How to Choose the Best Rock and Mineral Kit for Your Children

Children of all ages love rocks and minerals. Mini Me Geology kits by Giverny, Inc are the perfect, educational products for anyone interested in science. Our Professional Geologist designs each kit series with different age groups, settings, and interests in mind. This guide will help you choose the best kit for your children and students based on their level and type of interest. The first step is to decide on a kit series. The following summaries will help you determine which kit series is most appropriate for your child or students.

My Rockin' Collection Deluxe Kits

My Rockin’ Collection Deluxe Kits

 

My Rockin’ Collection Series Deluxe Kits – Ages 6 to adult
The My Rockin’ Collection series is our deluxe line of rock and mineral kits. This series is perfect for anyone who loves geology. These deluxe kits feature 10 or 15 (depending on the kit) large mineral and rock samples, a hand magnifier, and identification cards or brochure. The mineral kit also includes white and black streak plates for testing. The contents are housed in a sturdy storage box with foam padding and identification stickers below the foam so you can see if you properly identify the samples. The box closes with a snug fit so that every sample stays in its own section.   These kits are good for classroom and home school lessons too. See these kits in action in this video about the My Rockin’ Collection series. The My Rockin’ Collection series is recommended for ages 6 to adult. Children should be able to read for maximum benefit or have the assistance of an adult. See all of the My Rockin Collection Deluxe Kits.

Colossal Rock & Mineral Kit

Colossal Rock & Mineral Kit

The Colossal Rock and Mineral Kit – Ages 6 to adult
The Colossal Rock and Mineral Kit is a two box set with a total of 40 samples – 10 samples each of minerals, igneous rocks, sedimentary rocks and metamorphic rocks. The kit also includes a hand magnifier, white streak plate, black streak plate and four rock and mineral identification posters. The samples included in this kit are the same as the samples in the My Rockin Collection Junior kits. Find out why kids love The Colossal Rock and Mineral Kit in this video review. This kit is recommended for ages 6 to adult and is perfect for kids and collectors who want to have a large sample set or classrooms and home school groups. Learn more about The Colossal Rock & Mineral Kit.

Rock Cycle Kit

Rock Cycle Kit

The Rock Cycle Kit with eBook – Ages 6 to adult
The Rock Cycle Kit includes a total of 20 samples – 5 samples each of minerals, igneous rocks, sedimentary rocks and metamorphic rocks. This kit also includes a hand magnifier and a CD with a 36 page, full-color eBook that explains how to identify rocks and minerals and how the processes of the rock cycle work in our world. Learn more about why kids love The Rock Cycle kit in this video review. This kit is recommended for ages 6 to adult and it easy to incorporate into summer fun activities or a home school or classroom setting. Learn more about The Rock Cycle Kit.

My Rockin' Collection Junior Kits

My Rockin’ Collection Junior Kits


My Rockin Collection Junior Series
– Ages 6 to adult
The My Rockin’ Collection Junior kits are a perfect introductory kit for beginning geologists, home school families, and school classrooms. Each kit comes with 10 samples and an identification poster with details about each sample and a photo. Learn more about these fun kits in this video review. The My Rockin’ Collection Junior series is recommended for ages 6 to adult. Children should be able to read for maximum benefit. See the full line of My Rockin Collection Junior Kits.

Rock Detectives Kits

Rock Detectives Kits

Rock Detectives Kits with eBooks – Ages 6 to 12
The Rock Detectives are the perfect mineral and rock kits for kids who are just starting out in geology. Each kit contains 6 or 7 rocks or minerals, a hand magnifier, and a printable mini-CD with a 30-page eBook full of of geological information, rock and mineral identification activities, puzzles, experiments, projects, coloring pages, creative writing exercises and fun! The Rock Detectives kits help children become involved in scientific exploration and learning. These kits are also popular for home school lessons for elementary age children. See these kits in action in this video about the Rock Detectives series. The Rock Detectives series is recommended for ages 6 to 12. Children should be able to read for maximum benefit. Adult supervision is required for some of the experiments. See the full line of Rock Detectives Kits.

Mineral Observation, Hardness & Streak Testing Kit

Mineral Observation, Hardness & Streak Testing Kit

Mineral Observation, Hardness & Streak Testing Kit – Ages 6 and up
The Mineral Observation, Hardness & Streak Testing Kit will give you hours of fun while you explore the MOHS hardness scale, testing minerals for streak and learning to observe differences between mineral samples. This kit is designed for our young rockhounds who enjoy identifying mineral samples, classrooms and home school science labs. This kit includes eight mineral samples from the MOHS hardness scale, a hand magnifier to see the details of every sample, a white and black streak plate and a information about how to use each item in the kit and details about each samples. Learn more about the Mineral Observation, Hardness & Streak Testing Kit.

 

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Ask-a-Geologist #21: What types of tools does a geologist use in their daily job?

Welcome to Mini Me Geology’s Ask-a-Geologist question and answer video series. Today, in AAG #21, we answer Carrie’s question about the types of tools that geologists use to do their daily jobs.

Geologists use a variety of tools from hand lenses, acid, steel files, your own fingernail, specialty rock hammers, safety goggles, Brunton compasses, streak plates, and waterproof notebooks. Watch and learn a little about the geologist’s tools from Mini Me Geology owner and geologist, Tracy Barnhart.

For more information about Mini Me Geology, visit us at www.MiniMeGeology.com. You can sign up for our newsletter here.

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Why Science Education is Important for Kids

Why Science Education Important KidsScience is part of our everyday lives. Cooking, playing sports, growing a garden, and understanding technologies all involved some aspect of science. Sometimes, science education takes a backseat to the other core subjects like English language arts and math. However, science is the one fundamental subject that touches everyone, which is why science education is so important for today’s children.

The Best Time to Engage is when They are Young

Elementary age children are naturally curious making them the perfect age to engage with science experiments that can both delight and pique their interest in a variety of science topics. Science education fuels that curiosity and provides children with valuable ideas, thinking skills, and potential future career choices. Future scientists will be an important part of our world. Without them, we would not be able to predict the weather or earthquakes, understand global warming, cure illnesses and take care of the sick, or have many of the products that enhance our lifestyles today.

As those curious elementary students mature into middle and high school students, their courses will build on those main topics introduced in their younger years. These upper level courses can point a child in the direction of the type of science that best fits their interest such as biology, chemistry, physiology, geology, physics, or technology.

What Geology Can Teach Us?

Geology instruction, in particular, has the benefit of educating our youth on topics like environmental protection and natural phenomenon. In geology class, children learn about earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, and tsunamis arming them with knowledge of Earth processes that can protect their health and safety throughout their lives. Children with a basic understanding of rocks and minerals are able to translate that knowledge to a wide variety of activities and potential careers such as gardening, groundwater recovery, pollution control and clean-up, engineering, environmental research, oil and gas exploration and recovery, road construction, mining, energy production, and jewelry manufacturing.

How Mini Me Geology Can Help

Mini Me Geology can be a valuable resource for parents, teachers, and home school groups who are interested in promoting science education with their children and students. Our rock and mineral kits give kids hands-on experience with the samples and help to teach reasoning and identification skills while they classify the samples. Many of our kits contain eBooks with experiments, coloring pages and puzzles, and short story writing activities designed to engage and educate kids while they are having fun learning.

At the Dig Into Geology section of our website, our free geology education information, word puzzles, project ideas and experiments on our blog, and free downloadable identification flow charts are designed to give children a better understanding of geology, while having a little fun too. All of the information in the Dig Into Geology section is free for your unlimited use.

If you have questions about geology, we welcome you to submit your question and then keep an eye on our YouTube channel for a video answer!

Please visit our website www.MiniMeGeology.com for more information about our products and services.

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10 Essential Specimens for Every Awesome Mineral Collection

10 Essential Specimens for Every Awesome Mineral Collection

Minerals are the building blocks of every rock in our world. Some minerals are so common that they form all over the world and others are so rare that you can only find them in a few places on Earth. We’ve compiled a list of our top 10 favorite samples for every mineral collection. Whether you collect for fun or teach science classes or homeschool your children, this list is a must.

Quartz

Quartz with Amethyst

Quartz with Amethyst

Quartz is a very common mineral that has many variations. The classic quartz samples are colorless with a hexagonal shape which looks like two hexagonal pyramids with a hexagonal barrel in between. Quartz has a hardness of 7 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness, a white streak, conchoidal fracture (no cleavage), and glassy luster. Nice samples of quartz can be found worldwide in geodes, Alpine fissures and often in the igneous rock pegmatite. Quartz has many uses including prisms, lenses, gauges, glass, paint, and abrasives. There are numbers varieties of quartz including but not limited to:

Herkimer Diamond: Clear variety with perfect shape

Rose Quartz

Rose Quartz

 

Amethyst: Purple variety

Citrine: Brownish-Orange variety

Rose Quartz: Pink variety

Milky Quartz: White variety (opaque)

Carnelian: Orange Cryptocrystalline variety

Oco Eggs: Agate geodes often with crystal centers

Chalcedony: Cryptocrystalline variety forms in many colors and often banded

Jasper: Cryptocrystalline variety that forms in many colors such as red, yellow, brown, black, gray and white

Why you need it: Quartz is one of the main building blocks of many of Earth’s rocks. With the amazing number of varieties, you can find multiple samples that span a wide range of colors and sizes. Being able to identify quartz will help you identify many rock types.

 

Calcite

Calcite

Calcite

Calcite is another common mineral that forms many varieties of sedimentary rocks all over the world. Calcite comes in many colors such as colorless, gray, red, yellow, green, blue, violet, brown, or black. This awesome mineral is soft, being only a 3 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness. Calcite has a white streak, glassy to pearly luster, rhombic cleavage.  This mineral is useful in the production of microscopes, building materials, and fertilizers, and as a component in the chemical industry and metallurgy. Calcite often forms in water-rich environments or in caves.

Iceland Spar Calcite: A clear variety that has optical properties. Place a piece over text or an image and it will appear doubled through the crystal.

Why you need it: Calcite is made of calcium carbonate which will react (fizz or bubble) in the presence of an acid. This property is useful in identifying the mineral and rocks that contain calcite like limestone or marble. Calcite reacts easily with strong acids such as hydrochloric but will also react with weaker acids like lemon juice or vinegar, especially on a fresh surface.

 

Gypsum

Gypsum

Gypsum

Selenite Stick

Selenite

 

Gypsum is an evaporate mineral that often forms due to the evaporation of lakes or oceans. Gypsum is often white or pinkish-white, very soft being a 2 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness, has as a glassy to silky to pearly luster, cleavage in one direction, and a white streak. Gypsum has many uses including paints, tile, drywall, blackboard chalk, fertilizer, and Plaster of Paris. Wonderful samples of gypsum are found in Mexico, Italy, Russia, France, Canada and the United States. Gypsum will dissolve in water over time.

Gypsum Rose

Gypsum Rose

 

Selenite Gypsum: A fibrous variety which forms long white sticks of crystal clusters.

Gypsum Roses: A unique form of gypsum where the crystals grow is a rose-shaped cluster.

Why you need it: Gypsum is one of the softest minerals on the Mohs scale. This is a great sample to use when learning to test mineral identities. The unique forms of gypsum roses and selenite sticks make fun additions to any collection.

 

Halite

Halite

Halite

Halite is the mineral table salt. This mineral forms as an evaporate mineral when sea beds dry. Halite often forms in wide, thick layers in colors ranging from colorless to white, yellow, red, brown, light blue, dark blue, violet, and pink. With a hardness of 2.5 on the Mohs scale, it is slightly harder than gypsum, has a white streak, glassy luster and cubic cleavage. Nice specimens of halite are located in Germany, Poland, Spain, Austria, United States, and Italy. Halite is primarily used for food preparation and in the chemical industry.

Why you need it: Halite is used in everyday activities and is a great example of how natural Earth minerals are used in our lives. Also, halite’s cubic cleavage allows the samples to break into perfect cubes each time you break a sample.

 

Magnetite

Magnetite

Magnetite

Magnetite is a black mineral with moderate hardness, 5.5 to 6.5 hardness on Mohs Scale of Hardness, metallic streak and very heavy. This common mineral is present in many rock types and has a high iron content. Nice samples often occur in Sweden, Austria, United States, Italy, Switzerland, South Africa, and Russia.

Why you need it: Magnetite is magnetic and can be picked up by a magnet and can also pick up smaller items like metal paperclips.

 

Hematite

Hematite

Hematite

A Mini Me Geology favorite, hematite is typically gray to black in color, has a metallic to earthy luster, and is a 5 to 6 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness. Hematite is a heavy mineral that is found worldwide. It’s presence in a rock will cause it to have a reddish color. Hematite is useful for its iron content, red pigments, jewelry and in plate-glass.

Why you need it: Hematite is a great mineral for teaching streak and hardness to students because while the outer mineral color is gray to black, the streak color is cherry red.

 

Green Fluorite

Green Fluorite

Fluorite

Blue John Fluorite

Blue John Fluorite

Fluorite is a unique mineral in that it can be almost any color other than black. Common colors are green, purple, white, yellow, blue and red. Fluorite is a 4 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness, has a white streak, and glassy luster. Found worldwide, nice samples of fluorite are located in Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and Mexico. A rare type of striped fluorite, the Blue John Fluorite, it located in caverns in the Castleton, Derbyshire, England area. Fluorite is often found in veins of rock and is used in enamels, cooking utensils, telescopes, and camera lenses.

Why you need it: Fluorite is a colorful mineral that can form in cubes but can also be broken into octahedrons.

 

Kyanite Blade

Kyanite Blade

Kyanite

Kyanite is a unique light blue, blue-gray or black mineral that forms in blades.  The hardness of the mineral is 4 to 5 on the Mohs Scale along the blades and 6 to 7 across the blade. The mineral has a white streak, glassy to pearly luster and is useful in the production of ceramic products, electrical insulators, and abrasives. Kyanite is often found in metamorphic rocks like schist and gneiss. Nice samples are present in Switzerland, Italy, Austria, France, Kenya, Brazil, and the United States.

Why you need it: The difference in the hardness across two directions of the blades is a unique feature. Kyanite is also a key metamorphic mineral which helps identify certain samples.

 

Muscovite Mica

Muscovite Mica

Mica

Mica is one of the most interesting minerals because it forms in stacks of super thin sheets along a single cleavage plane (basal cleavage). These stacks are called “books.” Mica forms in colors of black, brown, rose, silver, yellow, gray, purple or dark green and is very soft being only a 2.5 to 3 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness. A colorless streak and a glassy to pearly luster are also characteristic of this mineral. Nice specimens of mica are located in the United State, Italy, Russia, Brazil Madagascar, Australia, Germany, Canada, Japan, and Greenland although it occurs in rocks around the world. Mica is popular mineral for collecting and rock identification. Mica is a prominent component of pegmatite igneous rocks.

Three notable varieties of mica are the black Biotite, silver Muscovite, and purple Lepidolite.

Why you need it:  Mica is a fun mineral to collect and is a great example of unique properties when teaching students. You can peel individual layers of books apart with your fingernails. Mica sheets are also very flexible, which is not common in many other minerals.

 

Microcline Feldspar

Microcline Feldspar

Feldspar

Feldspar is a common mineral in many rock types such a granitic pegmatite igneous rocks and a variety of metamorphic rocks. Feldspars are often white, pink or green, have a moderate hardness of 6 to 6.5 on the Mohs Scale, a glassy luster, and two intersection cleavage planes. Nice samples occur worldwide and are popular for collectors and scientists as a means of sample identification. Some feldspars are also popular in the production of jewelry.

Why you need it: The feldspar minerals make up over half of the Earth’s crust. Plagioclase feldspar varieties exhibit unique striations (fine lines) on their crystal face.

Do you have other minerals that you would add to the list? Let us know what you would collect and why!

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Blue John’s Cavern Novel Now in eBook and Print!

  BLUE JOHN’S CAVERN
A Crystal Cave Adventures Novel (Book #1)

Traveling through caves, jumping through time.

Nothing interesting ever happens in Diamond Falls, West Virginia, and that’s doubly true for local teenagers Emma and Brody. Little do they know that their neighbor, a famous geologist, is about to show them the wildest time of their lives.

When Mr. M’s prized rock and mineral collection is destroyed before it can be displayed at the state museum, Emma and Brody jump at the chance to find new samples. The geologist accepts the offer, and promptly sends them back to the year 1775 to help!

Back in time and across the pond in Derbyshire, England, Emma and Brody team with a mysterious young girl named Max to recover one of the rarest minerals in the world: Blue John Fluorite. Tapping into courage they never knew they had, the formerly ordinary West Virginians must protect a cave, avoid gun-toting soldiers, and return to the present before they’re trapped forever.

Blue John’s Cavern is the first book in the middle-grade adventure/sci-fi series Crystal Cave Adventures. If you like a little excitement thrown in with your science, then you’ll love this fast-paced and compelling novel.

Buy Now At: https://www.books2read.com/BlueJohnsCavern

Use this link to choose your favorite eBook seller. For print, choose “Kindle” which will take you to the Amazon page where you can purchase the print book. Or, you can buy directly from our site!

Time Travel Rocks!

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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!

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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