Thursday, April 7, 2011

Geology for Clowns

(BizarroBlog) I've actually done this activity with kids to illustrate how density differences can cause rock and mineral grains to segregate. It didn't work too well- just separating black sand by panning works much better. Let me 'splain why. First, pyrite fractures conchoidally, and like glass, it's very sharp on broken edges and corners. So after picking numerous bits of mineral grains out of my finger tips following a trial run, I decided to do the actual classroom activity with the whole crystals, which were in the form of pyritohedrons a few millimeters in diameter.

Okay, so pyrite in that form is no big deal to geologists... but to middle-school-aged children, it's an amazing, wonderful material. They had no patience for the panning thing; they just picked the "nuggets" out of the sand. They had a great time, learned quite a bit about pyrite, and went home with (what to them were) some pretty special specimens. But they didn't quite get the point I wanted them to. And that's really the crux of whether a lesson is effective or not. Like I said, my own assessment was that this lesson didn't work too well.

Funny, the paths a comic can lead my mind to wander...

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