Use Sand Art to Teach Kids about Sedimentary Rocks

Every year I use Sand Art to teach kids about how Sedimentary Rocks form in layers. This is always one of my camper’s favorite activities. Sedimentary rocks are ones that form in rivers, lakes, oceans and deserts. Sediments like clay, silt, and sand deposit in layers in these settings. Some layers can be very thick like sand layers in the desert or they can be thin like alternating layers of clay, silt, and sand in an ocean that change over time as the position of the high tides and shoreline gently moves. This activity gives kids the ability to make their own sedimentary layers using a variety of thicknesses and colors representing different types of sediment.

Sand Art gives kids a great visual representation of these different layers. Over the years, I’ve found a great way to do this activity without breaking the piggy bank. Pre-colored sand can be very expensive at craft and hobby stores. A great alternative is using salt that you color at home with liquid food coloring. To color the salt, use a glass bowl, a half to full box of table salt, several drops of food coloring, and a spoon. Stir the food coloring into the salt until the color is uniform. Allow the salt to sit, stirring occasionally, until the salt is again dry and pours easily. You can use less food coloring to make lighter colors that dry quickly or more drops of food coloring to make darker colors that take just a little longer to prepare. If you are really adventurous, try mixing the food coloring to make colors such as orange, purple, black, and teal.

In camp, I use small, water bottles that are empty and dry. When you are ready to begin, give each child a piece of paper and some tape. Show them how to twist and secure the paper into a funnel that they can use to keep the salt inside the bottle rather than all over the floor. This is where the fun begins. I let the kids make their “sedimentary rocks” in any way they want from the color choice to the thickness of each layer. Have kids fill the bottle all the way to the top and then place the lid on the bottle to keep the layers from mixing.

If you have any questions about this experiment or other fun geology activities for kids, visit us as www.MiniMeGeology.com. We have some great free puzzles at the Dig Into Geology section of our site.

To throw your own summer Rock Camp, check out our Rock Detectives Camp Guide for ideas and instructions.

 

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Throw a Rock Detectives Birthday Party for Your Kids with This Party Plan

Is your little one having a birthday? Do they love rocks and minerals? Then throw them a Rock Detectives Geology Party!  This party idea is based on Mini Me Geology’s Rock Detectives line of kits to give your child and their guests hours of fun.

Below you will find a Rock Detectives Birthday Party Plan that will help you design a party full of rock and mineral identification activities, geode cracking, panning for minerals and storage box creation. Throwing a party is simple, choose the Rock Detectives kits that you want to use as the theme for the party (Minerals & Crystals, Rocks or both).  Your child can learn about Metamorphic Mysteries, become a Sedimentary Sleuth or solve an Igneous Investigation. You can also design your party around our Crystal Geometry and Crystal Experiments kits and go on a Mineral Mission.

All rock and mineral birthday party pack orders receive a free Rock Detectives Birthday Party CD with instructions for panning, geode cracking, storage box creation, and rock bingo as well as invitations to send to your guests! You can purchase the CD separately for only $9.99 if you simply need ideas for your big day.  In addition to the activities on the party CD, each Rock Detectives Kit comes with its own CD with activities, puzzles, and experiments.


ROCK DETECTIVES PARTY PLAN

Activity #1:  Arrival Puzzles & Coloring Pages

Each party pack of Rock Detectives kits comes with a free parent CD so that you can print and prepare the party activities from the kits before the kids arrive. Each kit has word puzzles, mazes and coloring pages that you can give to your party guests to occupy them as other guests arrive.

Activity #2:  Create-Your-Own Rock Storage Box

A good geologist always has a way to carry their samples. Create fun storage boxes out of inexpensive items from around your house. Instructions are provided on the Rock Detectives Party CD.

Activity #3:  Sample Identity Detection

Print the sample identification and activity pages from the free Rock Detectives parent CD and let your party guests follow the clues to identify the name of each sample in their Rock Detectives kit. Each kit comes with a hand magnifier to help see the details!

Activity #4:  Panning for Rocks, Minerals & Fossils

Provide each guest a bucket of prepared mixture of sand, rocks, minerals and fossils. Use sand sieves or homemade panning equipment to find the hidden treasures like real geologists do! Instructions are provided on the Rock Detectives Party CD.

Activity #5:  Geode Cracking

All good geologists break open rocks to see the inside. Kids love to crack open large geodes to see the crystals inside. Instructions and safety precautions are provided on the Rock Detectives Party CD.

Activity #6:  Experiments

All good geologists love experimenting on their samples. Each Rock Detectives kit includes instructions for experiments that you can do during the party. Don’t worry if you run out of time, the party guests can do these experiments at home using their own CD from the kits.

Activity #7: Wrap Up with Rock Bingo!

Play Mini Me Geology’s Rock Bingo to wrap up your party. The bingo game is included on the Rock Detectives Party CD. A great gift for winners is rock candy from your local candy store. If you can’t find the candy locally, give us a shout and we can point you to some online sources!

Get started planning your party today!

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It’s Time to Register for Rock Camp 2017!

March has arrived and it is time to register your kids for summer camps. If you live in the Mount Pleasant / Charleston, South Carolina, area or plan to visit this June, I would love to have you join us for Rock Detectives Camp. The camp will be held at the Park West Recreation Building in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, on June 19 through 23, 2017 from 1:00 pm until 4:00 pm. Come join us for a full week of geology fun!

Each day of the camp has a different theme.

  • Day 1 = Minerals
  • Day 2 = Igneous Rocks
  • Day 3 = Sedimentary Rocks
  • Day 4 = Metamorphic Rocks
  • Day 5 = The Rock Cycle

On the first day, the kids receive and decorate a box to hold all of the rock and mineral samples that they get during the camp. Each day begins with a puzzle related to the day’s theme then we have a short lesson about minerals, rocks or the rock cycle. Each day of the camp, the kids receive two mineral or rock samples to identify and keep for their own collection that coincide with the day’s theme. On Friday, Rock Cycle Day, the campers receive two “mystery” samples that may be either minerals or rocks.

Each day, the kids will perform experiments related to mineral and rock formation including growing salt crystals, making (and exploding) a volcano (yes, we do that outside!), creating edible metamorphic rocks, panning for crystals, making pet rocks and much, much more. During the week of camp, kids will participate in a Rock Bingo tournament and play Rock Jeopardy. Don’t bother trying to pick your kids up early, Rock Bingo is a very serious tournament and they won’t want to leave! The camp is well-suited for kids between the ages of 6 and 12. You can register for camp by clicking here.

If you have questions about my camp in June 2017, please email me at tracyb@minimegeology.com and I’ll be happy to help!

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Rock & Mineral Coloring & Activity Book – Now in Print

We are thrilled to announce that our favorite coloring book is now available in print. This fun book will give your kids hours of fun with 78 pages of coloring, puzzles, and activities.

This coloring and activity book is perfect for kids who love rocks, minerals, and engaging activities. The professional geologist at Mini Me Geology designed this book to capture each child’s imagination and foster their love of science, learning, and excitement. Activities include:

  • Drawing Pages
  • Coloring Pages
  • Roc-Tac-Toe
  • Foursquare
  • Word Scrambles
  • Crossword Puzzles
  • Word Finds
  • Mazes
  • Creative Writing Stories
  • Make-a-Word

You can buy your coloring book directly from the Mini Me Geology website or, if you prefer, from Amazon. Either way, you will enjoy hours of pure fun!

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How to Draw a Cross-Section from a Topographic Map

stone-mtn-topo-coverI’ve wanted to write this blog post for a long time, but this weekend pushed it forward on my list because of something my daughter said to me. As some of you who follow me on social media may know, my two kids are runners. This past weekend my daughter competed in the Region 4 USATF Junior Olympic Cross Country meet in Tallahassee, Florida. She had a great meet and qualified to run at the National JO meet in December.

As I pulled up the course maps for December in Alabama, I noticed that they were unlike any course map I’ve seen over the years. There are topographic lines on the map! For once, you can look at the map and see where the hills and valleys are on the cross country course. The first thing I thought to do was to make a cross-section of my daughter’s course map to see if it was flat or hilly. We live in coastal South Carolina so running hills can be tough on our athletes. When I mentioned making the cross-section, my daughter said, “you are the only person who would think to make a cross-section of a cross country course.” Really? Certainly, there is at least one other geologist parent attending that meet who whipped up a quick cross-section. Much to our delight, her 3K course looks relatively flat. Yippie!

Making a cross-section from a topographic is not too difficult and can come in handy for hiking, driving, biking, walking and yes, running. All you need is a topographic map of the area, a piece of graph paper, a ruler, and a pencil. There are some great online resources for obtaining topographic maps. I will link to one I like at the bottom of the post.

stone-mtn-topo-smallFor this demonstration, I am using Stone Mountain, Georgia because it has a significant elevation difference than the cross country course. Here is a topographic map of Stone Mountain.

There are three basic steps to making the cross-section once you have your map.

stone-mtn-topo-a_a-small

Step 1:
The first step to complete to create your cross-section is to choose a line across the map where you want to view the elevation changes. This could be the area you plan to hike or as in this example here, a line through the highest part of the mountain so that we can get a really good visual of the mountain’s elevation.

Once you choose the area for your cross-section, draw that line on the topographic map using a ruler. Geologists will label this cross-section line using letter designations such as A – A’. You could use “A – B” or “Start – Finish” or anything else you choose.

topo-with-graph-paper_small

Step 2:
The second step is to take a piece of graph paper and fold it along one of the horizontal grid lines. I like to choose an area toward the bottom of the graph paper to give myself plenty of room to work. Lay the edge of the graph paper along your cross-section line then mark the locations of A and A’ on your paper. Mark each topographic line or each index line (the darker topographic lines) if there are more topo lines that you can easily use in the construction of your cross-section, on the paper and label the mark with the elevation of that line. In this example, each index line is at a 100-foot interval while the lines in between are at intervals of 20 feet. Because Stone Mountain is very steep, I can mark only the index lines and still have a nice representation of the height of the mountain. If your area is flatter, you may want to use all of the topographic lines to accurately see the elevation.

topo-cross-section_small

Step 3:
Once you mark each topographic line and its corresponding elevation on your graph paper (as shown), unfold the graph paper and make a lined graph above your marks. Mark the elevation of each topographic line on the graph directly above the mark for the line. Once you have all of the dots placed on the graph, simply connect the dots to see a representation of the elevation of the area as shown in the image.

I am not the best artist in the world so your drawing may be a lot prettier than mine, but this will give you an idea of how you can use a topographic map to quickly drawing a cross-section of the elevation of an area. Give this a try the next time you are going for a walk, hike or run in a new area to give yourself an idea of the elevation of the terrain the area.

Topographic Map Resource:
https://www.mytopo.com/maps/

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Meet Selenite Gypsum – Our New Favorite Mineral!

selenite-stick-blog-picLove, love, love, love! Did I mention how much I just love these new Selenite Sticks? Selenite is a form of the mineral Gypsum. Satin spar, the more technically correct term for these sticks, is often used interchangeably with the term selenite.  For the purposes of this article, we will use the term selenite or satin spar selenite to keep things simple. Satin Spar Selenite is a fibrous variety of the gypsum mineral which forms in long strands. When the long strands form together in groups, they take the form of these super, awesome, cute “sticks.”

How to Identify Selenite:

Satin spar selenite has a beautiful white color and can also appear colorless. The luster is silky to pearly and sometimes vitreous (glassy). When testing the hardness, use your fingernail to scratch the surface. Selenite is very soft, being a 2 on the Mohs hardness scale.

Locations, Uses, and Cool Formation Features:

Nice samples of selenite are found in locations worldwide including Mexico, Italy, Russia, France, Canada and the United States. Selenite (gypsum) is a common material in paints, tile, drywall, blackboard chalk, fertilizer, and Plaster of Paris.  Selenite is a very popular metaphysical crystal and is associated with the seventh chakra or the crown chakra. The crown chakra is located at the top of your head and associated with enlightenment, cosmic consciousness, energy, perfection, spirituality, and intelligence.

Selenite sticks form in long, prismatic crystals parallel to one another. These mass of crystals form the long sticks. Often, these sticks for in rock seams in the parent rock.

Most of our samples sizes are generally 3-4 inches in length but can vary based on availability and natural crystal shape. You can check out our selenite sticks here.

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Luster does NOT mean only shiny!

luster-not-shinyOne of my biggest issues with science teachers in schools today is that they tell kids when they are learning about rocks and minerals that term luster means shiny. Well, guess what, it doesn’t! I wrote a blog post on this several years ago and it is still happening. Again, my daughter came home from school (this time in middle school) with a paper that said that luster was “shiny.” Gag. And, if it isn’t shiny, it has no luster. Double gag.

Every mineral has a luster. Yes, the luster can be shiny but it can also be many, many other things. Geologists define luster as the way light bounces off of the surface of a rock or mineral. Some common lusters are:

  • Earthy
  • Dull
  • Greasy
  • Silky
  • Pearly
  • Shiny
  • Metallic
  • Vitreous (Glassy)
  • Resinous
  • Waxy
  • Submetallic
  • Adamantine

So, teachers and homeschool parents, PLEASE teach kids the correct definition of luster. Yes, it can be shiny but it could also be any of these other terms. Some minerals may even have more than one luster depending on the way it forms. If you have questions, just let us know. We love talking about mineral identification! You can get us at: rockinfo@minimegeology.com.

Click here to read my earlier blog post about mineral luster.

 

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How to Perform the Geology Fizz Test without Hydrochloric Acid

fizz-test-no-hclGeologists love testing rocks and minerals and, admittedly, one of the most fun tests is the FIZZ TEST. The mineral calcite is made of calcium carbonate (CaCO3).

Hydrochloric acid is the most common acid used among geologists to test whether a rock has any calcite content. In this reaction, the calcium carbonate reacts with the acid and produces carbon dioxide gas, water, and calcium chloride. The carbon dioxide produces the bubbles that you see on the surface of the rock.

Whoa! Hydrochloric Is Too Strong for Kids to Use

We agree with you that hydrochloric acid is not always the best choice to use with kids. For one thing, when kids are learning to identify rocks and minerals you want them to be able to test and explore without worrying if they are going to burn their fingers with acid.

My Solution?

Weak acids like lemon juice (citric acid) and vinegar (acetic acid) are the perfect solution for performing safe lab experiments with younger kids. The only problem with weak acids like lemon juice and vinegar is that sometimes it is harder to see the reaction (the bubbles).

The best way to fix this problem is to create a fresh surface for the kids to test. Since using a rock hammer in class isn’t always advisable, I suggest giving each child a paper clip that they can use to scratch the surface of the sample. When you scratch the surface you are removing some of the older weathered exterior or areas that were already tested and giving the children a fresh surface to test. Once they scratch off a small area to test, they can use a dropper bottle or a straw to place a few drops of lemon juice or vinegar on the surface. If it bubbles, you know that there is the mineral calcite in your rock. This is a great test for limestones and marbles which are made completely of calcite.

If you need help teaching kids how to identify rocks and minerals check out this book which will give you all of the details you need.

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Natural Mineral Crystals for Chakra Healing and Meditation

chakra-stones_sept-20-2016_imageThe use of natural mineral crystals in meditation and the healing of a body’s chakras date back hundreds of years. The body has seven major chakra centers through which we gain physical, emotional and spiritual energy. Many people believe that for optimum wellness, it is beneficial to have all of your chakra centers balanced, clear and energized. Each chakra focuses on a specific area of your body and is associated with a different color.

You can use stones of each color to balance, clear, heal and energize your chakras. Clear quartz brings positive energy to every level and can be used to amplify the effect of any other crystal, but is especially associated with the crown chakra. At Mini Me Geology, we have an entire selection of crystals for meditation and healing. We offer both rough and tumbled stones both individually and in kits.

People believe that the seven major chakras are:

1st Chakra – Base or Root Chakra

Located at the base of spine, this chakra is associated with survival, security, and stability and physical energy. Colors:  Red and Black.  Stones:  Red Jasper, Snowflake Obsidian, Obsidian, Hematite, Red Garnet, Black Tourmaline, Carnelian, and Magnetite.

2nd Chakra – Sacral Chakra

Located below the navel or the lower area of your stomach, this chakra is associated with sensuality and sexuality, reproduction, desire, emotions, and creativity. Color:  Orange.  Stone:  Carnelian, Citrine, Red Garnet, Red Jasper.

3rd Chakra – Solar Plexus (Power Chakra)

Located below the breastbone this chakra affects the abdomen, gallbladder, and small intestines. The Solar Plexus chakra is associated with ego, intellect, ambition, personal power, fear, and protection.  Color:  Yellow.  Stones:  Citrine, Olivine, and Aragonite.

4th Chakra – Heart Chakra

Located at the center of your chest near your heart, this chakra is associated with power, love, forgiveness and trust, compassion and courage.  Colors:   Pink and Green.  Stones:   Rose Quartz, Rhodonite, Amazonite, Olivine, Malachite, Green Fluorite and Green (Grossular) Garnet.

5th Chakra – Throat Chakra

Located above your collarbone at your neck, this chakra is associated with communication and expression; guidance and honesty.  Color:   Blue.  Stones:   Sodalite, Azurite, Amazonite, Blue Apatite, Blue Calcite, Blue Kyanite, and Azurite.

6th Chakra – Third Eye Chakra

Located above the eyebrows, this chakra is associated with spiritual awareness, psychic power, intuition and light.  Color:  Purple and Indigo.  Stones:  Amethyst, Azurite, Sodalite, Blue Calcite, Purple Fluorite, and Lepidolite.

7th Chakra – Crown Chakra

Located on the top of your head, this chakra is associated with enlightenment, cosmic consciousness, energy, perfection, spirituality, and intelligence.  Color:  Violet and Golden-White.  Stones:  Howlite, White Calcite, Selenite, Clear Quartz, Clear Calcite, Amethyst, Citrine, and Lepidolite.

Clear Quartz can benefit all chakras by bringing positive energy to impact your entire energy field and amplifying the effect of any other crystal, but especially the Crown.

We have a nice selection of all of the minerals that you can use with your chakra healing and meditation practices. Questions? Just let us know and we are happy to help!

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Some Rocks & Minerals May Be Ugly on the Outside but Beautiful on the Inside

Carnelian GeodeIt’s easy to pass by rocks and minerals while you are walking around but you never know what is lurking  inside. Out in nature, most rocks and minerals may look drab and dingy because all of our different weather conditions that will wear away sharp points, dull the vibrant colors and cause cracks in the surface of the samples.

Carnelian is one mineral in particular which looks rather boring on the outside because of this weathering but when you break it open to see a fresh surface, you can see vibrant orange colors and sometimes, a hidden surprise.

Rain, wind, snow, ice, heat and cold all affect the nature and appearance of the Earth’s exposed rocks and minerals.  Rocks that are out in the open will change the way they look due to repeated exposure to the weather over a long period of time.  Hot summers and cold winters will make the rocks expand and contract which can cause cracks and flakes in the surface. The wind, rain, snow, and ice can change the color of a rock from vibrant to dull. All of these processes can also wear away crystal surfaces and change the shape of a sample as well.

When you come upon a rock or mineral and want to get a good look at it, you will need to use a rock hammer (or similar item) to break the rock and collect a small piece.  Look at the fresh surface that was not exposed to the weather to see the true characteristics of the rock.

This carnelian sample is a perfect example of a mineral that looks dull and drab on the outside (top picture) due to weathering processes, but when the sample was broken, we found out that it was actually a small geode with quartz crystals lining an open space on the inside (bottom picture). Look closely at the picture on the bottom, and you can see a beautiful, orange mineral that surrounds the geode center of clear quartz crystals. Carnelian is a natural orangish-red variety of the mineral quartz but not all samples have a geode center. You can learn more about Carnelian and its properties here.

So the next time you are outside, take a minute to look at the rocks and minerals around you. Just because they maybe a dull gray or brown outside, does not mean that there isn’t something fabulous inside waiting to be discovered!

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