Miss Robyn, a gemologist from Nash Jewellers, came to visit us on Monday to talk about minerals. What is a rock? What is a mineral?
Students loved exploring all of the samples she brought in.
She encouraged us to feel everything, examine, and investigate what was there. There were so many beautiful colours and shapes we could look at. Some things were smooth, others were bumpy. Some of us found our birthstones!
Robyn taught us about what properties a mineral has:
- has to be inorganic (not living)
- is a solid
- is naturally formed in the Earth
- has a crystal structure
- has a specific chemical composition (Robyn called it a recipe)
We learned how different minerals can have different colours because of ‘trace elements’ or impurities such as iron or magnesium. Robyn taught us about some of the different families of minerals such as:
- Quartz family–Quartz is a very abundant mineral. Amethyst is a type of quartz and is purple. Citrine is yellow quartz.
- Beryl family–Emeralds are part of this family. Emerald is green because of trace elements of chromium. Aquamarine is another example. It is blue.
- Corundum family–Sapphires are part of the corundum family. Did you know that sapphires come in every colour except red? When it is red, it is called a ruby. A ruby is also part of the corundum family.
Robyn talked briefly about diamonds. They are the hardest mineral on earth. A lot of mining for diamonds occurs in Northern Canada at Snap Lake. Canada follows strict labour and safety laws when it comes to mining. Below is a picture of Ekati Diamond Mine in Northwest Territories. “Ekati” means Fat Lake. The rings you see inside the holes are roads.
Do you have questions about rocks or minerals or mining?
What is your birthstone?
Do mountains last forever? This was the questions students in our class have been investigating over the last 2 days.
Students explored how solid rock breaks apart into smaller pieces through a process called weathering. We learned terms like ‘root wedging’ and ‘ice wedging’ and how the cracks in rocks allows for seeds and water to get trapped inside, eventually causing the crack to widen and crack the rock into smaller pieces.
Students modeled the process of weathering that occurs when rocks tumble and crash into each other using sugar cubes in a container. Each group of students shook a container of sugar cubes approximately 200 times and more!
We hypothesized what we thought our sugar cubes would look like after shaking the containers. We drew pictures and recorded observations as we worked through many trials of shaking. We took turns with our partner so we both had turns shaking the sugar cubes.
Take a look at what happened after the sugar cubes were taken out of the container! (One of the sugar cubes was left out as a comparison). Do you notice how the edges of the sugar cube became smoothed out and the cube turned into a sphere?
This is what happens when rocks tumble down hills and mountains. With wet weather and when you add friction, rocks eventually will break down into smaller pieces and may show smoother surfaces at the bottoms of mountains. See below.
What do you wonder about rocks? Have you ever found a really smooth rock and wondered how it became smooth? What is the most interesting rock you’ve found?
Having a class blog is one way we can open the walls of our classroom and share our learning with others outside our own community, but Skyping an expert is another way!
It was a super special treat today to have archaeologist, Dr. Beth Pruitt, from Washington, D.C., Skype into our classroom!
Beth was so delightful to talk with. Students prepared some questions ahead of time and Beth was more than happy to answer.
Beth explained that an archaeologist is a scientist who studies human history through digging for artifacts.
While we are learning about rocks and minerals, and Beth is not a geologist, she had plenty to tell us about how she digs for artifacts, where she does her work, and what sorts of things she finds hidden in the earth.
Some of the artifacts Beth shared with us included a large piece of a chamber pot. It was beautifully decorated in blue and white details.Students also found out what a chamber pot was used for. Ha!
Beth expressed to us that while she doesn’t have any one favourite artifact, she loves all of the artifacts, because when put together, they tell a story about how humans used to live.
She told us how she was part of a team of archaeologists who uncovered a house underground and how the people who used to inhabit this house even buried items beneath the house. She enjoys discovering unusual and surprising things like this!
New technology such as 3D printing has come in handy when wanting to study artifacts without causing damage to them.
Various tools are used to excavate artifacts including a trowel, shovel, spoon, and Beth has even used a chopstick!
Beth showed us an artifact that turned out to be a clay wig curler from the 18th century (known as a bilboquet). They used to be heated up and then the hair of the wig was wrapped around it. Neat!
Some of the questions students asked included:
- How far do you normally dig down?
- When you were in Gr.3 did you want to be a scientist?
- Where do you do you digging? Is it near water?
- What is the difference between a paleontologist and archaeologist?
- Have you ever damaged an artifact when digging?
- What was your favourite subject in school?
- How old is your oldest artifact?
What will future archaeologists uncover about us?
What stories will our artifacts say about us and our culture?
We have launched into our first science unit all about rocks and minerals. What better way to launch a unit on rocks than to explore and learn about volcanoes, right?
Students have been investigating about some of these questions so far:
- could a volcano pop up in your own backyard?
- why do some volcanoes explode?
Students plotted volcanoes on a map (see picture below) and we noticed a pattern when we put all the maps together. This led us to hear of the Ring of Fire and how 75% of all volcanoes in the world lie on the Ring of Fire.
We learned today that there are different types of lava–thin lava that moves quickly like a syrup and thick lava that moves slowly and is kind of like toothpaste. We were investigating what kind of lava comes from a cone volcano and what kind comes from a shield volcano.
Take a look at us experimenting with thin and thick lava (as you can see in the cups).
We will conclude tomorrow and discuss why some volcanoes explode and what kind of lava comes from a cone volcano and what kind comes from a shield volcano.
Have you ever seen a monarch butterfly and think about how it came to be? The monarch experiences such an incredible change and my husband (aka Turkey Jay) was lucky enough to see the process for himself this weekend!
He took these pictures to show you the changes the monarch goes through. Isn’t it amazing?
Here is the process:
Have you ever seen a monarch butterfly? What about a chrysalis?
Last Friday, students were treated to a special visit from a scientist named Dr. Kim Holzer from Northern Idaho. She is an Agriculture Program Specialist.
She was skyping us from her field site where she is involved in inspecting boats as they come in off the water. She and her team look for zebra mussels, in particular, which are an invasive species. Dr. Kim talked to us about why it’s important to control invasive species and ensure they do not make their way into Northern Idaho waters.
You can check out this website to learn more. Dr. Kim specializes in aquatic invasive species. She also taught us what ballast water is. It is important to inspect and test ballast water for things that can be harmful when transporting items on a big boat like a tanker.
The students loved asking questions and were excited to see a live demonstration of an inspection of a boat. They were good listeners and thought it was neat to talk to a scientist via Skype!
Thanks Dr. Kim for your time!
I can’t help it…my ‘teacher brain’ won’t shut off…even on a weekend. I was thinking about my students as I picked wild leeks at my in-laws’ property on Sunday.
As we’ve learned about soil and plants this term, I wanted to share what I was up to. It’s so neat to find your own food, either in your home garden, or out in the wild.
Click here for fun facts about leeks.
Check out my short video about picking leeks!
I think I’ll be making potato & wild leek soup sometime soon. Perhaps this recipe is a good one?
Have you ever tried leeks before?
If you got outside this weekend, what were YOU doing with your time?