Thursday, August 19, 2004

We went up for a visit to the University of Maryland Geology Department today with our 4-H Rock Hounds club. The kids had a good time, though Emily, unfortunately, started feeling sick on the ride up, so she didn't enjoy it as much as she might have. The graduate students who put together our program set up three wonderful, hands-on learning stations for the kids to explore.

In the paleontology station, the kids were able to touch and hold fossils of fish, coral, wood, and plants among others. They also got to hold models of a mega-raptor claw, carnivor teeth and an arm bone and got to view a real fossilized carnivor tooth and partial whale skeleton. Emily was able to identify the fossilized fish poop and ferns. Julia and Em both really enjoyed this station, and even Sam settled down after a few walks up and down the hallway and enjoyed playing with the models of fossilized carnivore teetch and claws.

In the everday minerals station, the 4-Hers had a chance to explore and make connections between minerals and the ways they're used in homes. They got to handle mica, used in cosmetics; graphite, used in pencils; talc, used in powders and cosmetics; flourite, used in toothpaste; calcite, used in antacids; and others. The kids also got a chance to try panning for galena, similar to panning for gold because of it's high specific gravity. The kids had lots of fun playing in the water, and we found out there are some old gold mines over at Great Falls that we can check out.

In the rocks/gems/minerals station, all the kids had the chance to view the extensive collection housed in the University of Maryland's Gem and Mineral Museum. Throughout the room several stations were set up to explore the different kinds of rocks and minerals. With minerals, the kidds could test their hardness, view them through hand lenses, test with a mild HCl acid and test for magnetic properties. They could also explore different samples of igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks, examine folds, striations and mineral deposits. The kids were able to feel the different textures of the different rocks, compare igneous rocks cooled quickly and slowly, and examine first-hand the changes wrought on metamorphic rocks from their original forms.

By the time we got home, though, Em was sick, so we've spent the rest of the day just relaxing. Right now, we're watching the Olympics in our bed together and Sam's downstairs playing his computer game.

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