administration student task rubric student work technical quality
Building Materials
Administration Procedures
5th Grade Performance Task
Contributed by: The RAND Institute (RAND)
Spring 1993 Research Pilot


Students are presented with three rocks and a variety of tools and are asked to investigate the properties of the rocks to see which rock will be best for building tables and benches for a museum picnic area. The task assesses students' abilities to design an investigation, make simple observations, make generalized inferences from their observations, and apply their understanding.

This task is designed to take students approximately 10-15 minutes to complete.

Overall Task Content Area:

Earth/Space Science

Specific Knowledge Areas:

Rocks and Erosion

Performance Expectations:

  • conducting investigations
  • using equipment
  • gathering, organizing, and representing data
  • formulating conclusions from investigational data
  • applying scientific principles to develop explanations and solve new problems

National Science Education Standards:

4 D ESS 1: Properties of earth materials: Grades K-4
1.1 Earth materials are solid rocks and soils, water, and the gases of the atmosphere. The varied materials have different physical and chemical properties, which make them useful in different ways, for example, as building materials, as sources of fuel, or for growing the plants we use as food. Earth materials provide many of the resources that humans use.

8 A SI 1: Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry: Grades 5-8
1.4 Develop descriptions, explanations, predictions, and models using evidence. Students should base their explanation on what they observed, and as they develop cognitive skills, they should be able to differentiate explanation from description providing causes for effects and establishing relationships based on evidence and logical argument. This standards requires a subject knowledge base so the students can effectively conduct investigations, because developing explanations establishes connections between the content of science and the contexts within which students develop new knowledge.

1.8 Use mathematics in all aspects of scientific inquiry. Mathematics is essential to asking and answering questions about the natural world. Mathematics can be used to ask questions; to gather, organize, and present data; and to structure convincing explanations.

(Use the "hot" link on the PALS home page to check the full text of related National Science Education Standards, if desired.)

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics:

AL1: Understand patterns, relations and functions:
Grades 6-8 f. represent, analyze, and generalize a variety of patterns with tables, graphs, words, and, when possible, symbolic rules

DAP3: Develop and evaluate inferences and predictions that are based on data:
Grades 6-8 c. use observations about differences between two or more samples to make conjectures about the populations from which the samples were taken

PS2: Solve problems that arise in mathematics and in other contexts:
Grades 6-8

This task is designed to take students approximately 10-15 minutes to complete.

Students will be working individually during this exercise.

Students should be ready to work as soon as the period begins. The materials should be set out at each lab station, if possible. A central supply area, if needed, should be easily accessible. All supplies should be clearly labeled.

Materials for "Building Materials":

At this station students should have:

  • A small sample of three different types of rock labeled A, B, and C
  • A plastic bag labeled Bag #1 containing
    • a hand lens
    • a nail
    • a small scrap of sand paper
    • a penny

Advance Preparation:

  • Label rocks with a sticker as "A," "B," and "C."
  • Appropriate tools into small plastic bags labeled "Bag #1."


  • Caution children while handling sharp objects such as the nail in Bag #1.
  • Be careful.
  • Teachers and students should always exercise appropriate safety precautions and utilize appropriate laboratory safety procedures and equipment when working on science performance tasks.


  • Building Materials was designed as a portion of a three part performance assessment to be given concurrently. The other two portions aligned with Building Materials are "Which Road?" and "Critter Museum."


©1997-2005 SRI International. All rights reserved. Terms of Use