Rock Hunting with Children

Even though there are many online resources that provide background information about rocks and minerals, finding ones appropriate for young learners can be challenging. However, since children seem to have a natural fascination with rocks, it’s probably best for them to learn about rocks through hands-on experiences. How many of you have childhood memories of going to a museum or science center to look at displays of rocks? Do you remember the first time you saw a display showing rocks under ultraviolet light, causing the minerals to fluoresce in bright rainbow colors?

Children have a natural interest in making displays and categorizing rocks on their own. Whether the rocks are kept in a shoebox, collected in a bag, or more formally displayed in a case, there are many learning opportunities in collecting, comparing, and studying the nature of rocks at any age. Taking this perspective, we searched around to see what opportunities are available for parents and teachers to explore rocks and minerals with their children.

Explore Rocks and Minerals with Children

Some suggestions for engaging, informal, hands-on experiences:

  • Go to your local museum or interpretive center. Exhibits, displays, and classes on rocks and minerals are a common topic for hands-on learning at many of these centers.
  • Purchase rock and mineral kits or go to a rock and mineral store. One online site with reasonable prices is run by young people: Rocks for Kids.
  • Find rocks in the “wild.” Rock guides such as Smithsonian Handbooks: Rocks & Minerals or the Roadside Geology Series are useful in identifying and learning about rocks with your children.
  • Attend a gem and mineral show. The largest shows in the United States occur in Denver and Tucson where gem and mineral dealers from around the world sell their collections. Spend time talking with the highly knowledgeable vendors at shows. At some shows, educational booths sponsored by organizations such as the U.S. Geological Survey provide additional context for learning.
  • Contact a local geological society. Some chapters have volunteers who can present at schools or community centers.

Online Resources

Geo Mysteries: Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
This online exhibit offers an interactive tutorial on geology with sections related to a geologic timeline, FAQ, and fossils.

KidsGeo: Identification Game
An interactive game challenges players to identify different rocks based on their pictures and descriptions.

This article was written by Robert Payo. For more information, see the Contributors page. Email Kimberly Lightle, Principal Investigator, with any questions about the content of this site.

Copyright September 2008 – The Ohio State University. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0733024. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. This work is licensed under an Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons license.

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