Thursday, March 22, 2012


When a field trip starts with a sign like the one pictured here, you can be sure you are going to have a good time!

Monday afternoon we went on our third field trip for our geology unit. The Bear Valley strip mine, also known as the Whaleback, is an exposure of folded rock. DCNR has information here. I can share a few pictures, but you can not fathom the enormity of this place until you have actually been there.

The description on the DCNR website has this to say about the Whaleback:

Arguably one of the best exposures of folded rock structure in the United States. In this small area, all the structural elements and (6) stages of deformation for the Valley and Ridge Province can [be] seen and studied. It is considered the type locality for examining the style, mechanics, and stages of structural development for the rocks in the Appalachian folded mountain belt. Individual structural elements such as faults (3 types), folds, joints, cleavage, lineations, and slickenlines can be examined in a hands on setting.

Before our trip, I did a little research on what we would be seeing. I printed out a diagram of folds of rock layers showing anticline and syncline. If you don't know the difference, don't worry...I didn't either until we started this unit! Anticline is a fold that slopes downward on both sides of a crest...the 'whale' is an anticline fold. There is also a syncline at the same site. A syncline is a fold that slopes upward on both sides of a common low point. The picture that looks like a giant smiley face is the syncline.

When we came home, I wanted to figure out some way to reinforce the learning from our little excursion. I decided to take the list of structural elements of the site from the DCNR description and have the boys match them up to pictures from our day out. I printed a pack of pictures for each of the boys. I also gave them each a list from the DCNR site. The anticline and syncline were easy. Then we had to start doing some research. And when I say WE, I mean WE. I knew fault, cleavage and joints right away. Lineation and slickenlines were new to me! In the process of searching for good resources to explain these terms, I stumbled upon the USGS (United States Geological Survey) education website. What a treasure trove of useful information! Tomorrow the boys will be watching a video called Living Rocks on the site.

I started this unit with a very vague list of what I wanted to cover each week. I'm finding that I can't plan too far ahead because our field trips are influenced by weather and scheduling issues. For example, I wanted to visit a cave next week, but found out the cave isn't open to the public until April, so we had to bump that one and move our trip to Gifford Pinchot state park up from week seven. I'm really having to improvise and let the learning flow more naturally than I ever have before. It's been a fun ride for me. I hope I can carry what I'm learning into my planning for other subjects in the future.

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