Rock On

by Stefani on 25-November-2008

We went to a rock show a few weeks ago, and let me just tell you that even though this show featured actual rocks and minerals and fossils, not guitarists and strobe lights, my children came away as devoted as any bunch of groupies ever was. 

Seriously, if they could hang posters on their walls of their favorite band of rocks, wear t-shirts emblazoned with the name and date of the show to prove that they were there, if they could have shouted "Rocks Rocks Rocks Rocks!" at the end of the show with their mama's cell phone held high, hoping for an encore, they would have. 

We're upfront at least, with our geekiness. We wear it proudly. 

Friends, my men are suddenly, irrevocably, certifiably NUTS about rocks, minerals and fossils and they don't care who knows it. 

I give you exhibit A: 
 

Rock Project

This is their recent work in identifying various pieces of their collections. They pore over the field guides and usually spout a stream of "Mama, did you know….?" afterward. 

"Did you know that the Texas capitol building is made of granite?" 

"Did you know that you can find crystals in plain old rocks like this? They aren't diamonds though. Don't get excited." 

"Did you know this is REAL dried lava? Like from a REAL volcano?"

And "did you know that calcite bubbles when you put a little acid on it?" This last factoid is the reason that my bottle of vinegar is about empty. They will be getting their own eye-dropper bottles full to test to their heart's content. 

See, we live in the land of limestone, and calcite LOVES to grow on limestone. We have gobs of those tiny crystals hidden away inside the rocks right in our yard! 

So on Christmas day, I'm going to send them out to the yard with their new hammers (check out these fabulous, perfect for little hands, hammers) and vinegar to bang and squirt, bang and squirt. 

Their love of rocks led to lots of questions about how crystals are formed, so we've been trying out various crystal growing techniques. 

Crystal Growing

It's been so much fun, and since many of the ingredients come in sizes MUCH larger than the few tablespoons that you need to grow a crystal, my boys thought that crystal growing kits would make nice gifts for their friends. 

Grow Your Own

Inside this particular one is an instruction card, of course, about 6 Tablespoons of borax (to mix with a cup and a half of hot water, one tablespoon at a time until mostly dissolved), a string on which you tie one of the buttons that come in the jar and a popsicle stick to hang the string from. The button dangles in the Borax water for several hours, and voila, crystals grow right on the button and string!

There are many other recipes online that use alum, Epsom salts and such, so my guys are thinking of giving "sets" of several different kinds to try. 

As for evidence of the fossil mania, well, here's Exhibit B: 

T Rex (in Legos)

Even the Legos are being commissioned in the grand rock and fossil fest that we've got going here. That's my Lego Master, and his recent piece, the T-Rex. 

We did an experiment to see just how fossils are formed, and how archeologists work to uncover fossils. Again, our project has evolved into a gift idea for friends. 

You just save up some small throw-away containers (think butter, cream cheese boxes, yogurt and the like), and find some small bugs, sea creatures, and dinosaurs (check your local party store). Then you mix up some plaster of Paris and pour it in the little containers. Last, push the creatures right into the plaster until they are covered. 

Making Fossils 

Let them harden for a couple of hours. Hand your favorite paleontologist one of those fabulous little hammers and a nice big paint brush, and let them chip and brush away. (note that the hammer has small screw drivers inside that can be used as chisels). 

If you're very careful, you can get your critter out and leave a nice "fossil" behind. 

Prehistoric Ginormous Fly Fossil

Several of these, the little hammers and some great used books about fossils and dinosaurs are sure to find their way under our tree. 

Next up – ideas for the young naturalist… 

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