Tools & sites for Junior Rock Hounds in New England?
March 1, 2017 1:40 PM   Subscribe

What things should I bring along on a hike with some kids (age 9 & 12) who are curious about looking for cool rocks after a great demo in school?

My two younger kids went on a field trip to a nearby rock & mineral shop, and are quite interested in finding some pretty rocks themselves. We live near a hill with a lot of quartz (Diamond Hill in Cumberland, RI), and it's easy to walk up and down it to see big quartz outcroppings.

Last weekend I grabbed a shoulder bag and tossed in eye protection, a hammer, and an old screwdriver, and we wandered around the hill for a little while. They were interested and we will go back, but what else (if anything) should I bring along in order to collect a few small samples?

(Bonus if anyone can suggest places within maybe a 45-minute drive to see cool rocks or -- be still my heart! -- fossils. We have already been to see the Cumberlandite, which is pretty neat for being totally unique.)
posted by wenestvedt to Science & Nature (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Hand lens, streak plate, maybe a magnet and field glasses just for general sciencey fun.

I like the "roadside geology" series of books, they contain many pertinent details and points of interest for the region, and also provide good skimming on the way there, telling you what the landscape your are driving through is made of, what the exposed strata are, highway cuts of note, etc.

Here's their book for RI and CT, they have all of New England covered by state or state pairs, looks like ~4 books should cover all your local needs and more.

A field guide to rocks and minerals will also be nice, here's Audbon's guide for all North America, there are of course many others, sometimes by region.
posted by SaltySalticid at 2:57 PM on March 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

You can do the mineral hardness test to classify your finds by the hardness scale. Or a streak plate.

A magnifying glass would be fun.
posted by Miko at 2:59 PM on March 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

A stiff paint brush (as in hardware store, not art supply), a used toothbrush, and maybe a wire brush for removing dirt from any finds. Probably want to do as much cleaning as possible with dry brushes, and save the wet cleaning for later, since that'll bring a mess.
posted by Sunburnt at 3:09 PM on March 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

I was surprised to discover, when I asked on facebook, how many local friends I had who are amateur rockhounds (rocks, fossils, or arrowheads), who go rock hunting pretty regularly. Like five people offered to help me take my then-preschooler fossil hunting (and we found a couple fossils! and fell in a stream! it was great!). So my suggestion of what to take is "a friend who likes to rock hunt" who will know cool places and have good tips!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:20 PM on March 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

The cliff walk in Newport has some great rocks, but I assume it wouldn't be cool to start banging away at those rocks with a hammer. I would absolutely take them to Purgatory Chasm down in Middletown RI (not to be confused with the Purgatory Chasm just north of you in southern Mass). At the Middletown site you will find the fantastic Purgatory Conglomerate.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 5:09 PM on March 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

It is a bit farther away, but here on the Vineyard we have unique post-glacial geology, and very pretty rocks. There are fast ferries from New Bedford and just south of Providence once summer season gets going. We also have arrowheads, and all sorts of cool things on the shore.
posted by vrakatar at 6:19 PM on March 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Seconding Roadside Geology, which I grew up on and bought for successive locales. Do you have any cool little containers for storing (legal) samples? I always liked labeling mine; we had some neat glass tubes for gold flakes, for example. And this is really basic, but a spray bottle of water is a great tool for bringing out fossils or small stratigraphy details in a non-invasive way. Have fun!
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:47 PM on March 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

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