real science for today's homeschooler

Making Rocks Fun!

Making Rocks Fun!

Okay, I have to admit, rocks sound boring to most people. But here’s a way to get kids interested in the topic of rocks and minerals!

Kids (and adults) love to find treasure. Purchase a bag of “mining rough” and you have a ready-made treasure hunt for your kids. Mining rough is the left over material generated by the mining process. To a mine that recovers and sells gemstones, it isn’t cost effective to spend time going through the left over material to pull out the small gemstones. They bag it “as is” and sell it at very reasonable prices. Going through the bag is literally a treasure hunt and you can find some very nice samples of amethyst, crystal quartz, and other gemstones including small samples of rubies and emeralds. Nothing that’s really worth much money, but pieces that will excite your kids!

There are many mines that sell this “mining rough,” but here’s a link to the one I order from: Cold River Mining Company. They do sell wholesale, but this link will take you to their “store” where you can buy individual bags. If you have a cave attraction nearby, you can probably purchase bags of mining rough there.

You’ll also need a sieve to separate the dirt from the larger rock and mineral specimens. You can purchase one from the mine, but it’s much cheaper to make your own. I would suggest getting a 1-foot x 1-foot piece of window screen to use as a sieve. The fiberglass screen works much better than the aluminum wire screen. The cut ends of the aluminum around the edges can puncture the skin!

The mining rough is dirt and rock straight out of the ground, so it can be messy. This is a great outdoor activity when the weather’s nice! Put the kids in their bathing suit or old clothes you don’t mind getting dirty and wet.

Here’s how to mine for gemstone treasure:

1. While your child holds the screen, add a small amount of mining rough to the center of the screen.
2. Spray the rough with a garden hose set on a low setting. The dirt will wash off revealing the rocks and minerals. (You can also dip the screen in a bucket of water, but the garden hose is much more fun!)
3. Collect the large pieces from the screen and let them dry.
4. The bags of mining rough usually come with an identification guide that kids can use to identify their gemstone treasures.

Be sure to explain to your budding geologists that gemstones are rocks and minerals that formed deep inside the Earth. Because the Earth is always moving and changing, sometimes these rocks and minerals get pushed up close enough to the surface for us to dig them up.

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How much would you weigh on different planets?

How much would you weigh on different planets?

What is weight?

Your weight would be very different if you lived on another planet. Assuming your size didn’t change, why would your weight change? To understand this, you have to know what the term “weight” really means.

A term that’s often confused with weight is “mass.” Mass is the amount of matter (stuff) that something is made of. Your mass wouldn’t change no matter what planet you happened to be standing on. But “weight” is not the same as mass.

Weight is a measure of the force with which gravity pulls down on your mass. So, if gravity changes, so does your weight! The gravity of a planet is determined by the size (mass) of the planet. Heavier planets exert more gravitational force than lighter planets.

 What would you weigh if you visited a different planet?

To calculate your weight on different planets, multiply your weight on Earth in pounds by the “gravitation factor” in the chart below. The Moon is also included.

Celestial

Body

Gravitation

Factor

Your

Weight

Mercury

0.38

Venus

0.91

Moon

0.17

Mars

0.38

Jupiter

2.54

Saturn

1.08

Uranus

0.91

Neptune

1.19

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How old are you on a different planet?

How old are you on a different planet?

What is a year?

We measure age in years. A year is a unit of time equal to the number of days it takes the planet to travel all the way around the Sun and return to its same location along its orbit.

Earth takes 365.25 days to make a trip around the sun, so our calendar year is usually 365 days. Once every four years, one day is added to the calendar at the end of February to account for the 0.25 day each year. That’s why we have a “leap year” every four years.

If you lived on another planet, a year would not be 365 days because each planet takes a different amount of time to make a trip around the Sun, based mainly on its distance from the Sun. (The farther away from the Sun, the larger the orbit and the longer it takes to go around the Sun.) Assuming you still referred to a “year” as one trip around the Sun, your age in years would be very different from what it is on Earth.

 How many years old would you be on different planets?

To calculate your age on different planets, first, divide your age by 365.25. Then multiply that answer by the number of days in the “year” of each planet. You can find that information in the table below:

Planet

Days in Year

Your Age

Mercury

87.97

Venus

224.70

Mars

686.67

Jupiter

4331.87

Saturn

10760.27

Uranus

30604.65

Neptune

60189.48

 

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