Rock Camp was Fun!

I held my annual Rock Detectives Camp last week and it was a blast!

Thank you to all of the kids and the parents who took time out of their summer to join us at the Mt. Pleasant Recreation Department for a fun-filled week or minerals, rocks, experiments and games!

If you missed camp this year, send me an email at rockinfo@minimegeology.com and we will send you a notice when it is time to sign up for next year.

 

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What You Need to Know About Minerals & Gemstones

Minerals are unique chemical substances which are homogeneous (the same) throughout the specimen.  Minerals can be found as single crystals or clusters of many crystals.  Rocks are a group of minerals that are found together.  The type of rock is determined by the type of minerals that are formed together along with the place where the formation occurs, such as deep in the Earth’s crust or near the surface.  For example, quartz, feldspar and mica are individual minerals, but when they are found together in a rock that formed underground, it is often called granite.   Some minerals are very common and some are rare.  However, even the most common minerals can have unique and rare forms.  Some minerals are useful in the production of industrial materials such as gypsum in cement, mica in paints and coatings, feldspar in ceramics, and quartz in watches and other electronics.  Other minerals are used for jewelry and are considered precious (diamond, emeralds, and ruby) or semi-precious (amethyst, citrine, garnet, and peridot) gemstones based on how easy they are to find.  

Mineral Color:  The Natural Color of a Mineral
Minerals come in many colors.  Some minerals can form in one single color, like royal blue sodalite, or can form in many colors such as fluorite which can be blue, red, purple, yellow green or white.  When geologists speak of the mineral’s color, they are talking about the outward appearance of the mineral itself.  

Mineral Streak:  The Color in Powder Form
The streak color is the color of the mineral in powder form. Streak is a useful tool in determining a mineral’s identify because some minerals will streak the same color as their outward appearance and some will streak a completely different color.  Mineral streak is tested using “streak plate.”  The mineral is rubbed on the plate during the test.  The color that shows on the plate is the streak color.   

Mineral Luster Luster is the appearance of a mineral when the light shines on the sample.  Minerals can have different luster which is why it is another clue to the identity of a mineral.  There are many different mineral lusters.  Some of the most common lusters are glassy, greasy, silky, earthy, metallic, and pearly.

Mineral Hardness:  The Mohs Hardness Scale

The hardness of a mineral is often used by geologists to help determine the identity of a sample. The Mohs Hardness Scale as developed by a German geologist, Friedrich Mohs, in 1812. The Mohs scale is a relative scale which lists the hardness of 10 common minerals. Talc, #1 on the scale is the softest and diamond, #10, is the hardest. Other common household items have also been assigned to the hardness scale such as glass, fingernail and a penny. The Mohs mineral scale is:

Hardness Mineral
1 Talc
2 Gypsum
3 Calcite
4 Fluorite
5 Apatite
6 Orthoclase Feldspar
7 Quartz
8 Topaz
9 Corundum
10 Diamond

The first nine minerals on the Mohs’ Hardness Scale have nearly the same relative hardness between them. For example, fluorite is four times harder than talc, quartz is seven times harder than talc and corundum is nine times harder than talc. However, the tenth mineral on the scale, diamond, is 40 times harder than talc.  

Mineral Shape
Minerals can either form in masses with no distinct shape or in various crystal geometries.  Some of the most common shapes are cube, octahedron, rhombohedron, prismatic and platy.

There is more information available about rocks in minerals in the Help, I Have to Teach Rock and Mineral Identification and I’m Not A Geologist! book.

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Geology is all around you!

Whether you know a lot about geology or just a little, you probably know that the Earth’s crust and the material below it are made up of rocks and minerals. There are hundreds of varieties of rocks and minerals and each one has its own unique history from the time it was formed to the time someone finds a specimen and adds it to their collection.

Minerals

Minerals are unique chemical substances which are homogeneous (the same) throughout the specimen. Minerals can be found as single crystals or clusters of many crystals. Rocks are a group of minerals that are found together. The type of rock is determined by the type of minerals that are formed together along with the place where the formation occurs, such as deep in the Earth’s crust or near the surface. For example, quartz, feldspar and mica are individual minerals, but when they are found together in a rock that formed underground, it is often called granite.

Some minerals are very common and some are rare. However, even the most common minerals can have unique and rare forms. Some minerals are useful in the production of industrial materials such as gypsum in cement, mica in paints and coatings, feldspar in ceramics, and quartz in watches and other electronics. Other minerals are used for jewelry and are considered precious (diamond, emeralds, and ruby) or semi-precious (citrine, garnet, and peridot) gemstones based on how easy they are to find.

Rocks

There are three types of rocks in the world which are:

Sedimentary

Sedimentary rocks are formed when sand, small pieces or rock, or mud are pressed together to form layers of sediment. These layers of sediment are pressed together over a long period of time and form a sedimentary rock.

Igneous

Igneous rock form from hot liquid magma. The magma either erupts from a volcano, cools and hardens into extrusive igneous rocks, or forms intrusive igneous rock when the hot magma is trapped beneath the earth’s surface, cools and hardens.

and,

Metamorphic

A metamorphic rock is formed when a sedimentary or igneous rock changes form because the temperature or pressure changes. This change typically occurs over time when the sedimentary or igneous rocks are buried beneath the earth’s surface.

The type of rocks and minerals present in an area and the type of fossils found can help tell us about the Earth’s history. Through the rock and fossil record a scientist can tell the age of the rock and the time period when the plant or animal that made the fossil lived. The oldest rocks are known to be approximately 600 million years old!  You can explore the many types of minerals and rocks at Mini Me Geology!

The Geologic Time Scale

The Geologic Time Scale is used to represent different periods in the Earth’s history. The Geologic Time Scale ranges from 600 million years ago to today. By studying rocks and fossils it is possible to determine the age and history of an area. For example, finding shale with a trilobite fossil will tell you that even though that area may be dry today, it was an ocean about 500 million years ago! For more information on fossils, check out Mini Me Geology’s Paleontology page.

Geologists look at the Earth’s history as a grand puzzle and the rocks and minerals we find along the way are pieces to that puzzle that we are all still trying to solve today.

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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 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. 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. With your kit you will received information on how to use your kit and a flow chart that can be used to aid in sample identification. The My Rockin’ Collection series is recommended for ages 6 to adult. Children should be able to read for maximum benefit. See more details about the deluxe kits now.

The Colossal Rock and Mineral Kit (Deluxe kits) – 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 flyers. The samples included in this kit are the same as the samples in the Junior series tube kits. The main difference in the kit is the different box packaging and the inclusion of the streak plates and hand lens. This kit is recommended for ages 6 to adult and is perfect for kids and collectors who want to have a large sample set. See more details about the deluxe kits now.

The Rock Cycle Kit (Deluxe 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. 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.


My Rockin Collection Junior Series (Tube kits)
- 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 flyer with details about each sample and a photo. The minerals and rocks included in these junior kits are also included in the My Rockin Collection Deluxe kits. The My Rockin’ Collection Junior series is recommended for ages 6 to adult. Children should be able to read for maximum benefit. See more details about the Junior kits now.

Rock Detectives Series (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 rocks or minerals (one kit has 7), a hand magnifier, and a printable mini-CD with 30 pages 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 more details about the Rock Detectives now.

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Paleontology: Fossils, Fossils, Fossils!

Paleontologists are geologists and scientists who specialize in the study of fossils. Fossils help to tell the story of our great Earth. Almost all fossils are found in sedimentary rock such as shale, limestone, and sandstone. A fossil is formed when an animal or plant dies and is quickly buried by sediment before it has time to decay. The hard parts of the animal or plant such as shells, bone and wood are fossilized in the rock formed from the sediment.

Paleontologists search for fossils as clues to what early life on Earth was like. From fossils we can tell what plants and animals roamed the Earth and lived in the oceans. We can even tell what the animals ate and how they lived. Some fossils can even be used to map the location of a specific rock formation over many, many miles.

Plant and Animal Fossils

Both plant and animals that lived on land and in the water can be found as fossils. Some plants and animals that have been found as fossils are still in existence today but others died out long ago. For example, sponges and corals are still in existence today but one of the most famous fossils, the trilobite, died out around 500 million years ago.

Dinosaurs

Perhaps the most famous and most interesting of all animals that have lived on the Earth are the dinosaurs. To date, scientists have discovered and named about 700 species of dinosaurs although many people think that there are hundreds more that remain to be discovered. The smallest dinosaurs that have been discovered are about the size of a chicken. The largest dinosaurs that have been discovered are as big as two school buses! Dinosaurs are amazing animals because of their vast differences in size, shape, eating habits and survival methods. Searching for and learning about these prehistoric creatures can be one of the most rewarding and interesting professions or hobbies known today.

Visit MiniMeGeology today to check out our selection of fossils!

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Ask-a-Geologist #19: What gives amethyst that pretty purple color?

Lily wrote to us and asked about the mineral amethyst. Specifically, she wants to know what gives amethyst that beautiful purple color. In this video, we talk about why amethyst is purple, its relation to quartz and an interesting fact about how citrine fits into that mineral family.

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A Rock Weathering Experiment You Can Do In Your Kitchen!

Every day, rocks are subjected to wind, rain and other mechanical processes that cause them to breakdown into smaller pieces and different forms. This process of weathering is part of the rock cycle and causes sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic rocks to break down into smaller sediments and soil-sized particles. You can learn a about rock weathering right in your own kitchen! Try this fun experiment to learn more about the mechanical weathering of rocks and post your results in the comments below.

You will need:

  • Plastic Wrap
  • Clay
  • Water
  • Hand Magnifier
  • Notebook
  • Pen
  • Camera (optional)

Step 1: Moisten the clay with a small amount of water. You want the clay to absorb as much water as possible without being dripping wet. Add a small amount of water to the clay and knead it until the water is absorbed, repeating until the clay is saturated.

Step 2: Divide the clay into two equal pieces and roll it into a ball or form into a square.

Step 3: Wrap each piece of clay in plastic wrap.

Step 4: Place one piece of clay into the freezer and leave the other piece on a table or counter. Let the clay stay in the freezer overnight.

Step 5: The next day, remove the clay from the freezer and unwrap both pieces. Place the two balls of clay side-by-side and observe your results. Do the clay pieces look different after one day and then over time? If so, how? Write about your findings in a notebook and take pictures of the results after each day to see how the clay rock changes.

Step 6: Wrap each clay piece back up and put the one piece back into the freezer and repeat for several days. Observe the clay pieces each day and see how the cracks change over time.

Observation Hint:

The clay from the freezer should have the some cracks. Examine the clay with a hand magnifier to get a closer look at the cracks. The cracks result from the freezing and expanding water just as a rock that has water freeze in holes or existing cracks in the rock. Over time, the freezing and expanding of rainwater will cause a small crack in a rock to become big and allow the rock to split. If the frozen clay does not crack after several days, repeat the experiment with more water in the clay.

You can find more great activities like these in our Rock Cycle Kit and Rock Detectives Kits!

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Rock Layer Folding Experiment

Although the land you stand on seems like it is firmly in place, it is actually moving. The Earth’s crust is divided up into pieces that are called “plates.” These plates are slowly moving around the Earth. While they are moving they sometimes bump into one another which cause the rocks on the plates to fold and push their way into mountains. All rock layers are originally created horizontally. This is a simple experiment that is great for showing the possible effects when pressure is applied to horizontal rock layers.

You Will Need:

  • Clay, several colors
  • Rolling pin or can of soda

Step 1: Form several different colors of softened modeling clay into even layers and stack them one on top of the other. You can make the layers as thick or thin as you like using the rolling pin or soda can.

Step 2: Using your hands, push the ends of the “rock layers” together to see what happens. Depending on the amount of pressure you apply and the direction that you hold your hands, the clay will form either a syncline or an anticline.

Synclines form when the ends of the rock layers turn up and the layers form a “U” shape.

Anticlines form when the ends of the rock layers turn down and the layers form an “∩” shape.

Variations:

  • Try forming some layers that are thick and some that are thin to see if there is a different in the effects of the pressure.
  • Rock layers which are very long may form both synclines and anticlines in a line, like a wave. Perform the experiment with different lengths of “rock layers” to see if both shapes will form.

You can find more great activities like these in our Rock Cycle Kit and Rock Detectives Kits!

 

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Ask-A-Geologist Question & Answer #18: How do I teach rock and mineral identification when I’m not a geologist?

This week, homeschooling mom Sandra asked how she can teach rock and mineral identification when she is not a geologist. Our new book “Help, I Have to Teach Rock and Mineral Identification and I’m Not a Geologist!” is here to help. In this book, we break down all of the details you need to teach rock and mineral identification to elementary, middle and high school students.

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Metamorphic Rock Pressure & Heat Experiment

Metamorphic rocks are the rocks that were igneous or sedimentary and change either physically or chemically by heat, pressure or hot, mineral-rich water. The term metamorphic comes from the Greek words “meta” which means change and “morph” which means form. This is a great outdoor experiment for colder climates or indoors if you have a shaved ice machine. With this experiment, you can see how pressure and heat can change a rock using this this simple experiment with snow or ice chips!

You will need:

  • Light, fluffy snow or shaved ice (enough to make two, fist-sized snowballs)
  • Notebook
  • Pencil
  • Camera (optional)

Step 1: Gather the snow into two loose snowballs.

Step 2: Wrap both hands around one of the snowballs and squeeze tightly for several seconds.

Step 3: Observe and document what happened to the snow or ice when you squeezed and heated it with your hands. Do the snowballs look different? If so, how?

Hint: When you squeezed the snowball, the snow melted and combined for form solid ice. The process of the snow melting and forming ice is a metamorphic process. The snow changed to from loose to compact ice because of the pressure from your hands. This is the same process that changes rocks like granite to gneiss.

You can find more great activities like these in our Rock Cycle Kit and Rock Detectives Kits! You can find out more about metamorphic rock in our My Rockin Collection! Metamorphic Rocks Kit too.

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