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4 Wave Hill Arbor Week Meditative Tree Ring Prints credit Wave Hill

Nature Activities for Home

Uncovering the Composition of New York City’s Bedrock

Learn which types of rock make up the bedrock in different parts of New York City. Explore how, over time, the city's bedrock and all its human activity affect landscape composition.


A Healthy Reminder

Some of these activities may take you out into nature. Be sure to follow the recommended health and safety guidelines, including keeping at least six feet from others and washing your hands well when you return home.


  • Bedrock: the solid rock that lies beneath soil and other loose materials on the earth’s surface
  • Geologic feature: any physical feature on the earth’s surface that is formed by a geologic process. Examples include mountains, exposed boulders, carved valleys, and cliffs.

Have your child choose an area of New York City: Lower Manhattan or Harlem (Manhattan Schist), Inwood or Kingsbridge (Inwood Marble), Riverdale or Fordham (Fordham Gneiss). Then, have them research the neighborhood using the interactive maps and other historical sources they may have access to (some provided in Background Information section below) in order to answer the following questions:

  • Which rocks make up the bedrock underneath your neighborhood?
  • Are there any major geological features in the area? If so, what are they?
  • How do the bedrock composition and geological features impact the shape of the landscape and the appearance of that part of the city?
  • How has the landscape changed since 1924?

Share that they now have the opportunity to create a piece of art that reflects their neighborhood. Ask them to draw lines down the middle of a piece of paper to break it into three equal sections. In the leftmost column, draw what you think the landscape you chose looked like in the past. This can be any era from prehistoric times to the 1920s. In the middle column, draw how the landscape looks in the present. Be sure to include the bedrock and other parts of the landscape that are geologic. In the column on the right, predict what this landscape will look like at some point in the future. What changes will happen in this area in the next 100 or 1,000 years?

If you are doing this as a class activity, you can submit all the photos to a class gallery online, so that everyone can see how they imagined their neighborhoods in the past, present and future. Give students time to reflect on New York City as a whole and the impacts that humans and natural events have on it over time.

NYC Then & Now. Map. New York City: City of New York, 2018. Web.

Mineral Resources Online Spatial Data. Map. USA: United States Geological Survey, 2018. Web.

Background Information:

“A New Deal for the Palisades Interstate Park.” Vimeo, Palisades Parks, 6 Apr. 2011,

“Rocks: Igneous, Metamorphic and Sedimentary.”, 2018,

Brock, Pamela Chase, and Patrick W. G. Brock. “‘Bedrock Geology of New York City: More than 600 M.y. of Geologic History.’” An Introduction to Science, Queens College School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, 27 Oct. 2001,