Digging into Rocks

I have to confess that my lackluster grade in the lab portion of my Geology 101 class has a lot to do with my attitude toward the Outdoor Hour Nature topic this month.   See, I already know how very wrong I can be when attempting to identify rocks and minerals!  I even considered skipping this month, because we are still doing a lot with trees.  But as the saying goes, “the only difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is the way you use them.”


Fortunately, just before the holidays I happened upon a hardback version of Handbook of Nature Study, from Abe Books at a price just short of the current paper back version.  Eager to put this wonderful new resource to good use, we dug into January Rock Study!  We read through the section on Rocks, and used a few portions for dictation this month.  We use dictation for spelling, so this was a relatively painless way to reiterate the vocabulary of our nature study!  It was interesting to note the minerals that make rocks, think about objects we use today with those elements, and to learn of the relationship of clay to slate, limestone to marble, sandstone to quartz, and coal to diamonds!


From the library we particularly enjoyed Rocks in His Head by Carol Otis Hurst, a picture book that I highly recommend, about a man (the author’s father) who was a life-long rock collector!  The Rock Factory, by Jacquie Bailey, follows the life cycle of a diamond from fiery beginnings (evolutionary material here) to an eventual resting place in a stream where it is picked up by a lucky boy.  Earthshake: Poems from the Ground Up by Lisa Peters with colorful illustrations (that we really liked) by Cathie Felstead, offers twenty-two poems of a geological nature.  We enjoyed Instructions for the Earth’s  Dishwasher, and chuckled at Earth Charged in Meteor’s Fiery Death.   The author’s Endnotes briefly explain the geologic process or concept behind each poem.


Since the Garners are not in possession of a good Rock and Mineral Guide  at the moment, I chose to focus on the rock cycle.  Our world is cyclical – with water cycles, oxygen, carbon and nitrogen cycles, life cycles, planetary cycles, the same is true for rocks.  We see this in a mild way at Middle Ridge when a field we cleared of stone one year, is full of stones the next.  GraceNotes worked with the interactive Rock Cycle at Learner.org and then sketched the Rock Cycle to include in her Nature Journal.

Rock Sketches
Rock Sketches

GraceNotes has always picked up rocks, and still does!  But when we went looking for rocks on our nature walk, none were compelling, so she pulled a few of her favorites from our bookshelf nature display.  From among the rocks that she and #1 Son picked up at the various spots on our North Carolina Blue Ridge vacation, she chose to sketch three that she remembered finding at Looking Glass Falls.  Then we speculated on what type they might be, and where they fit in the rock cycle:  igneous, metamorphic or sedimentary.  But we will humbly await a firm identification until I have a good resource.

As I was wrapping up our month with rocks I was just a little bit dismayed at all of the questions that we still have unanswered, until I realized that like the enthusiastic father in the book Rocks in His Head, we have years to increase our understanding of rocks and minerals!

Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher.

This post was prepared for the Outdoor Hour Challenge blog carnival, hosted by Handbook of Nature Study blog.  Please click over and see how other families get outside and learn about God’s wonderful creation!

6 thoughts on “Digging into Rocks

  1. I totally agree with you about rocks…I am hopeless at identifying them but I think it is because I haven’t learned how to look for clues yet, sort of like I used to think all evergreens were pines. 🙂

    I decided that the best to handle it was to just take it one rock at a time and be happy with knowing a few rocks really well. I love that you decided to focus on the rock cycle because I think understanding that gives us clues to identifying rocks we find in our local area.

    Thanks Sara for sharing your rock study with the OHC carnival. I really enjoyed reading it.

  2. I am rock challenged, too. Sad to say I started out as a Geology major in college. I have ILL’d two of the books you mentioned – Rocks in His Head (we live about 1/2 hour from Springfield) and the book of poetry. (Peters has some other books on the water cycle and mountain formation and erosion, both illustrated by the late, great Ted Rand. I just LOVE his work).

    The drawing of the rock cycle is fantastic!


  3. Ooh! Love this! Just the other day we went on an “adventure”, our word for any impromptu day trip, where we choose our route and head out with a picnic looking for adventure! We traveled a river in our area, visiting a fish hatchery, stopping to skip rocks, visit an old abandoned church yard and had a picnic with friends who live along the way! Anyway we found so many cool rocks to add to our collection. My son really wants to learn more about identifying rocks. So glad I happened upon your post! It’s inspiring me to delve right in. I love your blog……I think I’ll be visiting often, you sound like a woman after my own heart!

    1. Thanks for stopping by and leaving such a nice comment! I think you would also get a lot out of Handbook of Nature Study blog! You can sign up for the monthly newsletter which provides a topic of focus for each month. Many participants blog their adventures for the carnival, which is a great way to get new ideas!

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