Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Rocks and Minerals

It all started with a broken piece of a geode...  Our whole family had dinner at the home of a family friend.  This family friend was a sixth-grade science teacher for 35 years or so. He is what people call a "Renaissance Man" and a visit to his house rivals going to a museum.  Many people landscape around their home with some river rock or beds of gravel.  Our friend has rock around his house too...but it's not bags of gravel or river rock from the home improvement store.  The rocks around his house are piles of interesting rocks he has been collecting for his entire life.  When the boys were walking around outside they found a beautiful piece of a geode.  They liked it so much that our friend got out a rock pick (yes, he had one on hand), broke it into two relatively equal pieces, and gave them each a piece to take home.

When our family returned home that night the very first thing the boys did was pull out their microscope to examine that geode.

Such an inspirational night with our family friend ignited the already smoldering interest the boys had in rocks and minerals.  It makes me laugh to think that I once was concerned that the Montessori Great Lessons would not be enough to inspire continuing work in a homeschool setting.  LOL!  The boys have been actively working on topics that have branched off from the First Great Lesson alone all year.

The boys started their morning by examining their geodes under the microscope again.  Then Kal-El popped up to the home research library and returned with a few books:

My husband and I bought Everybody Needs a Rock while on vacation in Utah several years before we had children so it was neat to read that one.

Let's Go Rock Collecting was a fun, basic introduction to igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rock.  It does not do a very good job of explaining minerals.  In fact, the best source I've found so far that was helpful in that arena was Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding(BFSU) which has a beautiful lesson on that topic (we did that lesson last week as well!).

As we read the book and afterward we spent a lot of time with ROCK SAMPLES!

I know more than one of my readers has been curious about what is in "the blue cabinet" in the school room...

I haven't blogged about it much because I hadn't put much in it nor where the things that were in there in a very purposeful position.  Over the past few weeks I have been slowly moving our science materials from the basement storage area (from which they were retrieved on an as-needed basis) into the drawers.  Oh, and check it out!  We've graduated from the Montessori globes to a regular globe.

When we were at the museum the other day I happened to see some drawers that matched my mental "inspiration photo" and snapped a picture:

Pretty cool.

I still have a long way to go filling and organizing our drawers, but I was pleased as peaches that when the boys and I read through the "Let's Go Rock Collecting" book I had all of the samples to match the book on hand in the drawers just steps away.  We own two different rock collections.  The one that is stored in these drawers is from Montessori-n-Such (N0582).  It has two samples each of 25 different varieties of rocks and minerals.  I divided them by type and split them into four wooden boxes from the dollar store.  The minerals, metamorphic rocks and our rock and mineral test kit are in the drawer above.

The Igneous and Sedimentary rocks are in another drawer.  The Montessori-n-Such set is great because  you can use it in primary. The reason there are two of each type of rock is so that you can set up various visual discrimination or matching activities with them.  However, they are useful, labelled rock samples so they were a great starter rock collection for elementary as well.

When I scanned through the activities in BFSU it was obvious that were going to need a supplementary rock collection because the MNS collection was missing quite a bit of the rocks and minerals we needed.  Particularly we were missing samples of metal and non-metal ores.

Home Science Tools offers quite a few different rock and mineral collections.  I thought I would just wind up getting the "biggest" one and calling it a day because the smaller collections would certainly be a subset of the largest collection.  That turned out to not be the case.  Each collection "specializes" in particular things and the largest collection had a lot of overlap with the collection we already had and not a good deal of ores.  On the other hand, the 50 specimen Classroom collection had very little overlap with the samples from Montessori-n-Such and had a nice collection of ores.

We will be continuing our rock study with lessons from both Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding and the Keys of the Universe Geography Album this week.  Next week we will perhaps start in on some of the rock and minerals lessons in R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey:  Earth and Space.  This is where I'll pull out ready-to-use lessons on streak testing, scratch testing, and many other things.  There are 22 lessons on rocks, minerals, erosion and such in the R.E.A.L. Science book.  You can look at a pdf preview that includes the table of contents here.

A visit to the library yielded a big stack of rock and mineral books that we took home.  We'll let you know which were our favorites after we've spent some time with them.  We will probably wind up purchasing My First Pocket Guide Rocks and Minerals at some point (both BFSU and R.E.A.L. recommend this one), but borrowing from the library will do for most of our other purposes because so much can now be looked up in our classroom encyclopedias.


  1. You're posts are always so inspiring! I love having your blog as a resource and am always so impressed with the details you share, thank you!

  2. So now, when people come to me for "what do I do when my child has an interest in rocks and minerals" I'll send them to this blog post for their first stop ;)

    Interesting occurrence here - my son was ALL into rocks and minerals for quite some time; he was looking forward to sharing this interest with the co-op when we started up last year... the other children just weren't there yet and his interest faded away (his other interests maintained and he did pick up new interests based on group experiences). Just something I mention when I am questioned about the validity of Montessori homeschooling... sometimes that group experience takes away legitimate interests (balanced with other positives of course). :)

  3. I'm enjoying your posts on geology, I run monthly hands-on science sessions for a homeschool group we go to and am doing rocks and minerals next week - it's so interesting! I love the museum type science drawer system too - so vintage yet so useful!! Can you add a 'pin it' button to your pics please to make them easy to pin? Thanks, Jenni

  4. I'm enjoying your posts on geology, I run monthly hands-on science sessions for a homeschool group we go to and am doing rocks and minerals next week - it's so interesting! I love the museum type science drawer system too - so vintage yet so useful!! Can you add a 'pin it' button to your pics please to make them easy to pin? Thanks, Jenni

  5. Jenni,

    I'll see if I can figure out how to add a "pin it" button. I personally added a "pin it" button to the top of my browser so I can pin everywhere. I thought everyone did it that way.

    I learn something new everyday just like the kids I guess. I'll see what I can do.

  6. Jenni,

    Here are instructions for putting a "pin it" button in your browser: http://socialmediababe.com/adding-the-pin-it-button

  7. Jenni,

    I did it :) I now have "pin it" buttons in places I don't want them sometimes (like after links) but I'll work on it.

  8. Love your new blue drawer/cabinet! We are using R.E.A.L science as well and I can't wait to use some of your fabulous ideas!

  9. I've added a pin it to my bookmarks bar thanks, and pinned your cabinet! I used this tutorial from code it pretty to add pin it buttons to my pictures..... I've been blogging for four years but only just beginning to get to grips with the technical side of making things look nice and making it easy for people to find things!!
    http://www.codeitpretty.com/2013/03/the-big-guide-to-pin-it-buttons-for.html Jen x

  10. Thank you Jenni! That did the trick, the "pin it" buttons are now on the blog.

  11. Jenni,

    You tricked me into redesigning the whole blog. Good job :)

  12. Lol.... fancy coming to do mine for me? It's very stylish! Nice job!

  13. Interesting and inspiring posts. Thanks!!