Investigation and Modeling in Geology
The second and third grade groups just wrapped up a hands-on geology study. They used their rock star investigative skills to identify common minerals and made models to simulate different ways that rocks form. Students observed the properties of ten mysterious mineral samples before holding a scientific summit. At the summit, they used all of the evidence gathered over the previous weeks and worked together to identify the samples by name.
In addition to these tests, students recorded information about color, streak color, luster, odor, texture, shape and relative weight. We talked about why people study rocks and minerals (“Because it’s fun!” “Because you could use minerals to do things.”) and why people might become interested in geology. Students looked for objects in the classroom made from rocks and minerals and some of these scavenger hunt lists included more than 40 items! We went on rock hikes to find specimens that were particularly interesting and smashed them open with hammers to see what was inside. In addition to satisfying curiosity and getting to hit things, an added benefit of this activity was that the Moore Building deck was covered in tiny fragments of quartz. The nursery and kindergarten students were thrilled to share all of the “jewels and crystals” they discovered outside!
The second part of our study focused on the rock cycle, especially the three primary ways that rocks are formed. When teaching about processes that students cannot experience directly through observation or experimentation, I try to create classes that include a balance of information from texts, videos, lots of time for discussions, and modeling. As a younger teacher, I sometimes felt uncomfortable during in-depth explanations of more abstract concepts because I didn’t want to inadvertently teach students to “just take my word for it” when describing complicated phenomenon. I was fearful of fostering blind trust in experts and authority. However, I’ve tried to balance this concern with teaching methods that create an open dialogue about how supporting evidence for ideas in science are developed and by being very open about the limits of my own knowledge.
Lastly, we learned out about minerals in our bodies. After finding out about the important role of iron in our blood and why breads and cereals are fortified with extra minerals, students extracted visible amounts of iron from cornflakes.