Pillars of Pine

Pillars of Pine

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Rocks and other Radical Research

First, some background info.

Around 10-12 years ago, when all my children were quite small, we came across an experiment in our science textbook.  The idea was for all the children to gather some rocks, and to then test their hardness by placing them on a flat surface and giving them a good whack with the hammer.  Sounds simple enough, right?

So, I sent the children out on a beautiful spring day to gather their rocks.  As they were little, I didn’t explain what we would be using the rocks for, but I knew they’d love watching the rocks being smashed to bits – I was excited – we were taking care of the hands-on stuff today, and it was going to be fun!

My little children lined up on the verandah, proudly holding their rock collections in their hands.  I took the first rock from my oldest daughter, and awaiting the squeals of delight that were sure to come, I gave that piece of sandstone an almighty thump. 

Of course, it smashed perfectly – with bits of rock and dirt flying across the ground.  I looked up, very proud of my accomplishment, with a smile on my face – only to see my daughter burst into tears.  ‘That was going to be my pet rock!’ she cried, ‘and you’ve smashed it!’ 

And that was the end of the lesson, and in fact, the end of our school day, as I spent the rest of the day trying to comfort her and calm her down.  It’s a day I never forgotten – and a lesson learned – in such cases, it’s a good idea to give at least a little forewarning of what is going to happen.

Fast forward to the present day.   Imagine my horror when I turned the page in our current science book (Science in the Creation Week, by Dr. Jay Wile), to discover the exact same experiment!  I took a deep breath, and very carefully, and in depth, explained to my three youngest daughters that today they would be collecting rocks, and we would be taking a hammer and smashing them.  After I was absolutely sure that they understood these would NOT be ‘pet rocks’, I sent them out to gather their collections – they were absolutely delighted that a hammer would be involved, and that they would have permission to smash something!

After a little while the rocks were gathered and all lined up, ready for their impending doom.  We started off very gently, with a lump of solid dirt, giving it a good tap, and watching the dirt fly. We then began on the rocks – softly at first, but we soon worked our way up to knocking the bejeebers out them!


We rubbed the rocks together, drew marks on the verandah, and chatted about which rocks crumbled, which rocks were tough, etc.  We also took the time to examine the various layers, and discuss how the layers may have been formed.  The only difficultly I had this time was having the girls come back inside to complete their notebooks – this was one experiment they thoroughly enjoyed!

So, a wrong has been righted.  I never thought I’d ever attempt this experiment again, but fortunately, this time, it all went off perfectly {insert a HUGE sigh of relief here}.

And, with that done, we’re moving on……