Recently the Scottish Earth Science Education Forum held two landscape courses for teachers called “Ice Age Free.” Participants each received a bag of resources which included a rock kit containing specimens collected from all over Scotland.
I am lousy on the identification front and always have been. But I like the idea, that one can hold a lump of desert sandstone and imagine the time when Scotland was situated around where the Saraha now lies, 270 million years ago. It’s a bit like working on an archaeology dig…once I had to sieve and sort soil that was 2000 years old and it was amazing to think that the shards of pottery within were being used when the likes of Jesus was alive. It makes me realise what little wisps of time and spirit we actually are in the whole of everything.
Recently a new Facebook friend asked me what sort of rocks I collect. I had to admit the answer is sentimental ones. I pick up rocks, shells and other objects as mementoes of places. So I have shells from the Black Sea, quartz from the Cairngorms, green slate from near the Isle of Skye and even hairy palm balls from Majorca. My favourites go into a strange-shaped glass vase which I fill with water to magnify and enhance the colours and it sits in between plants in my conservatory.
I also collect polished gemstones. This is a childhood habit that I got from my father who had a tumbler – a machine which polishes rocks – and I grew up listening to the sound of rocks being tumbled. I still have ring made of green veined agate that he made.
Then of course, there is the life long quest for the perfect rock. I have a book Everybody Needs a Rock with 10 rules for finding one’s perfect rock. My current rock I have had for about 7 years which is good going. It is so perfect for me than I may not ever replace it.
If you are planning a rock project with a group of children, some basic rules and questions adapted from the book include:
- Do not tell anyone what is special about your rock and don’t let anyone choose your rock for you.
- Any place will do to start searching
- Don’t worry – it’s the worst thing you can do when you are rock hunting
- Was everything quiet when you found your rock?
- How closely did you look at your rock? Check it out with a magnifying glass.
- Is your rock the perfect size? Can you close your fingers over it? Does it jump about in your pocket when you run?
- Is your rock the perfect colour? How do you know?
- Put your rock in the middle of other rocks. Then stand it on its own. Does it look good and special in both instances?
- What does your rock smell like? Which part of the earth did it come from?
- What game can you play that involves just you and your rock?
Finally, if you are collecting rocks or other materials, follow local guidance. If you are requested to leave your rocks in the place, encourage your children to think carefully about where they would like to leave their rock so they can re-visit it another time.