Once again, there is so much to do when learning about rocks and minerals. It's one of my favorite topics. Even as a child, I loved rocks, and my mother collected rocks from all over the world. Whenever a friend was going to be traveling somewhere, Mom would ask them to bring back a rock for her, and it seemed as though everyone did. She numbered them and kept a list of where each one came from. Many of them migrated to her beautiful rock garden. When one of my sons became interested, I was thrilled to jump into the topic again. Now, when you visit my gardens, you'll find all kinds of treasures hidden around my yard as well.
We collected gems and ordinary rocks. We found quartz and granite in our own backyard, took a trip to Thatcher Park and hunted for fossils, went to the Herkimer Diamond Mine, Howe Caverns and the lesser known Secret Caverns, my personal favorite with it's 100 foot underground waterfall. We also went to The Petrified Sea Gardens which is owned by the quarry and is (sadly) now closed. There we found fossils of algae that grew at the sea bottom. They look like fossilized flat roses. You can still find some of these spectacular 500-million-year-old fossil formations, called Stromatolites, at Lester Park in Saratoga Springs. We also took a trip to Shelburne Falls, Massachusets to visit the glacial potholes found there. These were formed when the glaciers melted creating whirlpools of rocks and gravel that dug round holes through the rocks. When we went there, you could still walk out onto the rocks and swim, but alas, like so many things, they stopped allowing that because of too many injuries. However, Shelburne Falls is a fascinating place to visit anyway with a glass blower, a flower bridge and a great sandwich shop right on the main drag. All of these places have great educational materials for you to browse.
Then, don't forget about our own NYS Museum and they're amazing collection of rocks and minerals. We also have a local rock and mineral club that hosts a show at the museum every winter. They also hold their meetings there the first Thursday of each month during the school year. This club is geared more toward adults, but if you're interested in rocks, it's worth checking out.
Here's another resource to find places to hunt for fossils: https://www.newyorkupstate.com/attractions/2015/09/fossil_digs_in_upstate_new_york_5_places_to_look.html
In addition to potential field trips, which are numerous, there are simple experiments that can be done. Epsom Salt crystals are easy and inexpensive to grow.
Epsom Salt Crystal Materials
What You Do:
Here's a site on how to make salt & vinegar crystals: https://layers-of-learning.com/salt-and-vinegar-crystals/
Of course, we made lots of rock candy, which are just sugar crystals, and what kid doesn't love sugar? You can flavor them, color them or just grow them plain. They are simple to make, but it's important to follow the directions. Basically, all you need to make rock candy is sugar and hot water.
The color of your crystals will depend on the type of sugar you use (raw sugar is more golden and refined granulated sugar) and whether or not you add coloring. Any food-grade dye will work.
Rock Candy Materials
Check out this site for how to grow alum crystals. And, if you love these experiments and want to do more, there are plenty of kits to buy with all of the materials you need. There are magic rock kits and kits that have you growing crystals on absorbant paper. These have been popular with my family especially during the winter holidays. The main thing is, be sure to have lots of fun while exploring the exciting world of rocks and minerals.
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