Ask-a-Geologist Your Questions about Rocks, Minerals, Fossils!

Do you have questions about geology, rocks, minerals or fossils? We would love to answer your questions in our next Ask-a-Geologist question and answer video. We would love to hear from kids, teachers, homeschool parents and anyone who just loves Earth Science. Submit your Ask-a-Geologist question today: http://bit.ly/ASKAGEOLOGIST

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Rock & Mineral Poster Sets for Home, Classrooms & Schools – Perfect for STEM Lessons

At Mini Me Geology we have a great selection of geology products that are perfect for all of your STEM lessons. This fun rock and mineral poster set has four posters for Minerals, Igneous Rock, Sedimentary Rocks, and Metamorphic Rocks. You can find these on our website.


These are the same flyers included in our Junior kits and our Colossal Rock and Mineral Kits and are perfect if you have a rock collection or if you are looking for an inexpensive way to introduce rocks and minerals as a hobby to your children or in school for earth science lessons. Each flyer features 10 of the most common samples found in natures. Flyers include minerals, igneous rocks, metamorphic rocks and sedimentary rocks.

Mineral flyer includes: augite, calcite, fluorite, gypsum, halite, kyanite, magnetite, olivine, amethyst, and sodalite.

Igneous Rock flyer includes: basalt, granite, monzonite, obsidian, pegmatite, pumice, rhyolite, syenite, trachyte and volcanic breccia.

Sedimentary Rock flyer includes: arkose, bituminous coal, conglomerate, coquina, loess, fine-grained limestone, banded sandstone, shale, siltstone, and oolitic limestone.

Metamorphic Rock flyer includes: amphibolite, gneiss, hornfels, pink marble, phyllite, quartzite, schist, slate, garnet schist, and anthracite coal.

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Crystal Cave Adventures Blends English Language Arts and STEM into an Exciting Novel Series for Kids

Crystal Cave Adventures NovelsThe release of the Crystal Cave Adventure series is an exciting step that blends fun adventure stories with science. In today’s world when Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) curriculum is all the rage, a novel series that can transport kids to a story that is fictional yet has a touch of real science woven throughout the series is a welcome change to many children.

The series, which just released its third book, tells the adventures of young teenagers Emma and Brody as they travel through time to collect rare mineral samples from around the world. In Book 1, Blue John’s Cavern, Emma meets Brody, her new neighbor in Diamond Falls, West Virginia. When Brody discovers that Emma loves rocks and minerals, he offers to take her to meet the famous geologist who lives across the street, Heath Matthews. Mr. M, as the kids call him, is preparing his prized rock and mineral collection for a display at the State’s Natural History Museum. When a thief breaks into the Matthews’ home and destroys the collection, Emma and Brody offer to help recollect the samples. Mr. M gladly accepts the help and then sends Emma and Brody on the wildest ride of their lives when they learn the secret of his collection. The magical, time-traveling Crystal Cave.

Currently, the series consists of:

Book 1, Blue John’s Cavern. After accepting their offer to help, Mr. M promptly sends Emma and Brody is Castleton, Derbyshire England in 1785 to collect a sample of the rare Blue John Fluorite. You can read the full book blurb here to learn more about this amazing adventure and the mysterious young girl who helps them along the way.

Book 2, Rusher’s Gold. Emma and Brody travel to the California Gold Run in 1851 to collect a sample of pure gold but when their plan goes awry they learn that their actions in the past can have dire consequences to their future. You can read the full book blurb here.

Book 3, Black’s Opal. Emma and Brody travel to Lightning Ridge, Australia in 1925 to collect a sample of one of the rarest minerals, the Black Opal. Along the way, they meet a young girl with a secret that just may change their lives forever. As they search for the Black Opal, the kids must avoid stampeding kangaroo, flying boomerangs and survive a goat cart race at the Easter fair. When their escape plan lands them 2000 years into the future, will they be able to get back home? You can read the full book blurb here.

The Crystal Cave Adventure series has a self-contained story in each book with a story arc that carries through all of the books. As they solve one mystery, another mystery begins.

The Crystal Cave Adventure series is available in eBook and paperback at all major retailers. For a free introduction into the series, you can download a copy of Viktor’s Ice, the prequel novella which tells the story of the birth of the Crystal Cave. When Mr. M and his students discover the magical cave and fall hundreds of years into the past, can they survive being stranded in the Arctic Ocean with a longship full of Vikings? What mineral will they find that just might save the day? You can get a free copy at Mini Me Geology, the Author’s Website, or from Prolific Works (formerly Instafreebie).

The Crystal Cave Adventure series is written by a geologist, Tracy Barnhart, who loves all things geology, adventure and time travel! The series is published by Giverny Press.

‘Bread Rocks’ Make a Fun Metamorphic Science Experiment

Bread Metamorphic RocksBread Rock Experiment – Learning how Metamorphic Rocks from from sedimentary rocks.

As sediments build up in layers over time, they may become compressed and turn into a sedimentary rock. A significant increase in pressure with low to moderate temperature increases may cause metamorphism to take place and turn the rock from sedimentary to metamorphic. This experiment will allow you to create your own sedimentary rock then with exposure to heat and pressure, change it into a metamorphic rock!

You will need:

  • Bread (at least three slices – try to use different colors like white, wheat, and/or rye)
  • Mini Marshmallows
  • Mini Chocolate chips
  • White Chocolate chips
  • Butterscotch chips
  • Wax paper
  • Foil

To Do the Experiment:

Bread Rocks Experiment Steps

Step 1: Layer the bread slices with mini marshmallows, chocolate chips, white chocolate chips and butterscotch chips. You can create the sediment layers in any manner you choose. If you choose to make patterns on one or more of the layers it will help you to see changes in your “rock.” Sketch your rock on a sheet of paper so you remember the pattern.

Step 2: Place the bread rock onto the waxed paper or foil and sit in a warm location such as outdoors on a hot day or on a stove top. If you have access to a microwave, you can also heat it for a few seconds on low power.

Observe:  Did the heat cause any changes in the bread rock? Did the marshmallows or chocolate chips begin to melt and change from their original state?

Step 3: Place a piece of waxed paper or foil on top of the bread rock and stand on the rock for one to three minutes to represent millions of years of pressure on the rock. Usually, we equate one minute of standing for each one million years of pressure.

Observe:  Did the pressure cause any changes in the bread rock? Did the marshmallows or chocolate chips change shape or pattern? Are the rocks layers easy or difficult to separate after the metamorphism?

This experiment is great for kids of any age. Beware, many of the kids will want to eat their metamorphic rocks (eew, gross!) so make sure you wrap them well before the kids stand on them. This is one of the great experiments in our Rock Detectives Camp Guide. If you have any questions about this experiment or any others in our guide or on our site, contact us and we will be happy to help.

Ask-a-Geologist #22: What are some common household items made of rocks and minerals?

We received a great question from one of our customers about the usefulness of rocks. Teddy wrote:

What are some common household items made of rocks and minerals?

In this video answer, we talk about several types of rocks and minerals and their common uses. There are probably some you know and maybe a few you do not. We talk about one you probably use everyday and one you may even eat. Take a look at the video and see how many of these you know.

Here is a list of some of the most commonly used rocks and minerals and their uses:

  • Talc – Baby powder.
  • Graphite – Pencils.
  • Lepidolite – Lithium content – lithium can be used in medicine.
  • Beryl, Epidote, Rhodonite, Malachite, & Amazonite – Jewelry.
  • Limonite – Yellow & brown dyes and pigments.
  • Azurite –Blue dyes and pigments.
  • Quartz – Prisms, lenses, gauges, glass, paints and abrasives.
  • Calcite – Microscopes, metallurgy, fertilizers & chemical industry.
  • Fluorite – Enamels, cooking utensils, telescopes, camera lenses.
  • Gypsum – Paints, tile, drywall, blackboard chalk, fertilizer, plaster of paris.
  • Halite – Salt for food preparation and in the chemical industry.
  • Granite – Road bed construction material, counter top, wall tile.
  • Scoria – Flower beds.
  • Pumice- Foot smoothing stones, soap.
  • Coal – Fuel source, metamorphic coal – gives off the most heat of any coal during the burning process.
  • Sandstone, Limestone and Coquina – Building materials, decorative accessories such as coasters, statues and garden furniture.
  • Gneiss and Marble – Common building materials.
  • Slate – Flooring and roofing material, blackboards.

If you have a geologist question for us, you can submit it here. We would love to hear from you. Leave a comment here or on our social media channel about your favorite items that are made from rocks and minerals.

The Geometry of Minerals: How Some Crystals Form Unique and Beautiful Mathematical Shapes

Mineral ShapesThere are many, many different crystal shapes in the world. In fact, there are too many to list in a simple blog post without turning this into a book. Determining the shape of a mineral sample can help you uncover its identity, making it one of the unique crystal properties that geologist use in the evaluation process of a new sample.

Mineral Crystal Shapes

Many of the shapes that minerals can form are common patterns that you learned in geometry class in high school like cubes, rhombohedron, octahedron, and hexagons. Halite, pyrite, and galena are classic cube forms. Diamond and fluorite are two well-known minerals that can form as octahedral while calcite is one of the best-known rhombohedra. The rhombohedral shape of calcite is what gives the clear varieties its optical properties.

Quartz and its other varieties like amethyst and citrine form a unique shape that has a six-sided pyramid on each end of the crystal stacked on a six-sided prism in the center. Finding a perfectly shaped quartz with the prism and both pyramids is somewhat rare. The famed Herkimer Diamonds are examples of these perfectly formed crystals. Their name comes from Herkimer County, New York where many beautiful samples were first discovered. Other locales of perfect quartz crystals have been found since, but only the ones in Herkimer County are the true “Herkimer Diamond” although you will find that most people refer to any perfect quartz with that name.

The most interesting part about crystal shapes is that minerals can sometimes form more than one shape depending on how it grows or its environment. Calcite, for example, as mentioned previously can form nice rhombohedrons but it can also form in shapes like scalenohedron, hexagonal prism, and pinacoid. Fluorite also forms in multiple shapes including octahedrons and cubes.

Mineral crystals also grow in some unique forms when two or more crystals grow together.

Sometimes you will see a mineral that looks like two crystals that have grown together at slightly different angles. This is called a “twinned” crystal. Staurolite is a commonly twinned mineral. A staurolite cross, which you may hear people discuss, is two staurolite crystals that grow perpendicular to one another. At times, the crystals may be slightly less than perpendicular, as shown in this photograph.

Minerals can also form where many crystals form in a group or layer and are attached to one another side by side. This is called a mineral “cluster” or “druze.” Quartz, amethyst, and citrine are commonly found in a druze form inside geodes.

Crystal Shape vs. Mineral Cleavage vs. Fracture

The mineral shape is sometimes confused with mineral cleavage but the two are actually different. As discussed, the shape is a natural form that they mineral will take as the crystal grows. Cleavage is the tendency of a crystal to break along natural planes within the crystal. Minerals with cleavage will break into particular shapes when the crystal is broken, such as cubes, rhombs, octahedrons and thin layers.

Some minerals have “perfect cleavage,” which means the mineral breaks smoothly along the cleavage plane without any rough edges. The diagram below shows some of the common cleavage types and associated minerals.

Minerals that do not have good cleavage (do not break into specific shapes) will fracture when broken. Even minerals that naturally grow in perfect shapes, such as cubes or prisms, may fracture when they are broken and will no longer be a cube or prism. Two minerals that can have beautiful crystal forms but fracture when they break are quartz and pyrite.

A common fracture pattern is a conchoidal fracture. Minerals and rocks with a conchoidal fracture will have a distinctive swirl pattern on the surface after it breaks. In addition to quartz and pyrite, the igneous rock obsidian exhibits conchoidal fracture patterns when broken.

Learn more about Mineral Crystal Geometry

Crystal Geometry Rock DetectivesAt Mini Me Geology, we love the shape of mineral so much that we created a fun activity kit for kids that focuses on these fun properties. The Rock Detectives Crystal Geometry kit was designed for kids ages 6 to 12, but older kids and adults secretly love it too. The Crystal Geometry Rock Detectives kit comes complete with:

  • 6 Large Mineral Samples: muscovite, fluorite, calcite, citrine, pyrite and agate geode
  • Mini Me Geology custom Hand Lens with 3X and 6X magnifications
  • 30 page, full-color eBook on CD that includes mineral information, sample identification activities, puzzles, coloring pages, experiments, an adventure story writing exercise for your geology detective, and activities including making a personal geologist’s field notebook and your very own rock collection box

Here are examples of some of the fun pages from the ebook. You can also download a sample of the ebook on the product page.

Crystal Geometry Sample Pages

If you have any questions about mineral crystal shapes or any of our kits, please contact us and we will be happy to answer your questions.

It’s Time to Register for Rock Detectives Camp 2018!

Rock Detectives CampFebruary has arrived and it is almost 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 18 through 22, 2018 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 7 and 12. You can register for camp by clicking here.

If you have questions about my camp in June 2018, please email me at tracyb@minimegeology.com and I’ll be happy to help!

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Happy Birthday Friedrich Mohs!

Friedrich Mohs Birthday

Today is German Geologist Friedrich Mohs’ Birthday!

Geologist Friedrich Mohs was born on January 29, 1773, in Gernrode, Germany. Born Carl Friedrich Christian Mohs, he was a geologist and mineralogist who during his career worked at a mine, as a mineralogist for a private collector, and as a geologist for a museum. During his career at the museum, Friedrich began to identify minerals using their physical properties. One of these physical properties was the hardness of a mineral, which led him to create the Mohs Scale of Mineral Hardness in 1812. Friedrich Mohs died on September 29, 1839, at the age of 66.

Still today, we use mineral hardness as a clue to the identity of a sample. The Mohs Scale of Mineral Hardness is a relative hardness scale with 10 mineral samples and several common items such as glass, fingernail, and a pre-1981 penny. Each item on the scale has a specific hardness. Talc, number one on the scale is the softest and diamond, number 10, is the hardest. The Mohs mineral scale and common object are:

Mohs Scale of Mineral Hardness

In this video we discuss how to use the Mohs Scale of Mineral Hardness with your own samples.

The Great 2018 Snowstorm in Charleston!

Kids Dog Snow South Carolina

As many of you know, Mini Me Geology is based in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, which is a suburb of Charleston. Last Wednesday, we had a record snowfall. The official measurement was 5.3″, which is the third highest snowfall on record and our biggest since 1989. We were not prepared.

Historically, since we started keeping track we get a large enough snowfall to make a snowball or two every four years. When it is Winter Olympics time, we get a snowfall. In my freezer are snowballs from 2010, 2014 and 2018. We are looking forward to 2022!

The downside, is the kids were supposed to go back to school last Thursday and they are still out today. The ice just won’t melt. Even when it warmed up yesterday, the ice was so thick in some of the shady areas that the entrance road to my daughter’s school still looked like a skating rink.

While, I am looking forward to clearer roads, there is one fella who will be very, very sad to see the snow and ice go away. His name is Brutus (isn’t he cute!).

Here are some more of our crazy snow pictures. I know this is a normal winter for some of you, but here…our palm trees were freezing!

Snow 2018 Mt Pleasant South Carolina

Mini Me Geology’s “The 12 Rocks of Christmas”


The 12 Rocks of Christmas
(Sung to The 12 Days of Christmas)

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
A Mini Me mineral kit

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
Two syenite,
And a Mini Me mineral kit.

 On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
Three limestone,
Two syenite,
And a Mini Me mineral kit.

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
Four obsidian,
Three limestone,
Two syenite,
and a Mini Me mineral kit.

 

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
Five lumps of coal,
Four obsidian,
Three limestone,
Two syenite,
and a Mini Me mineral kit.

 

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
Six garnet schists,
Five lumps of coal,
Four obsidian,
Three limestone,
Two syenite,
and a Mini Me mineral kit.

 

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
Seven monzonite,
Six garnet schists,
Five lumps of coal,
Four obsidian,
Three limestone,
Two syenite,
and a Mini Me mineral kit.

 

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
Eight slabs of slate,
Seven monzonite,
Six garnet schists,
Five lumps of coal,
Four obsidian,
Three limestone,
Two syenite,
and a Mini Me mineral kit.

 

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
Nine granite samples,
Eight slabs of slate,
Seven monzonite,
Six garnet schists,
Five lumps of coal,
Four obsidian,
Three limestone,
Two syenite,
and a Mini Me mineral kit.

 

On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
Ten siltstone,
Nine granite samples,
Eight slabs of slate,
Seven monzonite,
Six garnet schists,
Five lumps of coal,
Four obsidian,
Three limestone,
Two syenite,
and a Mini Me mineral kit.

 

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
Eleven coquina,
Ten siltstone,
Nine granite samples,
Eight slabs of slate,
Seven monzonite,
Six garnet schists,
Five lumps of coal,
Four obsidian,
Three limestone,
Two syenite,
and a Mini Me mineral kit.

 

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
Twelve volcanic breccia,
Eleven coquina,
Ten siltstone,
Nine granite samples,
Eight slabs of slate,
Seven monzonite,
Six garnet schists,
Five lumps of coal,
Four obsidian,
Three limestone,
Two syenite,
and a Mini Me mineral kit!