What's an puppy rock-hound to do?
August 6, 2007 2:28 AM   Subscribe

I need geology-activites suitable for children for an Rock-hound-day.

Okey, so I'm in charge of a local rock-hound-day for the general glorification of geology. We've got loads of stuff for the grown-ups. But we need some activities for the youngsters.

Any Mefites with experience of rock-hounding for kids? Any particular games or challenges that might interest kids 8-12 years?

Any boiler-plate acitivity that's possible to tweak into the geology-area, are welcome.
posted by Rabarberofficer to Education (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Where are you at? There is an old gemstone mine near Richmond VA that let's you spend a day digging in the dirt and working the sluice line. You keep whatever you find. If you have something like that locally kids at that age will love it. Digging in the dirt, playing in water, and it's educational. You can't lose!

Or are their any places to pan for gold?

Or check with a local museum or see if you can find a local rock hunting club or gem hunting club. They will know where to go to find interesting stuff, and if you ask nice somebody will probably volunteer to lead a expedition.
posted by COD at 5:10 AM on August 6, 2007

1) How a Fossil is Made: Mold a trilobite (or anything fossil). Using plaster of paris and clay, have the kids make a mold in clay of the fossil (we use a pretty sturdy mold for the imprint) and then have them fill it up with the plaster. It takes a little bit of time to dry, so it's a good activity to have them do first. As the kids do this, explain (and have a display) of how a fossil is made.

2) How long is a dinosaur? You need a really big area. The kids choose a dinosaur and (using measuring tape pre-laid out) figure out long they really were. Sometimes if you have a lot of kids you can have them line up feet to head.

3) Put the dinosaur in the correct geological period. Using pics, or plastic toys, (something to hold works better) etc., have them put dinos in their right time frame. Teaches them about geological time and that not all dinos lived at the same time (as Hollywood likes to portray). You can use all kinds of organisms for this one (trilobites, mammoths, etc.)

4) How does an oil spill work? Maybe not what you're looking for, but you need some sand, water, some vegetable oil, a pan, and some dishwashing soap. Pile sand into one area of the pan. (Make sure it's sand with good porosity/permeability.) Pour in a little vegetable oil and watch the sand soak it up. You can then demonstrate how they clean up with the soap. This one is time intensive. You can also use a similar set up to show how an oil reservoir works.

5) Meteorite Impact! Frankly, there is nothing kids like better than dropping rocks into a big pile of something. Make a pretty good display of the K/T impact. With lots and lots of plastic underneath, fill a low, large box with lots of...something (I think flour works best, actually - it's more dramatic, and easier to clean up). Have the kids drop rocks into it from on high. Sometimes we put up a display of animals before and after the K/T boundary.

6) ID the rock/mineral/fossil - pretty self-explanatory. With the fossil it's best to have pics of what it looked like in "real life."

7)Dig out a fossil! Again, it's self-explanatory. However, kids are often disappointed if they can't take it home.

My e-mail is in my profile if you need more specific instructions. I left them kind of broad so that you can expand and be creative. I hope this helps! I know these are not so much "rock" activities but I've discovered those bore children and adults too sometimes, haha! I've found with kids that the more hands on and less talking there is the better. Make sure any rocks and fossils used aren't favorites - there is a lot of handling and sometimes there are sticky fingers.
posted by barchan at 5:16 AM on August 6, 2007

Oh, and a crystal growing project to show how minerals are formed is always a good idea if you're working with the same group of kids for an extended time, since you'll have to keep checking. Always have some minerals on display and for touching if you do this.

I also forgot - with the ID a rock exercise, have the kiddies ID carbonate with some vinegar - it's safe and always dramatic.
posted by barchan at 5:26 AM on August 6, 2007

1) You can have them hunt for fossils and/or old stuff and or odd rocks. The idea is to get them to play amateur archaeologist, and then sit down with them to emphasize the geologcal aspects of their findings.

2) Have them make fossils. Start with a big batch of plaster (pretty much any plaster will do). Then have them go look for interesting leaves (I think leaves work best but I suppose anything will do). They then use their leaves to make an imprint in their individual pieces of plaster. Once dry have them carefully remove the leaves. Voila, instant fossil. Plus, this makes for a nice keepsake. (I've done this activity, it's lots of fun.)

3) Have them find interesting rocks. Then have them make up stories about the rocks. They might talk about how the rock got there or what it's made of, etc. . Then you can provide more scientific details (or give them some details first and have them incorporate the details into their stories). This incorporates physical activity, learing science and creative story telling; a trifecta of kiddy activities.
posted by oddman at 6:02 AM on August 6, 2007

There is a whole list of "puppy" activities, including rock-hounding, at the Boy Scouts website. Here is a link to their Cub Scout Geology Activities.
posted by Doohickie at 6:25 AM on August 6, 2007

And here's a link to a cheesy kit to earn those awards; you can see what is packaged in it and provide some of those materials for your rock puppies.
posted by Doohickie at 6:27 AM on August 6, 2007

Hi all,

Thanks for your great ideas! With these I'll certainly will make the children remember this day.

COD: I'm in Sweden, so it's kind of inconvenient to hike to Richmond ;-) And there's no gold in these mountains... Only boring stuff as iron, vandium and titanium. It's an intrusive formation (pre-cambrium - if that means anything to you), formed appr. 2,5 billion years ago. Life on Earth was still in the single-cell mode back then.

barchan: I love your ideas about dinosaurs (although we don't have any fossils right here). it sure to captivate the childrens imagination. And they're action-packed.

Oddman: The Stone-stories idea could fit the bill perfectly. Great!

Doohickie: Great link - somehow I forgot about Boy scouts.

Thankyou all for letting me use your brains!

Take care
posted by Rabarberofficer at 6:54 AM on August 6, 2007

Around here, you can often find un-opened geodes and nice pieces of iron pyrite (fool's gold) pretty cheap. Kids love busting open the geodes, and I've done treasure hunts with the iron pyrite. Dunno how available those things are in Sweden, though.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:33 AM on August 6, 2007

i live in agate country, and the favorite activity they do for kids at the agate show is have a trunk dump a load of pebbles liberally laced with agates and pennies in a stretch down a street/alley/parking lot and an age-restricted group of kids swarm in like after pinata candy.

you could adapt for your gathering size and local rocks.
posted by RedEmma at 10:20 AM on August 6, 2007

We used to go about once a year to local quarries or construction sites (anywhere that they've got big fill-dirt piles) and hunt for neat rocks— we'd look for one each, sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic, and then the teacher would smash them open with a hammer, tell us what they were, and we'd get to see the insides and usually found neat stuff. It wasn't complicated, and a lot of the fun came from seeing what was inside (and seeing rocks get smashed).

In hindsight, maybe there wasn't a whole lot of science to it. But it was fun (maybe I was a dork).
posted by klangklangston at 2:14 PM on August 6, 2007

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