New Video: How to Focus Your Hand Lens / Hand Magnifier

This week’s video was really fun to shoot except that I kept messing up the word MAG-NA-FA-CA-TION. I finally got it!

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4 Tips to Make Your Kids Love Science with My Rockin Collection Rock & Mineral Kits

Rock and mineral kits are a beloved childhood toy. From our youngest geologists who pick up random rocks on the playground to older kids who explore outcrops in the woods, geology fascinates kids of all ages (and lots of adults too). Parents can use rock and mineral kits to elevate science in their kids minds and to promote other skills such as logical thinking and deductive reasoning in older kids and classifying and sorting in younger children.

Tip #1: Make Identification a Game
The My Rockin’ Collection Rock & Mineral deluxe kits have identification cards or an identification brochure (mineral kit) that has all of the information that you need to identify each or your samples. The name of each sample is below the foam in each slot but you can make the identification a game by having your kids try to identify the samples using the identification information before they look under the foam.

Tip #2: Use Deductive Reasoning to Find the Rock or Mineral Name
The Dig Into Geology section on the Mini Me Geology website has identification flow charts that you can download for each of the My Rockin’ Collection kits. Like the identification cards/brochure, the flow chart will help you kids identify their samples but in a different way. The flow charts move from left to right across the page and allow kids to discover the name of their sample using a variety of observations and tests. The flow charts also have pictures of the rocks and minerals so that the children can check their answers. The activities involved in identifying the samples will help develop logical thinking and deductive reasoning skills.

Tip #3: Allow Younger Kids to Develop Sorting and Classifying Skills
Younger children can benefit from using the rocks and minerals in the kits by sorting the samples. The identification flow charts will help you direct the kids with sorting exercises. The flow charts group the samples according to colors and textures that make it easy for younger children to follow. You can also encourage kids to come up with their own sorting groups based on anything that they observe as being different or similar.

Tip #4: Develop Ideas for Science Fair Projects
Encourage kids to develop ideas for science projects by examining the similarities between the rocks and minerals. What questions do they have that a science project can answer? Why do some rocks float while some sink? Why do some rocks seem to soak up water while others do not? Kids have endless curiosity so allow them to explore that by making lists of questions that they could turn into a school science project.

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Piper reviews the Colossal Rock and Mineral Kit

This week Piper reviews our Colossal Rock and Mineral Kit. She tells you a little about the kit, her favorite samples from the kit and does a little dance for you! Goofy girl!!

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Home School Families Benefit by Being Rock Detectives

Teaching geology in a home school setting can be challenging for several reasons. Many home school curricula are faith-based and do not discuss geology at all because of the geological time scale. Others alter some of the facts about the science to fit their beliefs. I am often asked the question, “can home school teaching include lessons in geology without having to discuss the timeline or the origin of the Earth.” The answer is a resounding YES.

One of the best aspects about geology as a science is that there are so many areas to study. All kids should have a basic understanding of rocks and minerals. By understanding the difference in rocks and minerals and how minerals go together to make rocks, children will understand a little about the Earth’s crust and what they see below their feet. A fun and easy way for home school families to incorporate these types of lessons into their curriculum is to use the Rock Detectives kits from Mini Me Geology.

The Rock Detectives are a series of six rock and mineral kits. Each kit has 6 or 7 samples, a hand magnified to view the samples close up and a CD containing an eBook with 30 full color pages that includes rock and 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. The Rock Detectives kits are designed for kids age six to 12 because of the variety of coloring pages and puzzles aimed at younger children. However, the activities involving identifying the rock and mineral samples are applicable to any age group.

While some of the Rock Detectives eBooks do contain a geologic timeline, the scale is not needed for any of the activities in the kits and is easily omitted from lessons for families that prefer not to engage in a timeline discussion.

When you plan your home school lessons, you can choose which kit(s) you would like to study. In the series, there are three kits that focus on minerals (Mineral Mission, Crystal Experiments and Crystal Geometry) and three kits that focus on rocks (Sedimentary Sleuthing, Igneous Investigation and Metamorphic Mystery). You can use all of the kits in the series together or separately. Choose the kits based on your child’s interest. Minerals are the building blocks of all rocks, sedimentary rocks form in deserts and water bodies, igneous rocks form from volcanoes while metamorphic rocks are rocks that were transformed from one type to another.

If you have questions about incorporating the Rock Detectives kits into your home school curriculum, contact our owner and Professional Geologist, Tracy Barnhart at

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Piper’s Review of our Rock & Mineral Coloring & Activity Book

Piper is back with an all new video. This time she tells you a little bit about Mini Me Geology’s Rock & Mineral Coloring & Activity Book. Someday I’m going to post a video of all of her antics between takes. She is so funny in front of the camera!

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We are expanding!

We are expanding this fall. Next week, our products will starts showing up on Amazon. These are the same great rock and mineral kits that you get from our website, but you can have them shipped directly from Amazon along with all of your other favorite items. The first kits to join the Amazon site will be our My Rockin’ Collection Junior kits. Look for our other great kits to join them in the coming weeks.

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I was a guest on the Writing for Kids podcast with Alexandra Amor

This week, I was a guest on the Writing for Kids podcast with Alexandra Amor. She is a Canada-based children’s author. I really like her podcast because she talks with some great writers who give fascinating tips and insights into the world of writing and publishing.

Alexandra and I had a great time talking about writing and books. I truly thank her for allowing me to be on her show and I hope you all go listen to the podcast interview here. You can find all of her episodes here.

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Throw a Rock and Mineral 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 kit that you want to use as the theme for the party and rock and fossil packs for each activity.  Your child can go on a Mineral Mission, learn about Metamorphic Mysteries, become a Sedimentary Sleuth or solve an Igneous Investigation. You can also design your party around our Crystal Geometry or Crystal Experiments kits.

All rock and mineral birthday party orders over $200 receives 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. All 8 packs of the Rock Detectives kits comes with a free parent CD so that you can print and prepare the activities, puzzles, and experiments from the kit before your guests arrive.


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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What Mineral is My Birthstone and what are its Properties?

Crystals and gemstones have been associated with months of the year for almost 2,000 years. Today, we call them birthstones.

Garnet – January’s Birthstone

January’s birthstone is Garnet. Garnets are often found in metamorphic rocks such as schist. Garnets are actually a family of minerals which are all similar. The garnets which are often used as gemstones are typically a dark red color; however, the brilliant green of variety of uvarovite is rare and very prized.

Amethyst – February’s Birthstone

Amethyst is a common, purple form of the mineral quartz.  Fairly hard, amethyst is a 7 on the Mohs hardness scale which has a range from 1 (softest) to 10 (hardest).  Crystals of the mineral often form in clusters, which are also called druze, and also commonly form in geodes.  The purple color of amethyst is due to the presence of ferric iron (Fe3+) in the quartz crystal and can range from light to dark.  When heated, amethyst will turn brown, into citrine.

Amethyst is considered a semi-precious gemstone that is most commonly used in jewelry and for collecting.  Beautiful samples of amethyst can be found in Brazil, Mexico, Uruguay, Russia, India, Sri Lanka, and the United States.

Aquamarine – March’s Birthstone

Aquamarine is a pale blue form of the mineral beryl.  Aquamarine crystals can occur in such rocks as granite and pegmatite.

These beautiful gemstones have a glassy luster (shine) and are either translucent or transparent.  These properties make aquamarine a prized stone for all types of jewelry.

Diamond – April’s Birthstone

Did you know that pencil lead and diamonds are made of the same thing?  It is hard to believe but they are both made of carbon!  The carbon forms in different crystal types or shapes, which is why they are different.  Diamond is the hardest mineral, being a 10 on the Mohs hardness scale.

Diamonds form in igneous rocks called Kimberlites and Lamproites. These igneous rocks are typically rich in the mineral olivine and derive from mantle rocks known as peridotites. The peridotite rocks melt deep below the surface (between 90 and 280 miles) of the Earth then rise through cracks in the surrounding rock forming pipe-shaped intrusions. As the magma pushes its way through the cracks, some of the surrounding rocks break off and mix into the liquid magma. Over time, (millions of years) the magma slowly cools into rock with large crystals. Sometimes these crystals include those wonderful gemstones we know as diamonds.  This photo shows cores of kimberlite rock from a drilling and exploration project. The rocks cores are stored these long, then boxes for examination. Geologists store the cores in order as they pull them from the ground so that they can view the rocks in one long string and see exactly what is present below the land surface.

The largest diamond ever found is over 7,000 carats which is about the size of your two fists put together.  Because of their beauty and strength, diamonds are used for a wide variety of products from jewelry to industrial cutting blades. The photo at the top left shows a group of different sized diamonds which have been cut and faceted.

Emerald – May’s Birthstone

Emerald is a green form of the mineral beryl.  Emerald is a hard gemstone that has a glassy luster (shine) and is either translucent or transparent.  The elements chromium and vanadium give emerald its green color.  Emeralds are one of the most rare and prized gemstones and can be worth more than diamonds if they are pure.

Pearl – June’s Birthstone

Pearls are a beautiful organic gemstone which is formed in a variety of colors and shapes.  Pearls form inside of mollusk shells such as oysters and mussels.  This unique gemstone is made of primarily the mineral aragonite.  Aragonite is the mineral that lines the inside of the mollusk shell.  An organic substance, called conchiolin, is also known to line the inside of the shell.  When shell linings are made of aragonite and conchiolin together, it is called mother-of-pearl.

To form the gemstone pearl, a grain of sand must get trapped inside the mollusk shell.  The aragonite forms in circles around the sand grain.  It can take between 2 and 8 years for a large pearl to be formed.  Fairly soft, pearls are a 3 on the Mohs hardness scale and have a white streak. The luster, “pearly,” is often used to describe the look of other minerals with similar outward appearance. Pearls can form in both freshwater and salt water and can be round and smooth to oblong and uneven.  Common colors of pearls include white, cream and black; however, other colors such as blue, yellow, gray, green, light purple and mauve can also be found.

Ruby – July’s Birthstone

Rubies are one of the hardest known minerals.  With a hardness of 9 on the Mohs scale, it is only softer than a diamond.  Rubies are known for their beautiful red color.  A ruby is a variety of the mineral corundum.  The gemstone sapphire is also a variety of corundum and comes in many colors, except for red.  Rubies have a glassy luster which makes them shiny.  Rubies are most commonly used for jewelry.  Rubies are commonly mined in Myanmar, Thailand, Kenya, the United States, Sri Lanka and Tanzania.  In 2005, a 440 carat ruby was discovered and thought to be one of the largest gems found to date.

Peridot – August’s Birthstone

Peridot (“pair-a-doe”) is the August birthstone.  This lovely green gemstone is a variety of the mineral olivine. Peridot gets its green color from the presence of iron in the crystal’s structure.  The amount of iron present determines the intensity of the green color such that the higher the iron content the darker the green color. Interestingly, peridot is only found in the color green whereas most other minerals can be found in more than one color.

Although olivine is common in igneous and metamorphic rocks, the gemstone quality version is much rarer. Arizona has one of the more abundant sources of peridot but the quality is not as high as in other regions, such as Egypt, Myanmar, Burma and Pakistan, which have smaller amounts of the gemstone. The Smithsonian Institution has a gemstone from Egypt that is over 310 carats, which is largest peridot ever found.

Sapphire – September’s Birthstone

Sapphires are a blue form of the mineral corundum.  When corundum is red, it is called a ruby.  Corundum is one of the hardest known minerals with a hardness of 9 on the Mohs scale.  The gemstone sapphire is usually known for its spectacular blue color, but can also come in many other colors, except for red.  Sapphires have a glassy luster which makes them shiny and are most commonly used for jewelry.  One of the largest sapphires in the world is called the “Logan Sapphire” and is over 422 carats.  Many beautiful specimens of sapphire are mined in Myanmar, Madagascar, Kashmire, and Sri Lanka, and Australia.

In the United States, sapphires and rubies can be found in the area of Franklin, North Carolina, which is a popular area for mines.

Opal – October’s Birthstone

Opal is a unique mineral because it forms as a gel in cracks of many different types of rocks. However, opal is most often found in rocks like basalt, rhyolite, sandstone and limonite.  High water content is a trademark of the opal.  Up to 20% of an opal can be water.  Opals come is a wide variety of colors including white, reds, greens, pinks, browns, and blues to name a few.  Most opals do not have a specific shape, however, “precious” opal which are used for jewelry do have a round structure to them. Almost all of the world’s opal supply comes from Australia.

Topaz – November’s Birthstone

The November birthstone is topaz.  Topaz is a unique gemstone which comes in a huge variety of colors such as orange-yellow, colorless, light blue, pink, brown and green.  Topaz has a hardness of 8 on the Mohs Hardness Scale and a glassy luster.  Igneous rocks are the most common type in which to find topaz gemstones.  Topaz is used for jewelry in its variety of colors.

Turquoise – December’s Birthstone

The December birthstone is Turquoise, a blue to green minerals which is moderately hard and typically shows no specific crystal structure. Turquoise is a 6 on the Mohs Hardness Scale of 1 to 10, has a pale blue to white streak, and a waxy luster. “Cryptocrystalline” is the term often used for minerals like turquoise where the crystals are so small that they cannot be seen.  Turquoise can be nicely polished and is therefore, used often in jewelry.

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Ask-a-Geologist #20: What can you tell me about the mineral pyrite?

Today I have a special guest with me. Her name is Piper and we are discussing the mineral pyrite.  (Make sure you watch the video until the end to see our first blooper reel!)

Piper: I got this pyrite sample as a gift. Can you tell me about it?

The mineral name “pyrite” is comes from the Greek word for fire. People believe that pyrite got its name because it will spark when you hit it with a steel hammer.

Pyrite is a mineral that is most often known as “fool’s gold” because it looks like real gold. Do you know how to tell the difference?

Piper:  No. How do you tell them apart?

They are both gold in color and are shiny and have a metallic luster, which is what the mineral looks like in the light. One of the best ways to tell pyrite from real gold is hardness. Gold is soft – about a 2.5 to 3 on the mohs hardness scale, while pyrite is much harder, a 6 to 6.5 on the hardness scale. You can scratch gold with a copper penny but you can’t scratch pyrite. Pyrite is also lighter weight than gold.

Now you might have noticed that your sample of pyrite has some really neat features. You can see a bunch of little crystals all growing together. Pyrite forms natural cubes and octahedrons which are shapes with four and eight sides. Sometimes it can form crystals with 12 sides too. Sometimes, you can see lines on the flat sides of the crystals too. Do you have any more questions about pyrite?

Piper: What can I use it for?

Well, some companies use pyrite to make sulfuric acid, but you don’t need any of that. A beautiful sample like this is best in a collection like yours.

Remember to keep your questions coming in through the dig into geology section on our website or email us at    Please comment below and subscribe to our channel so that you get the next installment of ask a geologist.    Until next time, rock on everybody.

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