Thursday, May 13, 2010

Family Fun at the Rock & Mineral Show

A couple of months ago, I took the boys (and Princess, but she was in the stroller and didn't see much) to their first rock and mineral show. Actually, it was my first, as well. I wasn't sure what to expect. Would it just be a big room with row after row of rock samples? To my family, as novices, would they all look the same? Would there be other folks in attendance like us, curious newbies, or would the room be filled with seasoned, dusty rockhounds?

I was pleasantly surprised by how welcoming the show was to children. My boys had a great time. Yes, there were collections of rocks and minerals on display. But there was a wonderful variety. Most displays contained just enough documentation to be informative without overwhelming the viewer. There was even a "please touch" table, which Kerm and Little Brother greatly enjoyed.

One exhibiter collected little bottles of sand. They were all different shades - pink, black, beige, tan - and they were labeled with locations from all over the world. Another person collected "dangerous" rocks, minerals containing substances like lead or arsenic that can be harmful to humans.

In the back, there was a makeshift room covered with tarps. The boys loved seeing the fluorescent rocks displayed there.

Fluorescent rocks appear to glow in the dark, but they actually glow under shortwave or long wave ultraviolet light. The Tozour Family's Fluorescent Rocks shows a similar display of fluorescent minerals, with photos of what the rocks look like under normal (white) light and what they look like under ultraviolet (black) light.

(I am tempted to buy a black light bulb to see if any of our rocks fluoresce under long wave UV. Fun side note: you can also see old dog or cat urine stains using black light.)

There was a special hands-on display where kids could "mine" for minerals. The boys were each given a card with small pictures of different minerals and they dug through the sand until each found a specimen. The boys then compared their samples to the pictures on the card and identified which minerals they had uncovered. I thought this was a clever way to introduce kids to rock collecting and the process of identifying minerals by using a key.

Kerm mines for minerals

Of course, we also went upstairs and visited the vendor room, where you could buy mineral samples on just about every budget. We picked out a few of the cheaper specimens for purchase, and I pointed out to Kerm and Little Brother that I frequently couldn't tell the $6 rocks from the $600 rocks, so they'd better stay close and not touch anything.

All in all, it was great visit, and a nice introduction to mineralogy, geology, and paleontology (did I mention the nice fellow giving away fossilized shark vertebrae?). The rock and mineral show cost less than $10 per person to attend. My greatest expense was running out to buy Kerm and Little Brother display cases to store their new found treasures.

Photo credits: Mama Joules

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