Monday, July 2, 2007

Rock head, and rock babies

Is it bad that I force my kids to love what I love?
I've always been a rock head. I love rocks, always have, always will. That's why I used to have a piece of gravel named Rocky (I know, creativity was not a childhood strongpoint) that I kept in a decked-out shoebox. And it's also why I spent my college years earning a degree in geology.
Now that I'm a professional Mama and my rock hammer is officially packed away, I need to live vicariously through my children and take advantage of their minimal interest in the science.
So it is with great excitment that I drag them around the state, to everywhere within a 75-mile radius that offers nature/rock programs for children.
Today was no exception, and I swear, by the time my children start kindergarten, they'll know more than their teachers do when it comes to rocks.

Here's a simple activity that I've done at home with my kids. It's perfect for the next time they bring home or dig up yet another rock...

Make a collection -- and catalog it.
(Ages 5+, younger with lots of help and patience)

Index cards are plentiful, cheap, and durable. Tell each child to choose one rock if they've brought home more than one.

On one side of the card, have them draw a picture of the rock. Knowing kids, they'll grab their favorite color and make a circle. For this reason, you may need to help them out, and guide their budding scientific minds.

When drawing the rock, have them look at two simple features: shape and color. Is it flat? Round? Jagged? Is it dark brown? Pink? Speckled?

Once the picture is drawn, write out on the other side of the card the characteristics that your children see. Have them describe it with their own words and ideas. Maybe it looks like Elmo's nose, or in the case of my three-year-old son, it might just look like a piece of dog poop. Whatever they say, you write. It's how they'll learn to make observations and be creative about their findings.

This rock and card can be filed together, or if your kids are like mine, they like to actually play with their rocks. Here's a simple tip for making their rock collection official. Make a very small mark with Wite-out on the bottom of the rock. Once that is dried, label the rock with something simple-- perhaps just a letter-- with a permanent marker. And then mark the same letter on the index card. Index cards can then be stored easily together, as well as the rocks.

This exercise is also a great exercise in critical thinking for budding brains-- now if only they wouldn't pick up 14 pieces of brown sandstone...

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