Getting Kids into Rockhounding
by Sherri Chekal
Kids and rocks mix naturally, so helping them become rockhounds is a fun and easy way to get them thinking and learning about the world around us. When my two children were younger (and therefore much closer to the ground!), they were always finding and showing me the beautiful sparkly finds of quartzite and mica flecked stones.
You can easily encourage that activity and build a lifelong hobby in the process. It's amazing how many varieties of rocks and minerals that you can find in common locations.
It doesn't take a lot of tools and other resources to start a rock and mineral collection with your children. Any old cigar box or an egg carton can be the start for a wonderful collection. We like to use an inexpensive embroidery floss box that you can get at any craft store for less than $2. They are sturdy, stack nicely and allow your children to separate and label them if they wish.
Good children's guides to rocks and minerals can be found in any bookstore. One of our favorites is the National Audubon Society First Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals by Edward Ricciuti. It's very helpful for beginning rock hounds to have nice, large colorful pictures to help you ID your finds.
Neat books to get you started
The Practical Geologist: The Introductory Guide to the Basics of Geology and to Collecting and Identifying Rocks by Dougal Dixon
Smithsonian Handbooks: Rocks & Minerals (Smithsonian Handbooks) by Chris Pellant
Geology Rocks!: 50 Hands-On Activities to Explore the Earth (Kaleidoscope Kids) by Cindy Blobaum and Michael Kline
Rocks and Minerals (Eye Wonder) by DK Publishing
Geology Crafts For Kids: 50 Nifty Projects to Explore the Marvels of Planet Earth, by Alan Anderson, Gwen Diehn, and Terry Krautwurst
There are lots of websites that will help you to find great local spots for rockhounding. Some of our favorites are:
Bob’s Rock Shop – The first ‘Zine for Mineral collectors and rockhounds
A site just for kids to learn more about rocks, minerals and fossils.
Great site for up to the minute neat articles about rockhounding.
World center and international website for rockhounds and treasure hunters.
In your local area
My family is fortunate to live in Ohio, where there is a large Devonian period limestone deposit that can only be found in two spots in the world. It's great for fossil hunting! You might be surprised to find out what native geology surprises await you and your family with just a short little drive.
Young children will adore going on a nature walk and rock hound dig. We like to pack a lunch and grab our gear in an old backpack and spend hours walking along beaches or in rocky outcroppings in the park or woods. We always bring our guide book to help identify your special treasures.
Check the local rockhound club's websites and find out when they are holding their meetings and digs! Our local club often gets permission to enter quarries on a special day for a few hours. Those trips are fantastic and usually a member of the quarry staff will come down and point out the unique specimens available and help the club enjoy the dig!
Teaching classification of rocks
Here are some facts you should know to get started:
It’s easy to get started teaching your kids about geology. It’s important to understand that there are many types of geological specimens and that they all have families or groups they belong to. It’s very important to have a good basic guide book to help you. There are rocks, minerals, crystals, fossils, organic materials such as amber, coal and petrified wood and occasionally a mixture of these. There are many specific classifications of these specimens as well.
What to tell your kids about the rocks you see outside:
When you are out searching for specimens with your children, some of the things to keep in mind are color, weight, shape, and appearance. You can go further into your examination by learning about the MOHS hardness scale, which is information found in any god book on geology. Remember that size doesn’t matter much, because nearly any specimen can be broken down to the tinest size.
A small trowel is great when you might want to dig a little for your specimens. Rock picks and hammers are good for older children and make wonderful holiday gifts for your little rock hound! An old toothbrush is great for cleaning up muddy or dirt encrusted rocks. That's all you need to get started!
You can also add to their collections from museum shops, rock stores and online dealers, to try and round out a very special collection. We have found eBay to be a great place to find some fantastic deals on rocks and minerals from all over the world! Children love being able to look for a specific collection piece, find it for a deal and then wait for the mail to bring their treasure to them.
When Buying Rocks
Here's what to look for when you're buying rocks from a web site like Dragon Mountain Treasures or a museum store...here are the questions to ask.
Rock and mineral shows dot the country and are another fantastic way to experience all that the world of rock and mineral collecting can bring. We can't wait for our annual show and it's always delightful to view the exhibits and displays as well as visiting all the dealers and the beautiful specimens they have to offer.
Encouraging your children to become rock hounds is easy, fun and economical, too! It's a great way to get out and enjoy nature and geology as well as a great time for exercise, fresh air and family fun. Pretty soon, you'll be planning your family vacations around hot dig sites and rocky outcroppings on the side of the road! I know this from experience… we do!
Sherri is a homeschooling mom andgraphic artist who helps her daughter run a rock and mineral company for kids, Dragon Mountain Treasures. She loves helping other families get the rockhounding bug like her own family has been bitten! You can learn more at DragonMountainTreasures.com.