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!

Trouble Growing Large Salt or Sugar Crystals? Use the stove!

Sugar Stove CrystalsAt rock camp, we perform the salt crystal growing experiment. I use a portable coffee maker to heat the water. We use equal parts salt and water and grow several small salt crystals on the string that dangles into a mason jar. Success! However, if you really want to grow BIG crystals, use a stove top to make your solution. You can do this to begin with or after you have a few small crystals on the string. Here’s how.

The Stove Top Method

Growing salt and sugar crystals from a solution is a great experiment to teach kids how igneous rocks form from molten rock. The size of the crystals that you grow on your string is limited by the amount of salt and sugar that you can dissolve into your solution. Using the stove top to heat your water often allows you to dissolve a little more salt or sugar to grow a little more and  a little bigger crystals.

To create a solution on the stove, pour enough water to fill the mason jar into a small pot. As the water heats, pour salt or sugar into the saucepan and stir until it is fully dissolved. Keep adding more salt or sugar until the solution is saturated and no more will dissolve. Pour the solution into the mason jar and replace your string and secure it to the top of the jar.

If you are using this method from the beginning of the experiment, fray the string slightly before placing it into the soltuion to give the crystals something to grow on. If you are replacing the solution, the crystals will grow on top of the seed crystals already on the string.

How Big Can Your Salt or Sugar Crystals Get?

That depends on your patience. You can replace the solution as many times as you want to grow bigger and bigger crystals. For a fun twist, add a touch of food coloring to your solution to created colored crystals.

Let us know how how this method works for you. We’d love to see pictures of your crystals.

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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LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/mini-me-geology-giverny-inc-

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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