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Murray Journal

Riverview Eighth-Graders Teach Second-Graders How Rocks Rock

Jun 13, 2016 09:44AM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

When Riverview Junior High science teacher Johnny McConnell had a second-grade child and learned the class would study rocks, he volunteered to the teacher to help teach the unit, since it was his interest.

That day began a cycle that has continued for 27 years, encouraging his eighth-grade students to teach second-graders about rocks since both grades have it as part of their curriculum. That has become full circle as he offered to teach his granddaughter’s second-grade class this year at Harry S Truman Elementary in West Valley City, then learned the teacher was his former eighth-grade student, who had helped teach second-graders the unit when she was his student.

“The teacher remembered how much fun she had teaching students about sedimentary, metamorphic [and] igneous rocks when she was a student and immediately welcomed my class to come teach the class about rocks,” he said.

So about 240 Riverview eighth-graders this year were able to teach second-graders at Truman Elementary as well as Grant, Horizon and Viewmont Elementaries in Murray.

“We basically had poster boards illustrating the rock cycle with granite, shale, sandstone and quartzite glued to it,” McConnell said.

Viewmont second-grade teacher Geri Smith said that was part of what her kids appreciated.

“A lot of the kids loved being able to see and feel the samples,” she said.

Viewmont second-grader Rhiannon Short learned from using her senses.

“I like how igneous rocks are melted,” she said. “My favorite rock was sandstone. It feels good on my skin.”

McConnell said his students were divided into small groups with second-graders and asked them to identify the types of rocks.

Eighth-grader Crista Peterson said that she asked second-graders to first match rocks that looked alike and then to identify rocks that were “melted, beaten up and smooshed together.”

“We taught them a simplified version of what we learned in class. I liked that teaching about rocks actually helped me learn,” she said.

Eighth-grader Taden Anderson asked the elementary students to examine the rocks, asking them about how flat they were or how much they sparkled before they drew a rock cycle.

“I really enjoyed teaching these little ‘rocklings,’” he said. “We taught each other something and I was able to connect myself to my curious side.”

While eighth-graders like Jeffe MacDonald taught them a trick that sedimentary rocks were similar to pancakes, he realized that it was fun being with kids again.

“I miss my childhood; I grew up too fast,” Jeffe said.

Others used songs and video game comparisons to help teach students about rocks. 

Viewmont second-grader Claire Cable liked learning from older friends, especially as she knew an eighth-grader neighbor.

“We learned a rock can be smooshed to form a flat rock,” she said.

Classmate Craig Sanders also liked spending time “with people that are older than me.”

“I thought it was really fun and I learned that rocks can turn into different kinds of rocks,” he said.

Second-grader Gunner Szedeli added: “I learned rocks can change into different things. I think it’s cool that igneous rocks come out quickly and form lava.”

While many eighth-graders like Jack Lancaster thought the younger kids were “cute and funny” and they realized, like Ashlyn Day, that “you can learn a lot in just a little amount of time,” McConnell hoped his students would learn empathy in teaching.

“They now realize what it takes to teach somebody and that understanding of the process,” he said.

Eighth-grader Jase Llewelyn said, “I learned to be patient and have fun teaching. They were shy but soon became open to talking and sharing how they felt.”

McConnell hoped the second-graders would realize science is everywhere and anyone can do science, he said. 

Viewmont second-grader Toby Gomez said, “My favorite part was learning about the three different kinds of rocks. Limestone was my favorite. Seeing all the other kinds of rocks makes me want to find rocks and keep them in my rock collection.”

 McConnell said that was the key.

“Really, what I want is for all the students to know rocks, have a love of it and a pocketful of them because it’s really my passion,” he said.