Teaching Guide

Teachers should also read the Life on the Prairie: A History of Illinois Module Teaching Guide for further information.



The aim of this tour is to acquaint the students with the geology, geography, and pre-history of Illinois.

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Chicago students are expected to learn about Illinois History in the 4th grade. The Story in the Rocks tour will help students understand what our state looked like millions of years ago by observing information that can be found in rocks and through observation of the landscape today. The connection between the distant past and the present comes alive when students understand how Illinois developed its familiar geographical features.

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The intended audience is primarily CPS students in the 4th grades, but the tour can be adapted to other grades as well.

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It is suggested that students go through the tours in the given order given on the Illinois History Home Page.

Students should have basic computer skills, such as ability to use the mouse and keyboard.

This tour introduces several new words and concepts specific to the study of geology. It is recommended that teachers preview the Words to Know section in the tour to identify words that may require pre-teaching.

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Subject matter

Social Science, Science, and Language Arts goals will be addressed in this tour. The fossil making activity found in the Additional Activities section in the tour addresses Fine Arts goals.

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Internet-linked computer with browser (version 5.0 recommended) for each student or group of students; or a projector with a large group of students. Materials needed for the fossil making activity are included in the Additional Activities section of the tour.

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Instructional plan

It is recommended that teachers preview the entire tour to find any concepts or vocabulary that may need to be covered prior to the students entering the tour. Teachers may wish to create additional vocabulary lists, spelling lessons, or activities to prepare for the tour.

Students may use the tour independently or in groups. While working through the tour, students should take notes in the online journals (or on paper, if desired). Teachers can model note-taking by using the chalkboard or chart paper. Encourage students to write down anything they find interesting in their journals. Lists of vocabulary words and spelling word can be organized in these same journals.

Set aside time to discuss the time on the computers with the students to get feedback from them and answer any questions they may have. Possible discussion starters:

1) Tell something that you learned about today from the tour.
2 ) What is your favorite part of the tour?
3 ) What would you like to know more about from the tour?

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Learning Objectives

Illinois State Goals

This tour is designed to specifically address Goals 12 and 16 of the Illinois State Learning Standards:

•State Goal 12: Have a working knowledge of the fundamental concepts and principles of the life, physical, and earth sciences and their connections.
•State Goal 16: Understand and analyze events, trends, individuals and movements shaping the history of Illinois, the United States and other nations.

Refer to the standards chart for detailed information.

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Assessment and Evaluation

Answer True or False

1. Coal and diamonds are made of the same material.
2. Fossils are preserved plants and animals.
3. Petroleum oil and methane gas are not fossil fuels.
4. Coal is the state mineral of Illinois.
5. Long ago, Illinois used to be close to the equator.
6. The Great Lakes were formed by the glaciers.
7. The Tully monster is the state fossil.
8. Dinosaurs have been found in Illinois.
9. At one time, Illinois was covered by an ocean.
10. The glaciers flattened Illinois.


1. Describe some features in the landscape that you notice everyday that can be traced back the pre-history of Illinois.

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Additional Information

Field Trip Sites

Petroleum Planet exhibition at the Museum of Science and Industry
Underground Network at the Field Museum
Geology Department at the Field Museum


Illinois Historical Markers and Sites JUV F 542.B73 1976
Illinois - The Crossroads of a Continent by Lois A. Carrier F541.C34 1998
Geology Underfoot in Illinois by Raymond Wiggers QE 105.W6 1997
America's Prairies by Frank Straub JUV QH 102.573 1994
Illinois Wilds by Michael Jeffords, Susan Post, Kenneth Robertson QH 105.I3 J4 1995

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