Thursday, 18 April 2013

Choosing the Right Resources

We have decided that we want to learn about rocks. To be honest, this is mostly my decision, but based on things that I've seen the boys get enthused about lately (volcanoes, mountains, pebble collections, crystals etc).  I'm not expecting a project of deep and thorough academic investigation - just enough exploring every now and then to hopefully capture their innate sense of wonder in the world around them (and then stop before it gets boring for them... well that's the plan, anyway).  So I've been trying to prepare myself with at least some understanding (I know almost nothing about geology), in order to be able to help the boys learn. 

First I picked up a project book called 'Rocks and Minerals'  by Dorling Kindersley.  Given that it's aimed at ages 8-12 I wasn't anticipating too many problems, but oh my!  Did I feel thick after reading it...?! (yes I did).  I was really disillusioned and immediately felt that it was going to turn out to be too boring to be a fun project.  Fortunately it's not the only resource out there (although I'm sure those of you with children who like workbooks etc may find it really helpful).  Happily for us I also found the National Geographic book on the subject from the 'Everything' series... loads of photos and small amounts of text on the page are brilliant for Middle, my visual learner.  And my interest was re-ignited too!  We also found an 'Earth Science' DVD from the Rock n Learn series - the boys loved the Human Body DVD we had from the same series - and they all learn really well from watching TV, so I had high hopes for this DVD, although at £15 I hesitated to buy it without seeing the contents.  I'm glad we did though - another success; they loved it!  To be honest, it doesn't do much for me - but it's about what works best for them rather than myself.  Oh, and a friend recommended a lovely book called Geology Rocks, which has lots of ideas for little experiments the boys can do (eg sand sculpting, making glass out of sugar etc), that Eldest and Middle have already been through, sticking post-its on all the pages with experiments that they fancy doing.  'Hands on' projects are always a success - and memorable too.  I think we're all kinesthetic learners at least in part!  Of course, as this project was partly inspired by seeing how fascinated the boys were with the rocks on the beach while we were on holiday, I do really want to build up our own little collection - you can't beat being able to touch and handle things in order to learn!

With that in mind, we had a couple of 'hands-on' moments today, to see if interest would spark... and it did!  First we did an underwater volcano experiment from Middle's Booms, Bangs & Fizzes kit that he was given for Christmas.  Chemical reactions are always fun to watch!  Then we broke open some geodes that we had bought for just over £1 each online.  It's a lovely activity because the boys needed to exercise patience, and then finding out what was inside each boring-looking little rock was really exciting for them.  I found a lovely page on the web that explained a bit more about them too, without going into excessive detail.

the hammer and chisel (or in our case screwdriver) method was preferred over putting the geode in a sock and smacking it on a chopping board... safety goggles a must, though!

 The boys were all thrilled with their findings... obviously I had to share all of them on my blog!
 Eldest's findings

 Middle's findings

 Youngest's findings

Starting a new project has made me think again of the importance of finding out which learning styles most suit each little learner - they may not be the same styles as our own, of course - and they may all be different from each other too.  Having explored a few options now, I'm happy that the variety of resources we have should be enough to get us going... and then if their curiosity really takes off, we'll follow their interest wherever it leads!  If not, I at least have already learned things that I didn't know before, and we've all had fun - so that's got to be a success!


  1. gosh i remember doing that geode thing ages ago (probably the boys were so young they wouldn't remember it now) so probably worth another look at them. Mine seem to be fascinated by the 'freeze-thaw' concept of how rocks can split apart. I can barely remember much about it so will need to do some internet research! xxx

  2. just remembered another thing that can be quite fun with rocks is if you can get hold of a bag of tiny pieces of special rocks and mix with sand and water so they can do 'panning for gold' - sort of teaches them the sciency bit about separating things / filtering / seiving etc xxx

  3. Those geodes look fab! We did a bit about rocks and minerals last year when J first came out of school - we also bought the DK project book (plus a couple on other subjects too) but J didn't really take to them either - too much like "work" I guess! Useful for reference though. That National Geographic book looks good too, I must check that out. I'm thinking of covering it again, as he is always bringing home loads of rocks in his pockets!
    R x