Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sixth Grade Waldorf: Geology

Geology was a fun subject to explore! I thought it would be a snooze fest, but like most subjects, if you can discover some interesting bits and find a way to bring them to your child....well, that's the Waldorf way isn't it?

Sometimes I read through subject matter and think, "How in the world will I ever bring this to the Boy in an interesting manner?" Actually, I think that when preparing for most subjects— but some are more difficult in teasing out those interesting, important bits.

In preparation for this block, we visited Fairy Stone State Park in southern Virginia. "Fairy stones are staurolite, a combination of silica, iron and aluminum. Together, these minerals crystallize in twin form, accounting for the cross-like structure. Found only in rocks that have been subjected to great heat and pressure, the stones are most commonly shaped like St. Andrew's and Roman crosses."

We started the block off with learning some basics about the earth: various names the earth has been given (Mother Earth, Gaia, and the like; it's structure; continental shifts and drift; earthquakes and volcanoes.)

We explored crystals and crystalline shapes. On the first day of crystals I spread some salt crystals on black paper and we looked at each under a magnifying glass.  What a thrill when he discovered that table salt crystals are cubes!  We compared them to rock salt, sea salt, sugar and sand.

We then made crystals from super-saturated sugar water.

Salt Crystals

Sugar crystals....rock candy!

We followed crystals with Minerals and Elements and the combinations that! In this section we pretty much went by the Waldorf proverbial "book." We studied igneous rocks, namely granite, then sedimentary – limestone, and metamorphic – slate, marble, and quartzite. We spent a little extra time on quartz and quartzite as the Boy has always had a "thing" about quartz.

We finished by following up with caves, fossil fuels, and metals.

I know this isn't really descriptive of all we did, and so may not be really helpful. I used various resources to get through this block, mostly from my local library. I am not typically fond of DK books, but found, for this particular subject, they worked really well. Lots of pix of different types of rocks with short descriptions. I also downloaded some science articles from the Waldorf online library. I followed the Waldorf outline of which elements, rocks, etc. to highlight, but found my own resources to explore.

The one main item I purchased was a set of sample rocks from another home school family. Towards the end of the block, after we had delved into properties and "met" many of the rocks in their natural surroundings, I opened the samples and arranged them on our dining room table/school space as a centerpiece that the Boy could play with anytime.

We took a family trip to Massachusetts during this block and took advantage of a nearby geological wonder: Purgatory Chasm State Reservation, a massive exposed vein of granite. The area also produces quite a bit of the gem, beryl, of which we found a piece.
The Boy at Purgatory Chasm outside of Boston, Massachusetts

  I had meant to visit a local limestone quarry during this block, but the winter weather caught up with us making our autumn shorter than usual.

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