I’ve collected rocks for as long as I can remember. I’ve always had a rock box at the back of my closet and I could never seem to get rid of it, even when I obviously didn’t need to hold onto it. In college, one of the courses I took was Outdoor Education. There was a segment on rocks and sand, and suddenly my rock collection had a purpose again. I was glad I’d held onto it for all those years.
My rock collection continued to grow after I became a teacher. Every time we went on a vacation, I was drawn to the small area at the back of the souvenir shop where they sold different rocks. Part of the kindergarten curriculum is Pebbles, Sand, and Silt, but since I’m teaching first grade this year, there wasn’t any reason to keep my rock collection at school.
I found a pretty tray and added the rocks. Just like that, an invitation for exploration was created, right there on my kitchen table.
Of course, I had to add some books about rocks and a rock identification kit too. (Yes, my hubby gets annoyed that we have to move the rock box and all of the books every time we sit down to eat, but he puts up with me.)
When I first put out the rocks, my daughter immediately dumped them all out. Many of the rocks have been picked out and purchased, or sometimes collected, while we’re on vacation. (Sadly, many of her favorite rocks have gone into kids’ pockets over the years and I have not been able to get them back.) She still remembers the rocks that were taken, but gets excited when spots some of her favorites that are still there. She spent a few days looking through the rocks and playing with them, and then lost interest. I’d ask if she wanted to read some of the books and would get the response of, “No thanks.”
Then, over the long weekend, my kids were just picking through the rocks and I sat down with them to look. I started telling them facts about certain rocks, and pretty soon my daughter started getting curious about them. She began looking for names of certain rocks in the books and pointing out the rocks that we had that were similar to rocks in the books.
There were rock observation sheets handy, (Doesn’t everybody keep those nearby?) and the writing and drawing soon followed. The excitement didn’t last more that 30 minutes this time, and my 9 year old was much more interested than my 13 year old, but the rocks are still on the kitchen table when my kids are ready to come back to them.
By the way, the neighbors couldn’t resist digging through the rock box when they were over too. There’s just something about rocks and all of their differences that just draws you in. If you keep books handy, that are ready to answer questions, it’s a great way to integrate literacy.
One of my all-time-favorite movies was Field of Dreams. Setting out rocks can be just like building a baseball field. “If you build it, they will come.”
Happy rock collecting!