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20 February 2015
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These television programmes are designed to support the KS2 Geography curriculum. The series examines the interdependence of humans and physical environments and has an issue-based approach.
About the Programme
Programme 8 - Rocks
Friday, 15 March 2002
A favourite programme from BBC archives on the popular topic of rocks, this programme covers
  • How rocks are formed, including the 3 main rock groups.
  • How to recognise different types of rocks.
  • The uses of rocks in everyday life.
Image of Giant's Causeway rocksThe programme aims to develop geographical ideas around the topic of rocks. It will help young people to study rocks as materials and also make informed judgements about how we use resources from our natural environment.

It is important to note that since the production of this programme, the Northern Ireland Curriculum for geography has been reviewed. This means that there is now no necessity for children to have in-depth knowledge about the formation of rocks. Teachers are advised to treat rocks as 'materials' and so classify them by their characteristics. This programme helps children to do this by suggesting ways in which they can test rocks and so help them to describe a rock even if they can’t name it.

Diagram of volcanic eruptionThe programme is divided into 5 main sections, each of which could be used separately:

Section 1 – The myth of Finn McCool and how he made the Giant’s Causeway and facts about the structure of the earth.

Section 2 – ‘Fire-made Rocks’ or igneous rocks. These are rocks made from molten lava which has erupted from the earth’s mantle. Maurice, the presenter, uses a pot of porridge to explain how these rocks were formed. We find out that when we look at fire-made rocks closely they always have sparkly crystals. Basalt from County Antrim and granite from County Down are examples of these rocks.

Image of sedimentary rocksSection 3 – ‘Layered Rocks’ or sedimentary rocks. These are rocks made up of tiny parts of sand, plants or animals that have been gradually laid down and squeezed together at the bottom of a sea or lake. Maurice demonstrates how this might have happened by pouring layers of sand into a sweet jar filled with water. When we look at these rocks closely we can see tiny particles within the layers. Limestone, sandstone and shale are all layered rocks.

Section 4 – ‘Changed Rocks’ or metamorphic rocks. These rocks used to be layered but have been squeezed and changed by heat and pressure. They include schist, marble and slate.

Section 5 – This final section looks at how rocks are used in our everyday lives. It reminds us how many metals come from ores which are extracted from rocks and looks briefly at the issue of quarrying rocks from the landscape around us.
Before the Programme

    Image of fossils
  • Discuss the key words: Natural resource, fire-made, layered, changed, quarry.
  • Walk around the school grounds and find out where and how rocks have been used. You will find lots of examples. The children can decide how they might record this information, e.g. a table, trail booklet, photos etc.
  • Discuss what has been found out. Do you think rocks are important resources?
  • Rocks are extracted from the earth by quarrying. Find out what the OS symbol for a quarry is. Look at an ordnance survey map for your local area and see if there are any quarries located nearby. Phone the quarry. Ask what type of stone they quarry and what it is used for.
  • Ask each class member to bring in one rock – it can be any type of rock, perhaps from their garden or a rock that they might have brought home from a trip to the seaside. Make a class display of these rocks.
  • Ask the children to think of ways of sorting the rocks. They will look for obvious characteristics such as colour and size. Discuss what they have found out. Are there any other ways of finding out more about the rocks?

After the Programme

  • Split the class into groups, each child bringing their rock sample to the group. Each group now has perhaps 5 rocks which should be numbered. Try to make sure that the rocks are not all similar. Carry out ‘rock tests’ on each rock. The idea here is to build up 6 pieces of information about each rock so that a description can finally be written about each one. The rock tests are detailed on the accompanying worksheets.
  • Bring together all the information for each rock sample and write a full description of it. Can we group the rocks together in different ways now? For instance, rocks that are layered, or contain crystals or tiny particles. At this stage you may choose to view the programme again, perhaps section by section, matching your class rocks to the descriptions on screen.
  • Image of rocks being used in everyday lifeDisplay the rocks with their descriptions but this time sorted by their characteristics. There is no need to ever identify a rock by name or type, simply by its characteristics.
  • A good follow-up to this is to continue the topic into looking at volcanoes and earthquakes and learn about how these natural disasters affect people’s lives and the places they live.
  • Have a debate about the use of natural resources. Can we continue to quarry from the land around us? What can we do with disused quarries? How would the class feel if a disused quarry near to them was to be used as a new location for a dump for their local council area?

Subject links
  • Science - There is a strong link between 'rocks' and the 'materials' area of science.
  • Literacy - Report writing skills when writing the final description of each rock.
  • History – the story of Pompeii when Mt. Vesuvius erupted.

Further Resources
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The worksheets for this resource are in PDF format. Click on the links below to view the worksheets:
Geography Programmes
Programme 1:
Strating Grid:
Programme 2:
Here and There:
Programme 3:
Go with the Flow
Programme 4:
Green Power
Programme 5:
Sustainable Development
Programme 6:
In the Balance
Programme 7:
Lough Neagh
Programme 8:
Programme 9:
Extreme Weather
Can't find your subject? Visit our archive section where you can find programmes supporting other curricular subjects, including: Geography, History, Citizenship and English.

Visit the archive.

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