three diggers and a lovely quartz vein
Yes, the answer is: more rocks. Sorry guys, but we had a long rock and mineral ‘unit study’ in this particular year of homeschool. My son is still picking up rocks and admiring them (and probably always will). Today he found a lovely chunk of golden-colored calcite at Pioneer Farms in Austin, Texas, and promptly shoved it in his pocket. The great thing is, he’s aware of God’s creation around him and still in awe of it… the rocks, the bugs (hence the nasty assassin bug bite at the pool yesterday), and everything else.
The field trip I’m blogging about this time happened in 2006 (January). I love winter field trips. Why? Because I hate to sweat and feel sticky… or get sunburned… or feel like I am going to DIE without the air-conditioner. I really am a Texan, I promise… but not all Texans love hot weather, contrary to what you may have heard. Some of us would rather ride around in our FREEZING COLD vehicles and stay in our FREEZING COLD houses while the grass withers away outside in August and September. OK, maybe in April through November.
The crystals are easy to find and they guaranty that you will find some or they will refund your money (there is a small fee to get in and dig). The driveway is paved with quartz rock and tiny crystals as you drive in. Remember, these people have a huge pit where they mine for the big display crystals and sell them for hundreds of dollars each. Most of the dirt on the hill has been mined by machine and professionals before you get to it. Any of the huge and perfect specimens of quartz have already been removed, but they miss some good ones that would make perfect finds for eager little rock-hounds. They also sell chemicals for you to wash the crystals in (because most of them have iron oxidized on them from the dirt they are in and are a rust or orange color). They clean up real “purdy-like” if you know what you are doing. There are plenty of websites that explain the process (see my previous rock unit post for more), but it requires MAJOR adult supervision due to the use of acids. My kids took home three or four BAGS full of crystals and we washed and kept most of them. We have a few that are shiny and clear, but most have a few stains. I haven’t bothered with chemicals to remove it. It doesn’t bother me. I still keep a few favorite finds from this trip on my dresser in the bedroom (a twin crystal and one large single shard that is half as big as my hand).
They had a little picnic table at the “mine” which is more of a huge hill and deep OFF-LIMITS pit with red clay dirt. We ate lunch there with some co-op friends and enjoyed the cool January sunshine. When taking this trip, be SURE to pack lots of water and snacks for after lunch or before (depending on when you get there). A sack or bucket with a lid to carry your rocks in (used bread wrappers or large Ziplocks are good. A pillow and blanket would be nice on the way back home, too. The kids will be WORN OUT from all the digging and excitement.
We stopped at the rock store on the way. I would not suggest this. Seeing all those pretty spit-shined or tumbled-smooth rocks only serves to disappoint you when the rocks you are digging for look dirty and rough. I would save the rock shop for the way home (if you can manage to get enough dirt off of your bodies to make yourself presentable and get out in public view). There are a few rock shops on the way, so be sure and spot them as you drive up and you’ll be able to pick a favorite on the way back home to stop at. It is worth stopping in to look at the rocks. My son fell in love with a piece of bismuth and ended up writing a report about it for his English project during that month.
This unit was one of our favorites of the year and you can read more about the other field trips we took and the activities we did at the links below. I highly suggest that you go digging for crystals or other interesting rocks somewhere if you can’t go to Coleman’s Miller Mountain and Coleman’s Rock Shop. According to the kids, this field trip “ROCKED”.
Other Quick Links:Sprittibee’s Homeschool Series (Links for field trip lists, book lists, other years…)
KONOS Rock Unit Fun
Field Trip Foto Friday: Pinnacle Mountain
Memories from our KONOS Rock Unit (additional photos and info on this field trip)