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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The Fizz Test for Limestone & Marble Rocks

Many rocks can look alike. Sometimes telling the difference between a limestone or marble and other rocks such as shale and quartzite can be difficult. One way geologists test the rocks is by performing the acid or “Fizz” test. Calcite is the main component of limestone rocks and its varieties like oolitic limestone, fossiliferous limestone, coquina and marble. The calcite mineral is made of calcium carbonate which reacts with acid. Other varieties of calcium carbonate minerals such as aragonite and dolomite will also fizz during this test.

You will need:

  • Household acid such as lemon juice or vinegar (lemon juice works best).
  • Minerals and rocks to test
  • Eye dropper or straws
  • Hand magnifier
  • Notebook
  • Pencil
  • Camera (optional)

Step 1: Gather the samples you want to test. Some good choices are limestone, oolitic limestone, coquina and marble. You should see some “fizzing” with these samples.

Step 2: Drop, using a straw or dropper, or pour your acid on one rock sample at a time.

Step 3: Look through your hand magnifier right away to see the bubbles. The bubbles may be small so look closely.

Step 4: Observe and document your results. Do you see the bubbles? If so, what do they look like? The fizz is telling you that your rock contains calcium carbonate.

Teacher and Parent Tip: Use other samples such as shale, slate, and quartzite to observe samples which should not “fizz.” Mix up your samples and see if you can figure out what they are using the fizz test! If you have access to hydrochloric acid, it provides the best reaction with calcium carbonate but children should only use this acid under strict supervision.

You can find more great activities like these in our Rock Cycle Kit and Rock Detectives Kits! Our My Rockin’ Collection Sedimentary Rocks will teach you about several varieties of limestone that fizz!

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Growing Salt Crystals is a Fun Geology Experiment for Kids (and adults, too)!

Hey Mini Me Geologists! Try this fun experiment to learn more about growing salt crystals. Did you know that the salt you put on your food is actually a mineral? Salt forms naturally by precipitation or evaporation. In this experiment, you will watch salt crystals form by precipitation because it is just more fun than watching water dry and leave salt behind, although you can try that method, too. Grab an adult to help you with the stove and boiling water but the rest you can do on your own. In nature, salt will precipitate from mineral-rich water in oceans or lakes so you will simulate ocean water to grow your crystals.

You will need:

  • Clean Jar
  • String (cotton works best)
  • Scissors
  • Tape (optional)
  • Pencil
  • 1-2 Cups boiling water (parents and teachers, this is your job)
  • 1-2 Cups table salt
  • Spoon
  • Notebook
  • Camera (optional)
  • Oven mitts (optional, but handy)

Step 1: Boil the water and then transfer it to your clean jar. You can boil the water on the stove or use a microwave. The important part is to make sure that the water is rapidly boiling before you begin Step 2. As you handle the jar, wear oven mitts or only touch the areas, like the rim, that are not overheated by the boiling water. We don’t want any burned fingers!

Step 2: Pour enough salt into the jar to saturate the water. Stir until all of the salt that can dissolve is dissolved. If you see salt crystals in the bottom of your jar that will not dissolve then you have probably saturated your water and are ready for Step 3.

Step 3: Tie a piece of string to a pencil and hang the string in the water. Rest the pencil across the top of your jar and tape it in place if necessary. Make sure that the string does not touch any of the salt at the bottom of the jar.

Step 4: Observe the jar over the next few hours. You should begin to see small crystals form on the string. Leave the string in the jar overnight.

Step 5: The next day, take the string out of the jar and observe if salt crystals have formed on the string. Salt crystals may take some time to get large so if you want to grow large crystals, replace the salt water solution daily. Don’t forget to document your experiment. We would love to see photos of your crystals and let us know how you do in the comments below.

Tip for Teachers: You can do this salt experiment in a classroom setting or a camp with great success. The salt crystals should form rapidly and if you use mason jars with lids the kids can take their solution home and observe for several days. Do not attempt sugar crystals in a classroom because you really need to dissolve the sugar on the stove top in order for the experiment to work.

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

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Happy Easter!

Happy Easter from Mini Me Geology!

We wish you a fun, relaxing weekend.

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We are proud to offer FREE Shipping!

Mini Me Geology is excited to announce that we are now offering free standard shipping on all order over $60.

This means you can get more rocks, minerals and fossils without wasting your money on shipping fees!  Start shopping now.

 

 

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Ask-a-Geologist Q&A Video #17: Can I Be a Geologist and How Do I Make My Dream Come True?

This week I am answering a question that I received from two readers, Alliondra and Alexandria. Their questions were so similar that I thought I would answer them together. They want to know:

Can I be a geologist some day and how can I make my dreams of becoming a geologist easier? In this video, I’ll tell you a little secret about how I came to be a geology major in college along with some tips on things you can do to prepare for college and your career.

Well girls, my answer to you is that if I can do it, you can do it too! I will tell you a secret though; I didn’t originally set out to be a geologist. When I went to college I thought that I would be a business major. My freshman year, I took a microeconomics class and a geology class as basic requirements and I hated my economics class and I loved my geology class. Those two classes determined my future.

Based on your emails, I cannot tell how old either of you are but if you are not in college yet, the best things you can do is to learn about different areas of geology. Because geologists can have many, many different types of jobs, you do not have to be an expert in every area to have a long and successful career. You might find that you love environmental geology and dislike petrology or you might love earthquake research or mineralogy and want to stay away from environmental assessments. That is one of the best things about this field is that you can choose your favorite area for your career.

If you are still in a school that has science fairs, I would encourage you choose a different geology topics each year and try to find out what you love the most. If you need ideas, you can always contact me here at Mini Me Geology and I will help you come up with ideas for a project.

If you are in college or heading to college soon, research the different schools where you have some interest and see what their geology departments are like. You will find that each school may have different strengths depending on their professors, research and even their location.

Remember that you can always contact me if you have more specific questions about a geology project or choosing a college program. I hope you girls will let me know how your studies are going and what type of geology you plan to pursue.

Remember to keep your questions coming in through the Dig Into Geology section on our website or email us at rockinfo@minimegeology.com. We are planning to shoot some Ask-a-Geologist videos on the beach in just a few week. So, send us your beach questions!  Also, 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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I Really, Really Hate Rock and Mineral Clip Art

Do you love clip art? I do…sort of. I know that this might not be a popular stance. However, when it comes to some things, like rock and mineral products; I HATE clip art. I know that a lot of product manufacturers use clip art because it is readily available and “cutesy,” but a real rock or mineral sample is nothing like a blob drawing of a rock with feet and eyes. It drives me crazy that people give kids (even young ones) pictures of nondescript “rocks” and personify them thinking that it will interest kids in science.

Do you know what actually gets kids excited about rocks and mineral? Actual rocks and minerals! If you cannot give them actual samples, then pictures of real rocks. Kids are smart and they don’t need clip art to learn. I do not mind illustrations of geologist processes like the inside of a volcano, but please, please don’t put eyes on the magma.

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Ask-a-Geologist Q&A #16: What types of rocks were changed by high temperature and high pressure?

Cory wrote to us and asked: What rocks are changed by high pressure and high temperature?

Metamorphic rocks are the rocks that change either physically or chemically by heat and pressure. The term metamorphic comes from the Greek words “meta” which means change and “morph” which means form. Metamorphism is a solid state change meaning that the minerals within the rock recrystallize in response to heat, pressure and the chemical reaction with hot fluids without melting the original rock.

Metamorphism happens deep in the earth’s crust. There are many types of metamorphism that geologists talk about but four general types that you might want to know are:

Contact metamorphism which occurs along the edges of cooling magma. The change occurs mostly from heat and circulating waters along the edges of the cooling magma chamber. The existing rocks along the edges of the magma are altered; therefore, this type of metamorphism happens over a small area.

Regional metamorphism occurs over a huge area due to high heat and high pressure. This type metamorphism occurs very deep underground and often along plate boundaries and can also occur from the burial of rock below many layers or rock and sediment. Regional metamorphism often happens over huge areas that are greater 1,000 square miles and can be associated with mountain building.

Cataclastic metamorphism occurs along fault zones from intense pressure. This type of metamorphism involves brittle deformation which is where the rocks break into small pieces.

Hydrothermal metamorphism occurs when hot, mineral rich waters alter the existing rock. Generally this type of metamorphism occurs in areas of low temperature and low pressure.

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

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Join Us for Rock Detectives Camp or Throw One Yourself

The kids just started their last nine weeks of school which means it is time to think about signing up for summer camp. If you live in the Charleston, South Carolina, area or plan to visit us this summer, we would love to have you join us for our annual Rock Detectives Camp. The camp will be held at the Park West Recreation Building in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, on June 16 through 20, 2014 from 1:00 pm until 4:00 pm.

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 rock box to hold their collection that they assemble during the camp. Each day begins with a puzzle related to the day’s theme then 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 Rock Cycle day, the campers receive “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, making edible metamorphic rocks, panning for crystals and more. During the camp, kids will participate in a Rock Bingo tournament and play Rock Jeopardy. You can sign up for the camp here.

If you do not live in our area but know a group of kids who might love attending Rock Detectives Camp, you can throw one yourself! My entire Rock Detectives Camp plan is available in our Rock Detectives Camp Guide. The guide includes the information you need to teach a week-long camp including, handouts, activity plans, supply lists, suggested rock and mineral samples for each day, the Rock Bingo game cards and call slips and the Rock Jeopardy board, questions and answers, and additional activities for extra time at camp. If you need rock and mineral samples, we give you a code for a discount on anything in our store for your camp. You can view details about the camp guide here.

If you have questions about our camp in June 2014 or about our Rock Detectives Camp Guide, please email me and I’ll be happy to help!

 

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