NCW Community Event

Plan a Trip to Learn About Rocks

There are rocks all around us, and rocks always tell us a story about chemistry. The story often covers hundreds or thousands of years. What is the neatest rock you have ever seen? What features made that rock so interesting? What did you learn about that rock?

There are many places where we can see some amazing rocks and learn about how they were formed and what elements and compounds are present in them. A good place to start would be a natural history museum. There are natural history museums in all 50 states and the District of Columbia; most of them have collections or displays of rocks. Colleges and universities may have rock collections, especially if they offer programs in geology or earth science. Sometimes “rocks” can be very large. Mountains, hills, hoodoos, and natural arches are larger forms of rock. Most of the US National Parks contain interesting rock formations. Park rangers can teach you about the history, composition, stability, and noted movement of these formations.

Tips for Organizing an Event:      

Before the Event

  • Contact natural history museums or national parks in your area. Do they have established programs, tours, or presentations about rocks or rock collections? Can they customize their program to the age group of the participants? Is there an admission charge? If yes, can they extend a discount to event participants or could they bring a presentation to another site where there would not be an admission charge? Are there special “free days” for the local community that could allow free admission for event attendees?
  • Once the location and date of the event are settled, communicate event details to as wide an audience as possible. Use websites, email, flyers, and social media. Ask local teachers to inform their students about the event.
  • Arrange for some adults or college students to serve as chaperones. Scout leaders, coaches, parents, and geology/earth science students would help young attendees learn about rocks.
  • Watch for news stories involving rocks, such as mountain climbers, volcanoes, newly established national parks. 

During The Event

  • Divide attendees into smaller groups of appropriate size. Museum or park personnel can suggest a good number per group.
  • Consider providing a sheet with questions that the young attendees could answer during the event.
  • If time permits and there is appropriate space, ask groups or individuals to draw pictures of their favorite part of the event. Or ask participants to take photos (if allowed) of their favorite rocks.

After the Event

  • Suggest that participants establish a rock collection at home.
  • Ask participants to bring their most interesting rocks to a future group event. Give prizes for the best rocks. Or have a game where students look at a collection of items and decide which are naturally occurring items (rocks) and which are made by people (bricks, roof shingles, billiard balls, wooden items (natural but not rocks), and plastic items.
  • Share drawings or photos with family and friends! 

We see that rocks are everywhere, and it is fun to learn about them. We marvel at their beauty (mountains, canyons cut into rock by water) and majesty. We can hike or ski on them for pleasure. We can wonder what the world looked like when the rocks were formed. And all of it is chemistry. Chemistry rocks!

What else can I do?

  • Host a Science Café on geochemistry with NCW 2017 topics including the types and chemical structures of rocks, gemstones, minerals, crystals, salts, and more.
  • Perform hands-on activities or demonstrations for the public at local venues, such as malls, schools, and libraries.
  • Be creative and organize your own innovative or engaging event. Your local section may nominate the event for ChemLuminary Awards. Be creative and organize your own innovative or engaging event. Your local section may nominate the event for ChemLuminary Awards. Contact your local section NCW Coordinator or your local section officers for details.
Moles in the Lab