Monday, August 4, 2014

Rocks, Minerals and the Rock Cycle

Educational Innovations Rock Collection Educational Kit

Rocks and Minerals are such wonderful things for kids to collect.  They practice observation skills, learn some science and geologic vocabulary (which helps them with their reading), and it helps get them outside finding the rocks they wish to collect.  Here are some great resources for getting kids excited about Geology.

First, an introductory kit is particularly nice to have.  One can make their own sorting chart similar to the one shown above, but then you also have to find the rocks to go with it.  Instead, I purchased the kit pictured above (and cut out the egg carton bottom) from Educational Innovations at  Such a kit allows kids to look at the features geologists commonly use to distinguish one rock or mineral type from another and introduces them to such properties as cleavage (where a rock shears and breaks away from another), hardness and color.  Once they've established the skills using the introductory kit, it isn't hard to expand outward to rocks they find elsewhere.

DK Publishers: Eyewitness Rock and Mineral as well as Eyewitness Crystal and Gem  are wonderful visual resource for kids to learn the basics with.  I love this series of books and have yet to find a DK eyewitness book I didn't like.  Apparently DK also offers project books and between the fact that I trust these publishers at this point and that on first glance the project book for rocks and minerals also looks great, I'll recommend it here despite not having actually used it myself (I hope to in the future though). 

Reader's Digest Series: How the Earth Works  This is another one of those book series I love.  The particular book listed here, is not specifically about rock collecting.  However, it is full of geologic information and includes important things to know about rocks such as the rock cycle.  Each page layout has at least one experiment or demonstration you can try with your kids - most pages have two or three.  All of the activities use relatively easy to find materials and the visuals help understanding how to complete the project while the text describes the scientific phenomenon the activity is illustrating.  Plus, the layout of the book welcomes all types of readers to it with it's clear graphics and minimal and concise texts.

Peterson's Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals  Of course if you plan on getting serious about rock collecting, a field guide will be needed.  Although Peterson's guides are not designed for kids, they are pretty simple to use and contain a vast array of photos with simple descriptions which will help kids grow their vocabularies and identify the rocks and minerals they find.

 A Rock is Lively  I discovered Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long through their book, A Seed is sleepy and had loved reading Hutts poems while pouring over Long's gorgeous illustrations in all of their books since.  A Rock is lively did not disappoint.  The text is sweet, concise and accurate while the illustrations are so accurately made you almost feel you have the rocks in hand, yet you are also looking at a piece of artwork - something not quite so accurate as to feel like a photograph.

Rocks in His Head This picture book is a sweet biography of the author's father, who is a geologist.  What was nice about the story for us was that bits of history with which Alice is somewhat familiar are alluded to as the father lives through early and mid-century events of the twentieth century.  The truth of the story about how life takes us from one thing to the next, but we all have our separate passions as well is great for kids to see.  It can take a long time for our avocations to meet with our vocations. 

Video Resources

Bill Nye Rocks and Minerals The ever goofy and fun Bill Nye makes Rocks and minerals memorable through his silly antics, advertisement spoofs and crazy music videos.

The Rock Cycle  Two and a half minutes long, this video summarizes the basics of the Rock Cycle quickly - a good introduction.

Make me  This one takes a minute to get down to it, but as it is designed to present the information to elementary aged kids, it is clear and simple.  The order in which the information is presented is also the clearest way for kids to really understand all the parts of the rock cycle.

Activities and Other Resources

Mining Matters: The Rock Cycle This is a fabulous activity that clearly shows how the three major rock categories are distinguished from one another.  The activity is designed for young elementary school students, but I'd do it with middle school students as well.

Science Kids: Rocks, Minerals and Soil  As your kids play around with the rock tester, they learn the characteristics of important rocks and minerals such as granite and talc (which they refer to as chalk).  Proper terminology is not used through-out so to test for cleavage, kids are asked, "does it split?"  This feature can be a good thing for very young kids, but does not stretch vocabulary for the more advanced kids.  Conceptually and informationaly a good activity.

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