Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Rock Identification Key

    Bears Elective 12f: collect, mount, and identify 10 rocks or minerals. 
    Our Bear Leader wanted something easy to understand and simple to do to teach his Bears how to identify rocks without having to gather them around the computer to look at pictures or for interactive identification.  Something he can print and take outside in the rock's natural setting.
Here is the identification key they used.
   Need: a nail, diluted hydrochloric (muriatic) acid, glass dropper, identification key, and at least one rock
   Preparation: We got softball-size to cantelope-sized rocks from the side of the road, by a lake, construction sites, etc. and broke them with a hammer (before the boys got there) to give each boy a piece. Hint: The boys like the bigger rocks, but they should be small enough pieces to fit in the egg carton section.  (You need to see the newly-broken inside for the test.) We also gave each boy an egg carton for their display.  We used regular, unpolished rocks they see every day on the ground.  After this activity, rocks will mean a lot more to them (and the leaders) and will look different from one another (the rocks).

*Remember, the Cub Scout Motto is: Do Your Best.  They don't have to get it right at 9 years old to pass it off, they just have to give a concentrated effort and Do Their Best. This test for rock i.d. is only as accurate as the judge.  My college son is much more accurate than I am at answering the questions.  Even if I (or a 9-year-old) identify a rock wrong, we have still learned:
   1) how rocks are made
   2) ways rocks are identified  (types, size of grains, hardness, how they break, react heavily to acid or not,etc)
   3) rocks are often different on the inside than on the outside (for instance, they all looked like common gray household rocks to me until we broke them and placed the different rocks in side-by-side sections of an egg carton and saw all the different colors, designs, and sizes of grains)
   4) to better appreciate the rocks, their similarities and differences, that I walk past every day

Getting philosophical:  Maybe in the process, somewhere down deep, they will grow their consciousness by applying these above lessons (maybe unconsciously) to appreciating differences in other things like animals ..... or science ..... or games ..... or people.

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