Archive for the ‘Gems & Minerals’ Category

Pre-Class Prep Materials for the Crystals Class

NOTE: We will be cracking open geodes in class so please wear long pants, closed toed shoes, and bring eye protection if you have it. We’ll also have some eye protection to borrow. If you have geodes that you would like to share you’re welcome to bring them to class, but please put your name on them using masking tape.



  • Crystallography
  • Crystal
  • Crystallization
  • Atom
  • Crystal systems
  • Geode

 For All Ages:

http://www.ccmr.cornell.edu/education/ask/?quid=742 this is a Question and Answer page, from Cornell, all about how crystals from. It’s all text so you may need to read this to younger students.

http://skywalker.cochise.edu/wellerr/students/crystals/project.htm this is a good page all about the different shapes of crystals. We’ll be making these shapes in class (for 8-12’s)!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=laMZAJ2L_1Y Here is a 10 min. video from Discovery Channel all about the giant crystals found in the Naica Crystal Cave in Mexico. It will amaze you!

http://homechemistry.blogspot.com/2010/03/salt-crystal-trees.html this is a great laboratory protocol for growing salt crystal trees at home. It’s quite easy and done with household items.

For Parents:

http://www.hometrainingtools.com/captivating-crystals-newsletter/a/1564/ this page had a neat background on crystals (at the bottom) and at the top it has two different recipes for growing crystals at home, and comparing crystal growth between borax and sugar.

Who is the Infinite Spider?

Some of you may have noticed that I am posting with the name “The Infinite Spider.” This is actually my personal blog user name, through which I am running about four other blogs for Home School, Volunteers, Estuary Chesapeake, and my own blog.

You are welcome to check out my blog or follow the postings at http://theinfinitespider.wordpress.com/.  The blog is for  those who love nature and those teaching science and nature classes. IF YOU NEED A GOOD LIST OF PLACES TO BUY SCIENCE RELATED CHRISTMAS GIFTS OR CLASSROOM SUPPLIES check out the Nature Gifts and Teaching Supplies tab.

I Need Pictures of the Crab Hydraulics Class, Can You Help?

I would like to write a short article for the SERC blog or newsletter about our blue crab hydraulics class. If you have any pictures that you’d be willing to share please send them to me at McDonaldK@si.edu. Thanks!

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For the second class of Rocks, Gems, and Minerals we do not need students to bring in anything to exchange, though they may bring in minerals and gems that they would like to share. Please be sure that they bring anything to share in clearly labeled containers with names on them so that there is no confusion.



  • Rock
  • Mineral
  • Gem
  • Mineralogy
  • Luster
  • Specific gravity
  • Crystal form
  • Cleavage
  • Fracture
  • Tenacity
  • Hardness
  • Transparency
  • Friable
  • Lapidary
  • Gemologist
  • Carat

Resources for Everyone (5-12 yr.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8a7p1NFn64s this video (10:21) is a great introduction to the properties of minerals.

http://geopubs.wr.usgs.gov/open-file/of00-144/ download the poster “Minerals in our Environment” from the USGS and learn about how we use minerals in our everyday lives.

http://www.mnh.si.edu/earth/text/2_0_0.html check out the gems and minerals page from the Smithsonian. Click around to the different links.

http://www.minerals.net/ a neat guide to gems and minerals.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqbiXx4KOcQ a catchy song about rocks, gems, and minerals (old school).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-bw7_u3gSQ here’s a short video about testing the hardness of minerals (1:19) it’s not professionally done but a good reference.

8-12 yr. olds

http://www.mineralogy4kids.org/ here’s a good overview site of “Mineralogy for Kids,” again, it’s a bit texty but interesting.

http://core.ecu.edu/geology/woods/MineralPropertiesExplain.htm this page had a lot of text, but the content is good. It’s best for older kids but a good start.


http://facweb.bhc.edu/academics/science/harwoodr/geol101/labs/minerals/ this page is for advanced students, but a great resource. It would probably be best for high schoolers, but the identification quiz is great.

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Missed Class Schedule, Updates, and Rocks,

Gems and Minerals Block 2 Pre-Class


Thank you for your patience during furlough. This will be a bit longer post than usual so please bear with me. We need to address the missed classes, some changes, and pre-class materials for Block 2: Rocks, Gems, and Minerals class.

For those that missed the final class in the Ecosystems on the Edge Block of classes

We will be offering two make-up dates for the class, on Thursday, October 31st and Friday, November 1st at the normal times (9-10 am for 5-7 yr. olds on both dates, 10:30am-Noon both dates, and 1:30-3 pm on Thursday only).

You may sign up online at: www.SignUpGenius.com/go/10C0D4DACAB2CA7FA7-make. If you have questions contact me McDonaldK@si.edu.

If you cannot make either of these dates please e-mail me. We are still receiving guidance about how refunds or credits will be issued. If you wish you may donate the program cost to SERC Education, otherwise I will update you when I receive more information. Please let me know your choice when you e-mail.

Film Class Make Up:

For those in the film class we will meet at our next regularly scheduled date/time. However I will be adding one additional date, January 16th to our schedule, and we will push everything back one date.

NOTE: Because of feedback from students and parents I will be offering, in the next class, to allow students to break up into smaller groups of 2 students. Students may remain in their larger groups, or if distance and time dictates break up into smaller units. However, this may mean more work for each student. Please consider this carefully with your students before arriving in class. We will discuss this as a class and decide on final groupings. If students do break into smaller groups they may keep their original topic, or re-submit a pre-production proposal. This must be approved by me before continuing!

Homework for next class:

HOMEWORK FOR OCTOBER 24TH: Turn in final Pitch for documentary with the following for your pitch:

  • Topic
  • Goal of documentary
  • Summary paragraph
  • 3 sections of arc
  • Highlight for story boarding and have a rough draft of your story board ready to turn in.

You are going to have to communicate with your film crew to accomplish this homework. Please be sure to have some means to communicate with them, either digital, phone, or in person meeting lined up.

READ: Chapter 7 in “Shut up and Shoot” about interviewing.

Student Citizen Science Data/Math Opportunity with Bluebird Population Data:

I have an opportunity for one or two students that are proficient in Excel, to do some mathematics and modeling using real life data. We’ve collected bluebird nesting data for the last 6 years (2008-present). We would like to graph this data and do some visualization of population trends. If your student is working in Excel or might be interested in adding this to their curriculum please let me know. It can be done at home. Probably would be best suited for ages 13+. Please e-mail me with question (McDonaldK@si.edu).

Rocks, Gems, and Minerals Block: Class 1 (Rocks) Pre-Class Materials

For those of you new to the SERC Home school experience, below are materials to help prepare you for our classes. If you are registered for the Rocks, Gems, and Minerals block of classes please have your student complete the following vocabulary and visit the following websites before class on 10/24.

Please be sure to join the SERC Home School blog http://www.serc.si.edu  to receive regular updates about classes, including pre-class materials and weather updates.




  • Rock cycle
  • Volcano
  • Magma
  • Plate tectonics
  • Igneous rock
  • Metamorphic rock
  • Sedimentary rocks
  • Erosion
  • Weathering


All Ages:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Xv1DoqkARQ Watch this video (23:05) on Rocks by Bill Nye (my favorite!). You may wish to try the Epsom salt exercise in the video at home. It takes about 24 hours to set.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pg_jKJFbA2A&list=PLDEQMJ4WTcWohAvf48MWaGaIjOoK8FQLE here’s a quick video (8:36) about the three different types of rock. You should watch this before trying the rock hound quiz.

http://www.fi.edu/fellows/fellow1/oct98/create/index.html explore the three links to discover how the three types of rocks are formed.

http://www.fi.edu/fellows/fellow1/oct98/expert/index.html study the rocks (in red) and then take the “Rock Hound Quiz” at the bottom of the page to see if you can tell which is igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wv4M4wror58 a catchy rock cycle song to Lady Gaga’s “Made this Way”

Ages 5-7

If you wish to supplement or replace the Bill Nye episode you may wish to watch Part 1 and 2 of the Magic School Bus on Rocks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IqvsYxVFNlE

http://www.magicalchildhood.com/activities/rockcycle_ns.htm Here is a coloring page that might be helpful for younger students.

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