A Great Idea for Kids!

by John Weidner, MSDC Treasurer

“Hey Mom. What kind of rock is this?”

“I don’t know dear. Why don’t you ask a geologist?”

“Where can I find a geologist to ask?”

“I don’t know Dear.”

Neither do I. But I know where she can find a couple of amateurs who will love her rock and tell her whatever they know.

On January 25, the Kings Park Library in Burke, VA will have its first Junior Geologists Lab. Kids are encouraged to bring in rocks and fossils. We’ll try to identify them, and even if we can’t, we’ll tell them what a neat rock or fossil it is. No big fancy set-up or program, just a couple of mineral collectors and amateur geologists who like kids and rocks.

I’ve thought for a year or so that MSDC should be doing more community outreach. I’ve thought for a year or so that kids would like to have us look at their rocks, but I couldn’t figure out where we could do it. Then at a Kings Park Library book sale, there was a kid playing with two little white pebbles. I asked him if I could see them. They were quartzite. (I don’t know a lot of rocks, but I can recognize quartzite.) We talked about them. I pointed out that one had bigger crystals than the other. We talked about how round they were, that they had rolled down from the top of the Appalachians in a stream and had all the corners knocked off.

Quartzite pebbles

He was thrilled. He wanted to know when I was at the library so he could come talk to me again. His mother was thrilled. She wanted to know when I was at the library so they could come talk to me again. I was thrilled. But I only volunteer at the library on Tuesday mornings, when he is in school.

Well, let’s set up a program to take care of that!

Oh, and the library is thrilled. They like programs that attract kids to the library, especially STEM programs. (STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. There’s a push for STEM in schools, libraries, etc. now-a-days.)

It’s gonna be simple! I’ll bring in a couple neat rocks and fossils for the kids to look at. We’ll have a few quizzes, pictures to color, and geology word searches (many curtesy of the Northern Virginia Mineral Club, as used in the kids’ room in their fall mineral show at George Mason University). And there will be a bunch of us, ready to look at the kids’ rocks and talk about them.

The kids' room at the NVMC mineral show at George Mason University.

Several friends have told me they can’t identify rocks well enough to do this. But you don’t have to! If you can say, “Gee, that’s a neat rock!”, that’s good enough. Talk to the kid about his rock.

“Where did you find it?"

“Did you notice this black spot? I wonder what that is.”

“This is neat. I have no idea what it is.”

And I like the idea that we teach the kids that geologists DON’T know all the answers. The most interesting part of science is looking at what we don’t know.

“Well,” you ask, “What if isn’t an interesting rock?” Silly question! All rocks are interesting. If you have a rock that isn’t interesting, I’d like to see it. I’m interested in what makes it uninteresting.

So why am I telling you this? This newsletter goes out to about 250 people, most of whom don’t live close enough to the Kings Park Library (Fairfax County, Virginia) to come to our junior geologists’ lab. But you do live near a library, and you have lots of kids around you who would love to talk about their rocks. Please consider setting up a club like this in your library. All kids collect rocks. All kids who collect rocks want to talk about their rocks. Let’s encourage them!