2004 Denver Annual Meeting (November 7–10, 2004)

Paper No. 4
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM


DUNHAM, Sarah E., Department of Geology, Colby College, 5807 Mayflower Hill Drive, Waterville, ME 04901, DEIKE, Ruth, Become a Rock Detective, 593 Gardiner Road, Dresden, ME 04342 and GASTALDO, Robert A., Geology Department, Colby College, Waterville, ME 04901, sedunham@colby.edu

Rock Detective is a supplemental, hands on, investigative curriculum designed to lead students through critical components of the 1996 National Science Education Standards recommended by the NRC. Rock Detective is used nationally and internationally to introduce many of the fundamental concepts of Earth science to students in grades K-12. This curriculum is a series of mysteries that pose questions about given hand specimens. They are based on the pedagogy that students will be curious and remember things discovered. Because curiosity is encouraged during student engagement in the mysteries, the most difficult concepts become easy to understand and fun to learn about. One mystery may result in several student discoveries allowing it to be an introduction into different topical areas. To date, 203 grade specific mysteries have been designed and others are always being researched and constructed.

Presently, three mysteries centered on Kaolin are being developed. The finished product is one mystery designed for grades K-4, one for grades 5-8, and the last for grades 9-12. Geography of the south eastern United States is utilized to help students understand the differences between igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks, as well as residual and sedimentary clay deposits. Each module focuses on various aspects of Kaolin including alteration of feldspars to clay, change in structure during heating, economic uses, as well as a brief conceptual introduction to X-ray diffraction. Each mystery also is an introduction to other concepts, such as geologic time and elemental composition.

Groups of students who work with each Kaolin mystery will get something different out of it because of personal interests and approaches taken towards the mystery. After learning about Kaolin, students should have a firm grasp on how the mineral is formed, how the physical properties of the mineral make it ideal for many practical uses, and how structure changes with alteration. By introducing students to Earth science at an early age through inquiry-based curricula, they will be at an advantage while pursuing undergraduate studies because of the early acquisition of complicated concepts.