Geology is the study of the earth and its history. By studying rocks, you can learn how they were made, their age, and may even find evidence of plants and animals.
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Grow Candy Rock Crystals – Mimic how minerals and rocks, such as calcite and limestone, are formed with this tasty treat! With adult supervision, collect: a jar, string, scissors, pencil, tissue or paper towel, 1 cup water, 2 cups sugar, a pan, and a stirring spoon.
Start by heating the water in the pan – boiling or near boiling is best. Add the sugar to the water a little at a time. Once the sugar has dissolved, you can add more. You will know that the water is saturated with sugar once it will no longer dissolve, and you can see the sugar at the bottom on the pan. Take it off the heat, and let it cool for about 15 minutes while you prepare the jar.
Tie the string to a pencil. If the string is not rough, fray it slightly with the scissors. Then cut the string so that it will not reach the bottom of the jar. Rest the pencil on the top of the jar, letting the string hang down the middle. It should not touch the sides or the bottom.
Pour the cooled sugar mixture into the glass jar. Cover it lightly with a tissue or paper towel and leave in a cool location. Crystals will start to form overnight. After a week, they should be fully formed and ready to eat!
Soil Sorting – Collect soil from three different locations. Make sure you get the surface soil to at least an inch below the surface. Once you have all your samples, spend some time observing them. What do they feel like? Are some gritty and sandy while others are smooth and damp? Soils are made up of three different particle sizes: silt, clay, and sand. Sand is the largest of the particles and will create a gritty feeling soil. It also doesn’t hold water well. Clay is the smallest. It has a smooth texture and holds water well.
Sort your soil in any way you choose. Then find a different way to sort it. How many ways can you come up with to sort your soil?
Make a Water Filter – Soil and rocks act as a natural water filter. This can be easily demonstrated with a few supplies from around your house and adult supervision. Gather a napkin, coffee filter, or cotton ball and large plastic drink bottle Go outside to gather various sizes of rocks, gravel, topsoil, and sand (if available). Cut off the bottom 2 inches of the bottle to create a funnel, and place it a jar or vase with the narrow side down.
Layer the materials you found into the bottle, starting with the cotton ball, napkin, or coffee filter. This layer should be about an inch think. Add an inch of sand, followed by soil, gravel/small rocks, and finally large rocks.
Pour water from a natural source (stream, lake, river) into your filter. Observe what happens. You can make different variations of the filter by omitting any of the components. How does this change the effectiveness of the filter?
More detailed instructions can be viewed on Children’s Science Center’s website.
Create Sandstone – Sandstone is a type of sedimentary rock. It is by created when layers of sand and minerals are compacted. The minerals act as cement and hold the layers of sand together. You can replicate this process at home!
You will need a paper cup, sand, and a mixture of 2 parts water to 1 part Epsom salt. Fill the cup half full of sand, and pack it in with your hand. Slowly add the mixture of water and Epsom salt until all of the sand is wet. Place the cup in a safe place while you wait for it to dry overnight. Once the sandstone feels dry, you can carefully peel away the paper cup. The sandstone may need another 1-3 days to dry completely after being removed from the cup.
Soil in a Jar – Gather various types of soil, dirt, sand, plant matter, and small pebbles. Fill a jar 3/4 full with water. Then add your collected materials until the jar is full. Close the lid and give the jar a good shake. Set it aside for about an hour. After an hour, you may be able to see layers forming. Continue waiting until there are clearly defined layers. What do you notice about them? Is anything floating?
Soil is made up of different particle size. The smallest is clay, followed by silt, then sand. The largest particles will settle first. Clay will settle last. Can you identify these three layers of soil particles in your jar?
Make a Fossil – Fossils are remains of once-living creatures or plants, and they give us a view into how life on Earth once looked. Many fossils are created when a plant or animal dies, and their remains are buried. Hard parts, such as their bones or shells, don’t decay quickly. They can leave behind imprints in the rock or the organic (soft parts) material is replaced by minerals.
Create your own fossil molds using clay, play dough, or salt dough. Roll the dough into a small ball and then press it flat. Press any hard item you want (plastic dinosaurs, shells, etc) into the dough to create an imprint. If using an animal replica, try making tracks by stamping its feet into the dough. Salt dough and clay can be left out to dry and harden.