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Things to do when your kid likes rocks.

July 1, 2017

You’ve just entered that stage of parenthood where your offspring is developing strong interests in scientific topics. And that topic is rocks and minerals. What to do? There aren’t any shots for it. I know.

It’s a good thing to encourage. Geology is the perfect gateway into the physical sciences. College students take geology to avoid biology, chemistry, and physics, only to discover that geology is all of those and more. The science of geology is very interdisciplinary, so it has a lot of polymath types who have a wide range of interests. If your child is good at more than one thing, the Earth Sciences are probably a good match. Even better, the geosciences require good three-dimensional visualization skills. So does Art. If you have a young artist with a liking for the sciences, Geology is right where they would fit in best.

There are lots of family outings in North Carolina for the whole family. We have a terrific State Parks system that covers the whole state. Best of all, there are books on the geology of the parks to help. Kevin Stewart and Mary-Russell Roberson put together Exploring the Geology of the Carolinas: A Field Guide to Favorite Places from Chimney Rock to Charleston. Kevin Stewart, is a professor at UNC, and the science is well explained. Free guidebooks  are available to download as pdf files from the Carolina Geological Society. There’s a good chance that an area near you is covered. CGS meets once a year for a field trip and banquet, and the membership is open to anyone.

If you would rather go collecting minerals, there are a lot of clubs in the state just for that purpose. If you are local to Raleigh and Wake County, there is the Tarheel Gem and Mineral Club. North Carolina’s other big cities have gem and mineral clubs as well, Winston-Salem and Forsythe County, Greensboro, and Charlotte. Kids will need to have an adult with them out on a collecting trip. In addition to meetings with speakers and trips for collecting, the gem and mineral clubs usually have a yearly show.

Gem and minerals shows are always an event. Most have minerals specimens and fossils for sale, as well as beads and jewelry. The next big one is in Franklin, NC at the end of this month (July, 2017). The following week is the Spruce Pine, NC show. The Tar Heel Gem and Mineral Club holds a big show the first weekend in April. If you keep an eye on the schedule, there are other shows at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds a couple of times a year.

And did I forget to mention museums? The Schiele Museum in Gastonia is opening a new and updated Earth Science exhibit hall . You can watch for updates at their main page (click here).  On the Blue Ridge Parkway is the Museum of North Carolina Minerals near Spruce Pine, always a fun stop. The local Chamber of Commerce has information there to help you find the commercial gem panning operations, too. The Colburn Earth Science Museum in Asheville has a new location, new exhibits, and a new name, the Asheville Museum of Science. Their wonderful mineral exhibits are still there, in the Colburn Hall of Minerals.

And, of course, the oldest of these is the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. Come see us first.

Next blog: gifts and prezzies for your geologist-in-the-making.

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