This week we started our final science unit for the school year. This is probably the unit I felt the least comfortable planning. As a child, I was an avid rock collector, even declaring at one point my goal to grow up and become a mineralogist. I know rocks and minerals fairly well, but geology is such a HUGE topic that I felt a bit overwhelmed trying to pull something together that we could cover in just eight weeks.
When I first planned my science units for the year, I picked my topics in an order that took the weather into account. Entomology would be the first unit so we could collect our insects in the late summer/early fall. Marine science came next with a late autumn trip to the shore. Cellular structure and microscope use made sense for the cold winter months. Geology seemed perfect for spring. I wanted to be able to get outside and explore with the boys. We were very lucky that our very first week of geology happened to line up with a homeschool geology program being offered at one of our favorite state parks, RB Winter.
At the park today, we took part in many different activities that helped us learn to identify various rocks and minerals. We also discussed the three types of rock. We were allowed to bring home samples of 12 different rocks and minerals to add to our own collection. We even learned how to use GPS to find a special kind of geocache called an earthcache.
Here is an explanation from the Earthcache site:
An EarthCache site is a special place that people can visit to learn about a unique geoscience feature or aspect of our Earth. Visitors to EarthCache sites can see how our planet has been shaped by geological processes, how we manage the resources and how scientists gather evidence to learn about the Earth.
This picture is the site where we ended our caching experience. Our guide told us that rockfall is rare in PA; we have more rock 'creep' here. Water and roots cause many of the changes to the landscapes in our area.
My original plan for the geology unit involved time spent looking at textbooks, doing a few at home activities, movies, and maybe one or two field trips. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that geology is a science that requires work in the field. So my revised plan will be a little different. We will be going on one field trip for every week of our unit. To make my planning even easier, I found a fantastic resource to help turn my idea into reality. Pennsylvania's Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has put together a series of approximately twenty park guides, specific to geological features of Pennsylvania state parks, that can be downloaded as PDFs from their Trail of Geology website. I absolutely love it when the learning opportunities jump out at us like this! We already had the guide for the park we went to today. With seven more weeks in our unit, we will try to get to seven more parks within driving distance. One or two will be a 2 hour drive each way, but I don't mind hitting the road when the weather is good. Each week we will spend a few days at home prepping for the trip by studying the guide for our field trip location. We will also do further study on any new concepts we come across so we will know what we are looking for when we get to the park. In addition, we will cover the usual rock cycle and volcanoes that everyone HAS to cover when studying geology. It just wouldn't be geology if we didn't build a messy model of a volcano!
I know this unit will probably require more energy from me than the previous three combined. But I am certain my boys will be much more likely to remember days spent hiking in the woods, seeing the things they are learning about first hand, than they would if they read it in a science textbook. Taking the learning out of the books and into real life works for me every time.