Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Welcome to Week 1 of Summer of Science: Rocks and Minerals!

I'm not sure if I mentioned this in an earlier post, but this summer I have decided to do a casual little homeschool project with my soon-to-be-kindergartener and preschooler that I have dubbed "Summer of Science." You see, my kids ask me questions nonstop, especially my son (the one starting kindergarten), especially about science and the world around us. So I have broken down the broad world of science into about 10-12 different topics to go along with each week of summer. 

I say "casual", because I'm not following any kind of curriculum, I'm just making things up as we go, utilizing internet and library resources to come up with fun exploratory activities for us to do. I'm trying to coordinate with things we do in the summer anyway, like going to the park, the children's museum, the beach, a local petting zoo, etc. and incorporating these activities as "field trips" for our various topics. Last week on our vacation we had the opportunity to tour Shenandoah Caverns and later do some "gem mining" at the resort, so I thought that studying rocks and minerals would be a natural choice for this week. Here's what we've done so far today!

Step 1: Start talking. We talked a little bit about how caves are formed before we toured the caverns, so Monkey and Starlet started thinking about it- we checked out a great kids' book from the library by Gail Gibbons called Caves and Caverns. (incidentally, Gail Gibbons writes fantastic kids' books on science topics of all kinds) 
Today while we were out running errands I started asking the kids questions, like pointing to the sidewalk and asking if they thought it was made of rock (one yes, one no). I asked them to come up with some of their own questions, like, "What is the hardest rock on earth? What about the softest?" I also pointed out pumice stones in the drugstore, and we talked about if rocks can float, and what rocks might be used for.

Step 2: Library! Before leaving the house this morning I had searched the library's online catalog for books and dvds on rocks and minerals. I took my list with me to the library and the kids helped me pick out several items for us to read and watch. Here's our haul:

Step 3: What do we know? What don't we know? When we got home, I sat with the kids while they were eating their lunch and went back to a few of the questions we'd talked about while we were out. Each one of them has their own "Summer of Science Journal", and I asked them what their questions and thoughts were on rocks and minerals and wrote them in each of their notebooks for them, so that later, after our "research", we could go back and fill in some answers.

Step 4: Learn! While the kids finished their lunches, I pulled out one of the books and read to them all about rocks and minerals. They got a little excited as we went along and some of their questions were answered in the book. Once we were done reading, we went back to their notebooks and I reviewed the questions we'd written down and they told me the answers they'd learned from the book we'd read, and I wrote them down as well.

Step 5: What did we learn? I needed some time to prepare for our next activity, so I gave the kids the assignment to draw a picture in their notebooks of one thing they'd learned from the book we'd read. Monkey drew a great picture of a diamond, since he thought it was cool that diamonds are the hardest rocks on earth. I wrote the word "diamond" on a separate piece of paper for him and had him copy it onto his picture (gotta keep those letter recognition and writing skills up during the summer!). Starlet drew a great picture of a mountain. 

Step 6: Have some fun. I thought it would be really fun to make our own rock candy, so I found a recipe for it here. Apparently it takes several days to several weeks to do, so we won't see results for awhile. But it was fun to get it started. I'll keep you updated as the process progresses! Here is where we are so far:

So that was Day 1- I'm hoping in the future to start with our library trips on Mondays so we have more time over the course of the week to do all this stuff. I was just trying to get caught up with all the post-vacation stuff earlier this week, so we got a late start. Tomorrow we'll be heading to the park to do some rock collecting- I'll keep you posted!

Are you homeschooling at all this summer? I'd love to hear about it- leave a comment and share!


  1. Kasey, you rock! Pun totally intended. That looks like a lot of fun! Way to make the summer fun and educational. I have an idea for a little mini field trip if you feel like you want to do anything else. The Rock Shop on Midlothian Turnpike in front of the Walton Park subdivision.(across from the Kathy's Kopie's shopping center.) It was one of my favorite shops as a kid. Beautiful rocks there! Have fun exploring!

  2. AWESOME idea!! I've been trying to figure out what I want to focus on with Ashlyn's homeschooling...we've been doing the 3 basics, reading writing and arithmatic. But you idea is a great way to start incorporating some science into her schooling. Thanks for the great ideas!!


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