Rocks Up!

By Mary Romoser, August 11, 2008

Grade Level

  • PreK-1


  • Architecture

Subject Area

  • Language Arts
  • Science

Lesson Time

one forty five- to fifty-minute class period


This lesson takes students outside, and challenges them to design and build a structure that will support one rock weighing at least 50 grams.  It should be high enough so that one finger will slide between the support holding up the rock and the ground.

National Standards

Language Arts
Standard 8.  Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes
1.  Makes contributions in class and group discussions (e.g., reports on ideas and personal knowledge about a topic, initiates conversations, connects ideas and experiences with those of others)
2.  Asks and responds to questions (e.g., about the meaning of a story, about the meaning of words or ideas)
3.  Follows rules of conversation and group discussion (e.g., takes turns, raises hand to speak, stays on topic, focuses attention on speaker)

Thinking and Reasoning
Standard 4.  Understands and applies basic principles of hypothesis testing and scientific inquiry
1.  Understands that changing one thing sometimes causes changes in something else and that changing the same thing in the same way usually has the same result

Standard 10.  Understands force and motion
2.  Knows that objects can be moved in space in a number of ways (e.g., pushing, pulling, sinking)
4.  Knows that the position and motion of an object can be changed by pushing or pulling




Students will be able to:

  • construct a support pedestal or base using items found in nature that will hold up one rock weighing at least 50 grams or more.
  • use vocabulary words and concepts in their discussions.  





  • One rock per student weighing at least 50 grams.  (Either obtained by the teacher or by the class on a separate walk prior to this lesson.  The weighing of the rocks could be done as a center activity or during a math activity using a scale and gram weights.)
  • Outdoor area where students can work and use items in nature.




  • design: plan; make or work out a plan for; devise
  • build: construct; make by combining materials and parts
  • make: cause to be or to become; produce; create or manufacture
  • support: hold; be the physical support of; carry the weight of
  • hold up: see support, above; hold; be the physical support of; carry the weight of
  • nature: the natural physical world including rocks and minerals, plants, animals, landscapes, and other features of Earth
  • made by humans: the opposite of natural; not occurring naturally; created





1.  Call students to meeting area.  Review the "Pencils Up!" and "Animals Up!" challenges.  Tell students that today they'll be designing and building a structure that will support or hold up a rock that weighs at least fifty grams.  The rock must rest on top of the support, and they must be able to move their finger between the structure and the ground.  The difference today is that they will not be using index cards, but things they find in nature! 
2.  Show pictures of Andy Goldsworthy's works, and tell them about his philosophy of using things in nature.   They may use anything already on the ground.  Anything else they must check with an adult before they use it.  Everything must be something from nature, and not made by humans.  Discuss this with the students so they're clear as to what the expectations are. 
3.  Review expectations and tell them boundaries or work areas will be given to them once outside.  Note: This activity could be done with students working individually or in pairs.
4.  Once they're finished, they must raise their hands and wait by their designs until an adult comes to talk to them.




  • Does the student's structure support the rock?
  • Can the student slide a finger between the supporting structure and the ground?
  • Does the student utilize vocabulary and concepts learned in their discussions?



Enrichment Extension Activities

  • Students could work in pairs building a structure that holds up two rocks or three rocks or four rocks.
  • Have students journal about their experience using pictures and words.
  • Students could be asked to build a structure outside their homes to support their rock, with the same expectations that they may not use any item in nature unless an adult approves it.  They then could journal about their experience.



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