Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Road Trip Science...

Driving home from a fun weekend vacation, the Science Kids were getting very squirmy in the backseat.  My solution...a quick hike and exploration of roadside geology!

Ages: All ages of Kid Scientists

Materials: The beauty of roadside geology is that you don't really need any materials.  If you're not sure what geology you're seeing, there is a great series of books called Roadside Geology and they are specific to your state.  The books list major roadways and detail the geologic formations visible from the road.

Procedure:
* We stopped at a viewpoint with a huge public art installation called Grandfather Cuts Loose the Ponies
* There is a parking lot at the view point, but the kids were squirmy, so we decided to hike to the top
* It was a great hike, but the roadside geology lesson started on the way back down the hill...

* The Columbia river gorge is full of columnar basalt and the trail we were hiking on was also covered with basalt.  The boys made observations on the difference kinds of rock and we observed the layers evident in the basalt columns on the hillside.  Vesicular basalt looks like it's full of pockets or like swiss-cheese.  This is because as an igneous rock (formed from lava) it cooled more quickly, trapping air in the lava.  The basalt with a smoother texture cooled more slowly, without trapping air.


* Connar noticed some gray patches in the soil along the path.  The Gorge was also covered with ash following the eruption of Mt St Helens in 1980.  It's still quite easy to find deposits of ash, which is exactly what Connar noticed.

A quick hike, a little exercise for their brains too, and we were back on the road...with new rock samples for our kitchen collection.

Where can you stop with your kids for a roadside geology exploration?

1 Science Moms have commented...:

Paula said...

I found your blog by way of Amanda at Serenity Now. I'm a middle school science teacher and enjoyed looking through some of your posts. I'm following!