How Do Rocks Move?

Contributor: Hannah Brooks. Lesson ID: 12444

Have you ever seen a rock move? The don't seem very active, do they? It would be hard to pick up a huge boulder. What if it were broken into tiny pieces? Find out how Earth moves rocks without hands!


Earth Science

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

  • If you were planning to move to a new house, how would you get everything you own there?

Moving all of your belongings can be challenging and overwhelming.

Packing smaller boxes can help! Rocks move in a similar way. Smaller rocks move more easily than larger rocks, because they are lighter!


If you haven't yet studied, or need to review, the first Rocks and Minerals Related Lessons, find them in the right-hand sidebar.

Erosion is the process of rocks moving from one place to another. Erosion occurs all over the planet, moving rocks to new locations.


There are many factors that contribute to erosion of rocks and soil, including water, wind, glaciers, and gravity. Each of these has a unique pattern of movement.

Water is one of the most common cause of erosion, because it is powerful. Water moves material through rainfall, waves, floods, and rivers. When rain falls down on the surface, it picks up rocks and pushes them to new places. Waves erode the shoreline, often breaking off large pieces of the coastline.

coastal cliff

Floods and rivers move water to push rocks to a new location by force.

aerial view of flood

  • Have you ever gotten windburn?

Wind can be another powerful force in moving materials from place to another. Wind can pick up small pieces of rocks and carry them away.

wind storm

Glaciers are moving bodies of ice that can cut deep into the Earth's surface. This loosens rocks and soil and pushes them to new places.


Gravity is a force that pulls material towards the Earth's surface. So, when loose rocks are found at a higher elevation, they can move down under the force of gravity. Think about a cliff — when a small rock loosens, the rock falls to the bottom. That is erosion!


Erosion occurs all over the world, through water, wind, glaciers, and gravity. Each of these forces acts on rocks to move them from one place to another. Rocks can be large enough to be moved by glaciers, and small enough to be picked up by the wind. Water moves the most matter, because it is one of the most powerful forces of erosion.

Respond to the following question on a sheet of paper:

  • How do natural processes on Earth move rock?

Discuss your response with a parent or teacher before moving to the Got It? section, where you will review types of erosion.

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