Pre-K Geologists

One of the questions that we’ve been working on answering is “where do rocks come from?”. At the museum, we learned that some rocks come from volcanoes but the students weren’t completely sure what that meant, so we decided to do some more research. After looking at some books about volcanoes, we learned that when lava comes out of a volcano and hardens, it becomes an Igneous rock. We also learned that depending on how fast or slow the lava cools, it can become different types of Igneous rock. Sometimes when the lava is leaving the volcano, small to large gas bubbles get caught in the molten rock. When the lava hardens, the hollow interior can often get filled with mineral rich fluids which allows crystals to grow. This is what we call a geode.

This week, during center time, the students have been putting on their geologist hats (or more accurately geologist goggles) to see what a geode really looks like before, during, and after they are opened. We spent some time learning about how to be safe with our materials, as the children would be using a real hammer. The children started by using very gentle taps on their rock just as the instructions had detailed. After several attempts, we decided to use a little bit more force. After some trial and error, we found just the right amount of pressure that was needed to split the geodes open revealing different types and patterns of crystals. Some were white and swirly, while others were clear and hexagonal. We even saw some that were black and gray. The students then worked together to try and decide what type of crystals were inside their geodes by comparing them to the pictures in our guide. The students decided that some were very common crystals and others were very rare. We very excited to see what the last few geodes hold inside.


The Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems

Today, our class took our first field trip to the Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems to learn more about what types of materials are used to make jewelry. As we walked through the exhibit, the students noticed the many similarities and differences between the various rocks and gems. Some were smooth and round while others were rough and jagged. There were many different colors and some specimens had several types of crystals existing on one rock. We learned that some rocks come from cooled lava and others come from sand. We even got to see some rocks glow under a UV light and were surprised to see that they glowed different colors. We also had a chance to see what the gems look like when they are polished and cut so that they can be used for jewelry. Many students were surprised how many different types and colors there were.

While the trip helped the children to see the variety of materials that are used to make jewelry, it also opened the door for new questions for us to answer. Where can you find gems other than in caves? What are the gems made from? How do they cut the gems? How do they get the gems to stay inside the jewelry? These are all wonderful questions that we hope to answer as we move forward in our study of jewelry.

Overheard at the Rock Bin

J: It looks like it has purple diamonds because it has tons of sparkles.
D: This is a star rock. It comes from a star.
J: This is silver, it’s shiny. See those shines on it? Let’s show what we wrote down to the class.
Y: This rock is slippery.
J: This is black like the dark sky. It’s slippery kind of. This shape is like a piece of pizza.
Y: This is a big rock.
Mrs. Forst: Where did it come from?
Y: It came from a meteor.
C: This is an “F” rock. It doesn’t have any lines. It just flew from Mars to here.
J: It has holes in it and it’s kind of sparkly and smooth.

Photo Shoot

We decided to try something new this week.  While collecting our rocks and talking about them has been quite enlightening, we weren’t sure how to share our collection with everyone at home.  Then, during a fabulous “a-ha” moment, Mrs. Pless and I decided that the easiest way to share would be with pictures!  So, I hurried up and did some quick research to find a good, simple camera for the children to use.   I did look at the type that are designed for toddlers, but found that the reviewers all were depressed about the quality of the images.  Therefore, I went with a camera designed for button-phobic adults.  It has only three buttons, no zoom, and so few options it might be criminal.  However, it’s perfect for Pre-K students.

Off we went in groups of three, each with a “Pre-K camera” and me, with my own, on an outdoor excursion.  After some very brief directions,

  1. Always keep the ribbon on your wrist.
  2. The circle button turns it on.
  3. The oval button takes a picture.

I set them free to capture their world.  Following some lovely portraits of trees, sidewalk, pumpkins, and the side of  my head, I gave them an assignment.  Find the most beautiful , most interesting rocks they could find and take pictures of each one.  A few children quickly shot ten or more rocks while others took pictures of only a couple in between more photos of trees and other interesting objects.

The most difficult part followed as I tried to keep each child’s photo’s separate and labeled as I downloaded them.  Here is an example of one. Originally, the child’s name was under this rock, but I edited it out for this post.

This week, we are printing all of their photos and using them in the writing center.  They will choose their favorites and place them in a rock journal.  The plan is that they will write about their favorite rocks so that they can share their books with you later.

Stone Soup

Following along with our rock study, Mrs. Pless led the class in a reenactment of  Stone Soup (here is a version similar to the one we read).  After reading the story, each child was given a bag of pre-chopped veggies.  Mrs. Pless played the part of “Jack”, the town visitor, and knocked at each child’s “door” to see if they had anything to add to the soup.  Eventually each child added their portion to the pot.  After some generous stirring, the pot was moved to the top of the loft, declared off-limits, and left to stew for the majority of the day.

We were quite excited to see that almost everyone was willing to try the soup.  Yet, the best part that all but two who tried it thought that it was delicious!  If you are interested in the recipe, it can be found here.

Rock ‘n’ Roll

One of our centers this week asked the children to look closely at the attributes of our rock collection.  “Which ones will roll?” was posed as the main problem.  However, this wasn’t quite so simple as it seemed.  First, they had to decide what might cause a rock to roll. Second, the shape of the rock needed to be considered.

Some children suggested that wind was important to rolling.  A few experiments later, they found that although we can occasionally blow on a tiny rock hard enough to move it, it generally doesn’t roll by air power alone.

A few suggested that shaking and throwing a rock would cause it to roll. (I think this came from our use of dice last week.)  After a quick discussion about the safety of this experiment, it was unanimously decided that though this option might work, it was too dangerous to try in our classroom.

Eventually, the inclusion of hills was suggested by one child.  Ramps and slopes galore appeared in the block area.  Above you can see Mrs. Pless helping a small group observe and analyze a single rock as it goes down the incline.  Did it roll or just slide?  If it didn’t roll, why not?  We haven’t completely solved this riddle yet, but we’re well on our way.  We’ve certainly seen this replicated outside with balls on the hill.  It’s interesting that the students have not made the connection between the rolling balls and the mostly sliding rocks.  Roundness is an attribute that we’ve not quite pegged, yet.

While keeping track of which rocks rolled, they children also practiced their use of tallies to keep a record.  As you can see, we use basic, one-to-one tally systems in Pre-K.  At this point, we are most interested in seeing that each roll is recorded with only one line.  We also practice re-counting our recordings by assigning only one number to each line as we count.