One of my educational goals for these early years is to introduce the basic facts, and then encourage further discovery and exploration of the subject through quality picture books, projects, and field trips. My hope is that these early learning experiences will leave enough impression that learning is fun and when we’re at the middle and upper stage and the subject rolls around again, the kids will remember how much they loved geology (or whatever subject).
Our recent science studies have been all about rocks and minerals. My favorite way to introduce a new subject is with a great book (or three!) and A Rock is Lively was the perfect “gem” to start us off.
The illustrations are beautiful, and the kids especially enjoyed studying the different types of rocks inside the front cover.
One part of the book we thought was interesting was the simple comparison of rocks and cookies. Just like a cookie batter is made of ingredients (sugar, butter, flour), a rock is made of ingredients (minerals). This analogy illustrated the concept so clearly for me (again, reinforcing how much I’m learning right along with them!), and then inspired a baking activity! We had a yummy time making chocolate chunk “rock cookies.”
These got us excited about taking advantage of a sunny fall afternoon so we took a little “field trip” to a nearby stream bed to collect rocks. Most of our collection were just muddy clay pieces, but we were excited to find a few with small shell fossils. Even more excited when Ryan speculated these must be sedimentary rocks. Yay for applying book knowledge!
We also got in plenty of rock throwing and pebble skipping practice, staying until the sun went behind the trees and our fingers were numb from the chilly mud-covered stones.
After the rock collecting excursion, we washed our treasures and then spent time observing. We compared differences and similarities, and discussed and sorted into simple properties like color, texture, size, hardness, and luster.
This activity is a good example of adapting a unit to different age groups. The older kids sorted by hardness and luster, while our preschooler practiced her size and color sorting skills. (I printed the sorting sheets on colored cardstock and then laminated them so they can be re-used for other sorting activities.)
Next the kids chose a favorite rock from our “collection” and we spent the next few days going through the writing process, describing and writing sentences about their favorite rocks.
We also talked about different ways rocks could be used and went on a little “scavenger hunt” around our neighborhood looking for ways rocks had been used (cement sidewalks, brick houses, glass windows, gravel driveways, etc.). The kids illustrated their findings.
Then, just for fun, we read about a silly way a rock was used in the story of Stone Soup. And of course, “Stone Soup” seemed appropriate for dinner!
During this two-week rock exploration, a friend told us about a stream-bed near their house that was full of geodes. Never thought I’d be so giddy about gathering hardened balls of clay, yet there I was–rushing the kids out in threatening-to-rainstorm weather for an impromptu field trip. We collected a small bucket-full, and then came home to break them open. Best time, ever.
Spending time with my kids reading, writing, and exploring rocks has been a perspective-changing experience, again reinforcing that this homeschooling journey isn’t just about getting the workbooks done or surviving the day, but it’s about the time we’re spending together and the relationships we’re building.
Part two of our rock study is all about the Rock Cycle, adapting a unit for different ages/stages, and the things my 3rd grader learned as we took our rock study a bit “deeper. . . .”