Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Rocks and Minerals

As April is about to turn three, I have decided to begin offering her some structured learning experiences. I've tried to let her interests guide me when choosing what topics to study. This unit came about when April was given a magnifying glass and a couple of geodes in her stocking for Christmas. We talked a bit about why some rocks have crystals inside and some don't but I thought perhaps offering her a few days of rock and mineral study might  be more interesting.

We started our study with a trip to Mineral World. April picked out a small bag of special gemstones to bring home for closer examination. We also took the time while we were there to read about volcanoes, different rock types and we tried out their simply experiments. April's favorite experiment was making the pumice stone float in a bowl of water.

One day while we were out collecting a few supplies for our study unit, we came across this small plastic volcano. It's been an excellent visual tool. We fill the volcano with baking soda and April adds the vinegar. We talk about how the bubbles are like liquid rock and the vinegar solution that is left in the bowl after the "eruption" is like the igneous rocks we saw at Mineral World. Some of it is over her head (especially the terms) but it's been getting us talking and thinking about the Earth and the simple rocks that we collect at the beach.

Finally, I put together a small basket of rocks and minerals for April to study with her light box. I included some of the rocks that she collected at Mineral World, the geodes she got at Christmas, some agate slices and a couple amethyst crystals. I gave her the magnifying glass and left her to it. After some study she wanted to show us what she had discovered. She found that some stones has stripes and some had cracks. She also asked about the types of rocks she had. At that point we got out our Visual Encyclopedia of Science and read a bit about quartz and silicone and other common minerals and found which mineral types matched the stones she had found.

We all have been enjoying this unit immensely. I like seeing her absorbing this new information and coming up with questions of her own. The next step in this unit is for us to go to one of our local rocky beaches and see what kind of rocks we can identify there.

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