocean by moving water.
Coat the top of the pasta evenly with glue.
You can add glitter or food colouring to make it interesting.
I prefer plain white for a more accurate model, but I also work with older kids.
The glue represents the salt and mineral water that seeps into the space between the sediments to make them stick together and form more rock layers.
Carefully mix the contents of your cup, making sure all of the pasta is coated.
Allow the contents of the cup to sit for an hour or so to let everything firm up.
Turn the cup upside down on a piece of wax paper and tap the bottom. The “rock” should fall out. Allow it to dry completely.
You have successfully created your own model coquina.
When you’re going through the steps with your child, go into as much or as little detail about the rock formation process as you think they can handle.
Extend The Educational Aspect of this Sedimentary Rock Activity
To extend this activity for preschool and young elementary students, I recommend focusing on comparing and contrasting the physical characteristics of your model rock with a picture of actual coquina rock.
You can even have them illustrate it if they enjoy drawing.
Then, go on a scavenger hunt to see if you can find a rock that looks like your model!
If your child is a toddler, anything goes.
Focus on the textures and shapes of the pasta.
Dance while you shake the pasta.
Just enjoy playing and creating something together (and hope they don’t try to eat it)!
If you want to expand the science focus in your home, check out my post on science vocabulary.
Do your kids have a rock collection or do they love picking them up when you go outside for a walk? Let me know in the comments what you do with all the rocks your children collect.