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STEM Rocks! Geology for Early Learners

When we think about STEM nowadays, we tend to picture robots rolling around the children’s space, iPads programmed with entertaining apps, or the newest buzzword in STEM: coding. And while, yes, all of those things do currently have the spotlight in STEM education right now, I’d like to talk about a branch of science that you might not think about as being part of STEM.

Geology. Yes, geology – the study of rocks.

When it comes to the early learners in your life, especially those under the age of three, the emphasis is on powering down the technology and focusing on face to face, human interaction. And really, when you think about it, there’s a lot of cool things you can do with rocks. Plus without them there would be no Earth. So let’s show our planet some appreciation, take our little ones outside this summer, and get down and dirty with some rocks.

Make rock piles:

This one is simple. Go for a nature walk and collect some rocks. When you get home, build a rock pile. Count the rocks as you pile them, or see how high of a pile you can make before the pile tumbles. These are great ways to practice numbers or to discuss concepts like balance and gravity. Without an understanding of these ideas, we have no architecture or engineering.

Whip up a stone-themed snack:

Use different foods to make textured layers for a delicious snack. Crush Nilla wafers for sand, use chocolate pudding for mud, and add some granola for rocks. Stir some green food coloring into coconut flakes and sprinkle it on top for grass. While you and your little one are enjoying your snack, you can talk about how the Earth is made up of different types of rocks and soil and how all of those things together make up the ground we walk on every day. This is a great way to teach concepts that become the foundation for earth sciences as well as paleontology, zoology and botany.

Make actual rocks:

Get a muffin tin, some cooking spray, non-toxic glue (like Elmer’s), flour, sand and water. Mix 1 part glue, 2 parts flour, 2 parts sand, and 2 parts water into a dough. Spray your muffin tin with cooking spray and fill each muffin cup with some of the dough. Allow it to dry for a few days. Voila! You made your very own rocks! The process of mixing ingredients and observing the change as the dough hardens is a good way to teach your child about chemical reaction.

Paint the rocks:

You can paint the rocks you have just made if you feel like making your STEM lesson into a STEAM lesson with a bit of art. If you are not in the mood to make rocks, just go back to that nature walk you took and use some rocks from your rock pile for some rock painting fun. You can even turn this activity into a fun, colorful rock hunt for your child.

Korie is part of the Library’s Early Learning BLAST Outreach team. Her favorite children’s authors are Kevin Henkes and Audrey and Don Wood. She enjoys making sensory bottles, taking long walks through small neighborhoods and ‘80’s era fantasy films.

Check out a fun book about rocks!

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