All Saints Rocks!

Two weeks ago, I took our Rocks Outreach session into All Saints Primary School in Gorton. Accompanied by my trusty colleague Saira, and kitted out with giant foam dice and some very heavy boxes, we had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with a Year 3 class.

For me, some of the (many) highlights were:

Pupils describing rocks…

“It looks like cheese. Look, the stripy bits look like that mould you get in that cheese”. (It does, it really does! See for yourself: look at the image of a similar specimen of Gneiss and tell me that doesn’t look remarkably like stilton!)

“This rock’s got nuts and bolts in it!” (Again, if you look at the image of Crinoidal Limestone, you will see that the crinoid stems protruding from the surface do in fact look like nuts, bolts and screws – an ancient DIY disaster perhaps?!)

“This would be really good to slide on!” (How true! I can personally vouch for the fact that once polished Granite (which is, incidentally abundant in shopping centres such as the Arndale and Trafford Centre – for which a geology trail has been devised – a short version is here) is in fact one of the best floor surfaces to slide about on!).

Image, gneiss

Image, gneiss

Image, limestone

Image, limestone

Image, granite

Image, granite

The giant rock cycle game…

…a dead cert winner for getting the pupils involved, engaged and enthused about rocks (yes – it actually does this, and yes – I should probably patent it!), but the fact that the teacher and his TA joined in with the class so actively, made it even better.

Investigating rocks…

Picking up his rock, one of the pupils leapt straight in with this beauty “I think mine is metaphoric”!

This may be more of a visual one, but I will try to explain it as best I can: To find out how hard their rocks are, pupils use the ‘classic’ hardness test (i.e. attempting to scratch the surface of a rock using your fingernail, a copper coin and then a metal nail, in order to determine the relative hardness of the rock). One pupil with a particularly hard piece of rock, had come to the conclusion that their rock was ‘soft’, so I asked the pupil to show me how they had been able to scratch the rock using their fingernail. The child picked up the rock, and, just as I had asked, showed me that the rock could be scratched; don’t get too excited – it wasn’t superhuman fingernail strength at work here, oh no! What the child was doing was in fact ‘itching’ the rock! I hold my hands up and admit that this was my fault for not explaining the task properly, but amusing none-the-less!

One young lady deserves special mention (I have a feeling that she may be after my job!): Clearly a budding geologist, she called me over to explain that she collected rocks and minerals, and that she had “…some amethyst – you know, the purple one; a few pieces of agate – the glassy stuff with bands of colour; and some tigers eye – its brown and shimmery”. Such experiences make it all worthwhile!

Image, Rock Trumps

Image, Rock Trumps

We just about managed to complete all of the investigation work in time for the class to finish for the day, so we left some resources with the TA so that the class could create their ‘Rock Trump Cards’ the next day. It just so happened that we were back at All Saints for a different outreach session the following day, so I took the opportunity to pop in to the class and see how they were getting on. I shall say no more, I can’t really do their work any justice with mere words (I apologise for the quality of the photos, and that the photo includes a small sample of those I had a chance to photograph)

I absolutely love it when a plan comes together! The session worked so well for a number of reasons, including the fact that the class were absolutely fantastic, but this was clearly related to the enthusiasm and active involvement of both the class teacher and TA.

On a more practical level, the session ran particularly smoothly because we were given really good spaces to run the session (i.e. the hall was not a thoroughfare and we were not interrupted during the session, and the classroom was flexible enough for us to rearrange the furniture without causing too much destruction!).

If you want to find out more about our Rocks sessions (both Outreach and museum-based), drop me an email: hannah-lee.chalk@manchester.ac.uk

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