Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon is a national park in western USA. It is formed of layered rocks called sandstone,limestone and mudstone. Over time, water, ice and wind have carved fantastic shapes into the rocks.

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Animals such as deer and foxes live in Bryce Canyon. Some use the rocks for shelter. There are also birds such as swallow, ravens and eagles.

The tall rock spires of Bryce Canyon are called hoodoos. These rocky pillars are made of soft mudstone topped with harder limestone. Ice and water wear the soft mudstone away more quickly than the harder cap of rock.

The rocks of Bryce Canyon are pink and orange. The minerals iron and manganese give the rocks their colour. At sunrise and sunset, the rocks glow bright red.

Thunderstorms and hailstorms can strike Bryce Canyon in summer. Snow and ice cover the ground in winter. Rain, hail, snow and ice wear away the rocks to make amazing features like this arch below.

Bryce Canyon Facts

* Bryce Canyon became a national park in 1928. The park covers 145 square kilometres. The hoodoos of Bryce Canyon are up to 60 metres tall.

* The rocks of Bryce Canyon formed on the beds of lakes and rivers. Over millions of years , the forces that build mountains lifted these rocks 2500 metres above sea level.

* Bryce Canyon has more hoodoos than almost any place on the Earth.


Rocks are made of natural materials called minerals. There are thousands of different minerals but only about a hundred are common.

Granite is made up of the three different minerals- quartz, mica and feldspar. They can be seen in this close-up photograph. Granite is used as building stone.

If you break an arm or a leg, the doctor will put a plaster cast on it while it heals.Plaster is made of a soft mineral called gypsum. The wet plaster sets to make a hard cast.

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Di you know a soft mineral called graphite is used to make the lead in pencils. Crayons and paints can be made using another soft mineral called talc.

Valuable minerals, such as copper are dug from mines. Many mines run deep below ground, but copper is often found near the surface. Copper is used to make water pipes and electrical wire.

Fireworks such as sparklers are made from a yellow mineral called sulphur. Sulphur is also used to make matches and explosives. Next time you see a fireworks display, remember sulphur.


Strong, shiny metals can be worked into different shapes. Metals are found in rocks called ores, often mixed with other minerals. Rare metals, such as gold, are expensive.

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Gold is usually found in rocks deep below ground. But a few lucky people have found whole lumps, called nuggets, at the surface! Specks of gold are sometimes washed out of rocks by water, and are found on river beds.

Did you know the largest gold nugget ever found weight 70 kilograms. It was found in Victoria, Australia in 1869. The lump was nicknamed the Welcome Stranger.

Silver is another rare metal found in an ore. Ores are usually crushed and heated to get the metal out. In the past, silver was sometimes used to make coins.

When someone discovers gold, thousands of people rush to the same area. This is called a gold rush. Gold in river gravel is collected by swirling the gravel around in a pan. The gold sinks to the bottom. This is called panning.

Iron is made by heating iron ore in a hot furnace or oven.Limestone and coke (a type of coal) are also added. Hot, liquid iron runs out at the bottom of the furnace. Iron is used to make an even stronger metal called steel.

Gems and Jewels

Minerals called gemstones can be made into jewels. Experts cut and polish the gems until they sparkle. There are more than 50 different sorts of gemstones. They are all rare but some are very rare.

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A diamond forms when a material called carbon is heated and squeezed very hard underground. Diamonds do not have much sparkle when they come out of the ground. Many sides are cut into the gem to make it sparkle.

Most gemstones form as even-sided crystals. Each type of crystal has a regular shape with a certain number of sides. You can see the large, purple crystals in this chunk of amethyst.

Gemstones com in many beautiful colours. Sapphires are blue, emeralds are bright green and rubies and garnets are dark red. Opals have may colours. They are not cut with many sides but are smoothed and rounded.

The crown of British king or queen has more than 3000 jewels! One of the largest stones is a famous diamond called the Cullinan II Diamond. The largest red stone is called the Black Prince’s Ruby.

Fossil Fuels

Most of the energy we use at home comes from coal, oil and gas. They are formed from fossils-the remains are prehistoric plants and animals. That’s why we call them fossil fuels.

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Coal is usually found deep below ground in layers called seams. A deep hole called a shaft is dug to reach the coal. Coal is burned in power stations to produce electricity for homes and factories.

Coal is formed when prehistoric plants from swampy forests died and sank into the swamp. They were squashed as soil and rock built up on top and slowly hardened into peat, a type of soil. The peat then slowly hardened into coal.

Oil and gas are the remains of tiny sea creatures that were buried and squashed on the seabed. They slowly turned to oil and gas. These fuels are mined from the seabed by drilling deep holes. Oil is made into petrol for cars. Gas is used for cooking and heating.

Did you know when cars, factories and power stations burn fossil fuels, they give off waste gases that cause pollution. The pollution is making the world’s climate warmer.

Oil has many uses. Plastic and nylon are made from the leftovers when oil is purified. Paint, lipstick and candles are also made from oil.

Soil story

You may not think of soil as valuable. But in a way, soil is even more precious than gold, oil or diamonds. Plants need soil to grow and animals need plant for food. So, most living things depend on soil.

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Soil is made from tiny bits of rock mixed with plant and animal remains. Soil begins to form when ice, water and wind break rocks into pieces. Plants take root in the rocky pieces. Rotting plants and animal remains make the soil richer.

Soil contains several layers. At the very top is a thin layer of rotting plants called humus. The rich topsoil contains plant and animal remains. The subsoil below contains broken rocks. At the bottom is solid bedrock.

Trees spread their roots through the soil. The roots draw water and nourishing minerals from the soil. They also anchor the tree in windy weather. Roots break up rocks to form more soil.

There are many types of soil. Sandy and chalky soils are dry and powdery. Clay soil is sticky. Different plants like different types of soil. Gardeners need to choose the right plants for the soil in their garden.

Did you know it takes hundreds of years to form even a thin layer of soil. Soil is much deeper in some places than others- it may be anything from a few centimetres to several metres deep.

Soil contains thousands of different living things, from tiny insects and spiders to earthworms and larger animals, such as moles and rabbits. The crops that provide our food grow in soil.

Earthworms and moles burrow in the soil. Their tunnels let air and water in. This helps to make the soil more fertile. Worms and moles spend their lives under the ground.

Living things in the soil depend on one another for food. Earthworms feed on rotting leaves. Moles feed on earthworms. When animals die, their remains nourish the soil which help more plants to grow.

Farmers prepare the soil for growing crops by ploughing. This turns the soil over and helps the air and water reach the lower layers. The plough can be pulled by a tractor or by animals such as oxen and horses.

Farmers harvest crops when they have gown and ripened. Some farmers cut the crop by hand. Others use a machine called a combine harvester to cut and gather this crop.

The Earth’s crust

The Earth’s hard outer crust sits on top of red-hot, squishy rock. The crust is not one solid layer but is made of giant slabs of rock. The huge slabs are called plates.

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The Earth’s plates fit together like pieces in an enormous jigsaw puzzle. Currents in the melted rock below cause the plates to drift very slowly. These movements produce earthquakes and volcanoes on the Earth’s surface.

As the Earth’s plates move very slowly across the surface, they bump and scrape one another. Where two plates scrape together, a long crack called a fault sometimes appears.

The Earth’s crust is thin and weak where the plates meet. Red-hot, melted rock, wells up from below, breaks through and spills out onto the surface. We called these places volcanoes.

Plates moving past each other sometimes jolt violently. The jolt, which makes the ground shake is called earthquakes. Earthquakes can do great damage.

Did you know The Earth’s plates move very, very slowly. They shift about 2.5 centimetres each year. People’s fingernail grow at about the same rate.

Volcanic Eruptions

When melted rocks, called lava spills out of a volcano, it is called eruption. Lava rushed out in fiery rivers, then cools to form solid rocks. It slowly builds up in layers to form a mountain.

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Red hot rock inside the Earth is called magma. Magma builds up below the volcano in a magma chamber. As more magma rises the pressure builds up. Red hot lava, ash, gas and steam burst out through the top of volcano.

Some volcanoes shoot chunks of red hot rocks high in the air. The hot rocks fly through the air and then splatter on the ground. These deadly rocks are called lava bombs.

The opening in the top of the volcano is called the crater. As the eruption dies down, the large hole gets blocked by ash and solid lava. These shoot out with great force the next time the volcano erupts.

During some eruptions clouds of burning ash pour out of the volcano. These heavy clouds spill down the mountain, moving much faster than lava. They burn anything in their path.

Types of Volcano

The shape of a volcano depends on the type of lava spills out of it. The two main types of volcanoes are tall, cone-shaped volcanoes and flatter shield volcanoes.

Some volcanoes explode violently throwing out thick, sticky lava. This type of lava flows only a short way before cooling and turning solid. Layers of lava and ash build up to form a cone-shaped mountain.

Some volcanoes erupt under the sea. The hot lava cools as soon as it hits the water. This forms rounded lumps of rock called pillow lava.

Some volcanoes erupt runny lava. This lava flows a long way before cooling and turning solid. A low, rounded hill called a shield volcano eventually forms.

Not all volcanoes erupt all the time. A volcano that has not erupted for a long time but may erupt again is called dormant volcano. Dormant means sleeping. A volcano that has stopped erupting is called an extinct volcano.

Did you know, Volcanoes that have erupted recently, or are still erupting are called active volcanoes. There are more than 1000 active volcanoes around the world, but only 20 to 30 actually erupt each year.

Mount St Helens

In May 1980 a volcano called Mount St Helens in western USA suddenly erupted. The whole top of the mountain blew off in a violent explosion.

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Mount St Helens had not erupted for 123 years before the 1980 eruption. The mountain looked peaceful but inside the pressure was slowly building.

When Mount St Helens erupted, ash, gas and steam escaped with an enormous ‘whoosh’. People living hundreds of kilometres away heard the explosion. A thick layer of ash rained down on the countryside.

Forests of tall trees covered the lower slopes of Mount St Helens before the eruption. The blast snapped the trees like matchsticks.

After the eruption Mount St Helens looked lifeless. Ash lay thick on the ground and choked lakes and rivers. After a few months plants began to sprout and animals returned to Mount St Helens.

The cloud of ash from Mount Sy Helens rose 20 kilometres in the sky. The ash made the sky dark and drifted on the wind to settle over a wide area. Towns up to 300 kilometres away were covered in ash.

Mount St Helens erupted violently for four days. Smaller eruptions continued for several months afterwards.

Famous Eruptions

The most powerful eruptions do a lot of damage. When water or snow mixes with volcanic ash, it produces a tide of mud, which can destroy towns and villages.

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About 2000 years ago a volcano called Vesuvius erupted in southern Italy. The Roman town of Pompeii was buried under a thick layer of ash and was not discovered again for hundreds of years.

When hot ash rained down on Pompeii many people died. The bodies of some people and animal left behind hollow spaces in the hard ash. Experts believe more than 2000 people died in Pompeii when Vesuvius erupted. The volcano had not erupted for a long time, so people had thought it was safe to live close by.

In 1991, Mount Pinatubo on the Philippines was erupted and ash covered the landscape. Heavy rain turned the ash to mud, which swept across the island. Several villages were buried by the mud.

In 1985, the Nevado del Ruiz volcano high in the Andes Mountains in South America erupted. Red hot lava ash melted snow on the mountain. A tide of mud roared downhill and buried the town of Armero in the valley below.