Friday, March 26, 2010

The rock craze

The rock craze was started, innocently enough, by 10-year-old Nat.  

This week, he found a handful of interesting small rocks and brought them inside for cleaning and examination. He asked if it was possible to find diamonds or gold in our yard. Although I responded with a distracted, "quite doubtful," he proceeded with some optimism to see if he had managed to find at least some semi-precious stones in the mud. After discovering that the kitchen sink was not my first choice for rock bathing, he went outside into the sunshine on the deck with a bucket of water and started cleaning. This activity caught the attention of three younger brothers who had been outside playing together. It's been a long time since any event related to water has been seen outside the bathtub. With an innate attraction to messes of any kind, Ben, Sam, and Jon (aged 7, 5, and 3) were soon at work collecting rocks of their own and crowding around the bucket–excited to see that clean, wet rocks do indeed look different than mud-covered rocks and plain, dry rocks.  

Nat asked me for help in figuring out if some of his small rocks were granite, so I found a website with a Rock Identification Key. There was also a good Introduction-to-Rocks article on this site, which I found quite interesting. When I first showed it to him, he was dismayed. "I don't want to read all that!" He just wanted some good pictures for comparison with what he was holding in his hand. Turns out that, yes, he had several little pieces of granite. By this time, 12-year-old Lydia and nearly-9-year-old Essie had gotten roped into the rock craze as well. They were interested in reading the articles and seeing how the charts could zero in on the type of rock so easily. Our own First Field Guide for Rocks was suddenly in high demand. Several trips to the big rock pile next to the farm field were planned and executed.

Nat moved on to preparing a box for his collection, marking off a grid inside on a paper towel cushion and grouping them by type. He got out the hot glue gun to hold them in place. He has a very neat and tidy collection of uniformly sized specimens. Today he figured out a way to display more rocks on the inside lid of his box and said it would be nice if we could look for rocks on the shore of Lake Superior sometime.

Ben and Sam wanted boxes, too, and fortunately for them, getting rid of old boxes is not my strong point.

Ben went for a big box with tiny rocks inside (he made a grid on paper towels, too, but wasn't allowed near the hot glue gun).

Sam prepared a medium box with medium rocks inside (no glue gun for him either, he settled for tape inside and decorated his box with crayons).

Jon decided on his own that the kindling box would be a terrific spot for his display. He dumped my kindling sticks outside in the yard and replaced them with three large rocks.

Essie had been sitting quietly by herself while planning her box.  Suddenly she went into action. She managed to find a sturdy box with an attached, hinged lid.  She bent over the table cutting and gluing little rings made out of strips of cereal boxes – one inch tall, and one to two inches in diameter.  She hot-glued these rings upright on the bottom of her box so that from the top there were circular compartments for each individual rock.  This had the advantage of holding the rocks in place, but the rocks could still be picked up - unlike her siblings who chose either to glue the rocks in place, or to leave them free to roll around - needing to be set up over and over again.

Lydia concentrated on scientific collection methods. She found a canvas bag and filled it with things to make a good record of what she found. Ruler, notebook, Ziplock bag, pens and water bottle included. She came back from the rock pile with some beautiful rocks, which she had smashed open, sketched, and labeled. She had a pretty good idea of what types of rocks she had in her collection because she had learned a lot by reading on-line: granite, quartz, slate, basalt, and something really hard to smash that had streaks of rusted iron in it. Another with flecks that looked like gold. 

By this time everyone was pretty impressed that there was so much to learn about the rocks just in our own neck of the woods, let alone all the rocks in the world. We wished we had a specific field guide for Minnesota rocks. Nat asked if there were a thousand types of rocks in the world. Making a wild guess based on the earth being a pretty big place, basically made of rocks, I quickly answered, "Oh, yes, I'm sure . . . "  followed quickly by my realizing that there aren't nearly that many elements on the periodic element chart; followed quickly by my realizing that rocks are of course made of more than one element creating various compounds under various conditions;  followed up by my realizing that I know next to nothing about rocks and that in reality I didn't know if there were fifty or ten-thousand types of rocks. Now we know that there are more than 700 varieties of igneous rocks, not to mention sedimentary rocks and metamorphic rocks.  One website said that over 3500 distinct minerals have been described worldwide.

We are suddenly on a quest to really see rocks–similar to my personal quest to really see trees–which leads to my ever increasing wonder that I have never thought much about any of these things before, even while "enjoying Nature."  It's like I've been seeing it without glasses on. There is so much more to see than I have been seeing.  

But the main thing I loved seeing this week is the way that collecting, displaying, and learning about rocks reveals such unique and interesting things about each child's personality, interests, learning-style and approach to life.  They each have their own way of finding rocks, deciding which rocks are good for collecting, displaying their rocks and sharing what they have found with others.  Ben even got to take his to church for his Wednesday night class to fulfill a requirement for a Nature Collection, which helps the kids see how God reveals His glory through His creation.  His teachers and friends Ooh'd and Ahhh'd over his Big-Box of nicely displayed Very-Small-Rocks and he got to add a new pin to his ribbon. Nat found himself wishing they still did Show-and-Tell in Fourth Grade. He took his box along in the van, just in case he got a chance to show one of his friends.  Lydia followed me around with her carefully selected and washed collection until I had the time to really sit and look at each one and comment on both the rock and her journal entries related to each one. And everyone wanted to show Dad everything.

The rock craze turned out to be a wonderful surprise.

Lord, once again I plead for new eyes to see . . . trees, rocks, my own children, and everything you have to show me.



Melissa said...

Delightful! I love to watch that vital spark of interest and curiosity flower into projects, and notebooks and unassigned educational doings! It's a favorite joy and reward of our homeschool journey, for sure. Thanks for sharing yours here!

Anonymous said...

I love this! :)

terry said...

So wonderful! I love hearing about your adventures!
xo, Terry

Mom said...

Thanks so much for sharing another wonderful 'everyday moment.' What fun for the children.You've inspired me to start looking for some rocks around here!

katie said...

This is why homeschooling is awesome :)

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