Building Stone Investigation at the Local Shopping Mall

Learning Objectives

To further develop the rock identification skills of students beyond using hand samples in the classroom; for students to observe the use of rocks for decorative/economic purposes.

Standards Addressed

S6.D.1 - Earth features and processes that change Earth and its resources
S7.D.1 - Earth features and processes that change Earth and its resources
S8.D.1 - Earth features and processes that change Earth and its resources

Supplies/Materials/Articles Needed


Preparation Time Needed

Students should already have had an introduction to rock identification.  Teachers will need to investigate their local mall to see if there is a good diversity of rocks available in the store fronts and obtain permission from mall security to see if students can be brought to the mall.  Transportation will need to be arranged for the students to/from the mall.

Class Time Required

This will vary, depending upon how many stores in the mall you have students looking at, and how far apart the stores are from one another.  The time required for this specific exercise at the King of Prussia Mall was one hour in the mall.  Students needed time outside of class to write their report.

Activity Description

Field exercises are a valuable addition to introductory-level geoscience courses but are not always possible in an urban setting. To further develop student skills in rock identification, a project implementing the scientific method has been constructed that allows students to examine the building stones found in the store fronts at a shopping mall.  This exercise is conducted after the rock and mineral identification laboratories and requires a visit to a local shopping mall. 

I have first contacted the malls before bringing my students so that mall security is aware of our visit.  The malls have been very supportive of my students visiting during the low-visitor times, especially in the morning before the mall officially is open to the public (usually 10AM for many malls) and only the mall walkers are inside.  If we visit during the mall's business hours, I remind students that they should not block the entrances to any individual stores or get in the way of customers.  I also remind students that they cannot "test" any of the physical properties of the rocks in the store fronts or in the floors.

A student assignment sheet is attached that includes a grading rubric.  The exercise is designed to highlight the scientific method, where students create a hypothesis to test before visiting the mall.  Students must then write up a paper in the format of a lab report which includes the following sections: introduction, methods, results, discussion, and conclusion.  The attached student handout also has an extra explanation of the difference between results and discussion, as this is an area my students struggle with.

For information on using a shopping mall building stone exercise with handheld technology, please see An Indoor Shopping Mall Building Stone Investigation with Handheld Technology for Introductory Geoscience Students, Journal of Geoscience Education (2005). PDF file. Useful background information, even if you are not using handheld technology with students.

Additional building stone exercises that can be conducted on outside walls of buildings include: