Monday, October 26, 2009

Bedrock Samples

Whether it's Nature Study or Geology, it's great having an environmental engineer for an aunt (my sister-in-law.) Not only does she know all the plants in the area, she gives you gifts like pike hammers and bedrock samples. These arrived today. She included an informational sheet as well as a pamphlet about Rhode Island bedrock, complete with a geological map!

These bedrock core samples are the metamorphic rock gneiss formed from granite, distinguishable by its distinct banding. It contains quartz (clear to gray), biotite (black banding), and feldspar (pink.) Some samples may contain flecks of pyrite (Fool's gold.)

The samples are best viewed wet. Why? Think of clear plastic wrap--when you crinkle it, it becomes white because the light is reflected by the countless surfaces it now has. The uneven rock surface (even though these are pretty smooth from the drill) is "smoothed out" by water and so the colors are more intense. This is similar to polishing rocks.

All of these pieces come from the same core sample beginning at about 40 feet deep. Each piece is marked with the depth at which that piece started. The breaks come from pockets of ground water. You can clearly see how the stone changes with depth. Yoou can't tell in these pictures but the deeper stone clearly contains a lot more feldspar than the more superficial stone, which has more biotite banding.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

AtHomeScience Yahoo Group

Click to join AtHomeScience

Finally, I have activated the Yahoo Group that I created back when I created this blog. I've added a button to the sidebar if you would like to join. Here is the description:

Everyone is welcome! This group has many Catholic members, including the moderator; as a result, please keep the following in mind:

Please no discussions about "young earth" or "Creationism" and please note if a resource has that perspective. I greatly appreciate families of faith with this perspective; however, information about these resources are available elsewhere, and discussions on this topic tend to get extensive and are without resolution.

Many wonderful secular resources will be discussed, and most of them have no reference to Christianity. Those that do will be discussed in light of their view on Christianity. On some occasions, discussions about Science and Catholicism will take place as well. Any anti-Catholic comments will no be posted.

May this list be a blessing to your own science homeschooling journey!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Geology Study Resources

We are taking up earth science at our house this year, and we are exploring it with our small co-op (3 families, 11 children under age 11, 8 of which are school-aged) We have had a lot of fun so far investigating geology, so I thought I would share some of my resources.

I am using Be Your Own Rock & Mineral Expert by Michele Pinet as our spine. This thin hardcover works well to outline lessons, including activities. It is particularly good at describing techniques and making tools for rock hunting, and then for testing samples. You will need other sources for specific identification. Unfortunately this book is out-of-print and quite expensive; my copy is from our library. This is actually geared to high school kids but it is easy enough to adapt.

I have found several wonderful living science books, most of them written 20 or more years ago. Many of these, however, are still in print and some have even been updated! In fact, the only two on this page that are out of print are the books by Pinet and Selsam.

Some of these are strictly about rocks and minerals while some relate to the rock cycle or the earth's composition. I find it helps kids understand and distinguish igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks. One of our family's favorite authors is Milliscent Selsam, and A First Look At Rocks is no exception. The black and white pictures have obvious limitations, but the writing is just spectacular juvenile science. The book is a great introduction to the three types of rocks and the characteristics of each, so you can go out and start classifying your finds. Her books, unfortunately, are out of print but they are readily available on the used book market. Another favorite of ours are books from the Let's Read and Find Out series; two of them relate to our geology study.

As for actual pictorial identification, rock and mineral books are plentiful on library shelves. We happen to like the Basher Science books because they are so whimsical, the information is in bite-sized pieces, and my kids love to look at them, and the newest addition is Rocks and Minerals: A Gem of a Read.

We have subscriptions to Discovery Streaming, which has many related videos, though I liked the ones from United Streaming that I could link to for free from this neat site about the rock cycle called Rocks to Soil.

We also use Explore Learning, which has some great Gizmos. The Rock Classification Gizmo and the Rock Cycle Gizmo and the Mineral Identification Gizmo all fit right into our study. You can try them for 5 minutes at a time for free each time you visit the site, and Homeschool Buyer's Co-op is currently offering a group buy.

Our little class is about to move on to collecting and testing sample. I even bough a small amount of HCl from Home Science Tools for when we get to mineral identification. I hope the weather doesn't get too cold yet!


How could I forget these three wonderful books (thanks Jennifer!):