RocksForKids.com

Starting a Collection - Rocks & Minerals
Collections   Want to Join a Club?    
Where to Get & Buy Rocks, Minerals & Beads
Displaying You Collection  
Identifying Your Rocks - What books should you have?  
Field Trips  Safety  Road Cuts  Pictures of Rock Collecting 

Everywhere you look there are rocks. You can start your rock collection from rocks in your driveway, along the side of the road or along a stream. Once you are hooked by the rock bug though, you might want to start collecting a little more seriously and start going on field trips. Field trips are trips planned to collect special rocks. 

Collections

Most kids collect things - rocks, stamps, coins , postcards - just to name a few. Being a collector is great fun and many adults started out collecting things when they were kids too. To read about what other kids collect, check out a web page published by the Smithsonian Museum at http://www.smithsonianeducation.org/students/idealabs/amazing_collections.html
You can learn how to start & care for your own rock collection or you can find out about other collections real kids have.

Want to Join a Club? 

Ontario, Canada

  • Greater Toronto Area Mineral Club for Kids: If you live in the Toronto, Ontario area and are between 9 and 15, check out
    The Young Toronto Mineralogists Club
    YTMC
    is the club for you if you are crazy for rocks. They meet monthly and go on field trips to collect rocks. Many rockhounds and geologists started out as young "pebblepups" just like you.

     

  • If you live in the Greater Toronto Area, there are several Rock Clubs that meet regularly. They would all welcome visitors to their monthly meetings. They are:

     

  • See our list under Family Excursion Destinations. Since we live in the GTA, our first priority is to provide information for families & kids in our own area.
     

  • CCFMS  - Ontario, central Canada
     

CANADA

  • Since we're Canadian, we try to emphasize Canada. That is why this section is in the #2 spot.

  • Other Rock Clubs in Canada - from The Canadian Rockhound

USA

About Rock Clubs

Most clubs are run by adults, but some of these clubs also have programs for young people - often called Pebble Pups or Junior Rockhounds. When you contact a club, ask:
Do they have other young people who come to their meetings?
Do they have activities for young people?
Do they have field trips that young people can go on?
If you like their answers, then get you parents to take you to a meeting or two so that you can decide if this is a club that you would like to join.

Some of the most common aspects of this hobby are:

  • field collecting - collecting rocks & minerals by digging them up (not buying them)

  • micromounting - mounting small mineral samples that exhibit crystal formations in order to study them under a microscope

  • wireworking - making jewelry with wire and polished minerals

  • soapstone carving

  • mineral identification & collection

  • fossils

  • lapidary - the cutting and polishing of rocks and semiprecious stones and minerals

  • sphere making - polishing a rock or mineral into a sphere shape

  • "stained glass" making with agate and stone slices

  • intarsia - placing thin pieces of polished rocks into metal channels to make a picture like a mosaic

  • geology - the study of how the earth was formed, rock formation

  • landscaping "rock" gardens

  • viewing stones - the use of individual stones to evoke a mood and meditative state

  • lectures and study groups - get together with others and learn new interesting scientific information

  • faceting - the cutting and polishing of gemstones

  • silver smithing - making "findings" of silver that can then be used to showcase minerals & stones - mainly in jewelry & decorative arts

Where to get Rocks & Minerals

Collectors of rocks & minerals buy, trade or go on field trips to collect their specimens.

Buying Minerals, Beads & Pretty Rocks

If you want to buy specimens, they are generally available at:

  • Gem & Mineral Shows put on by clubs.

    • If you live in Southern Ontario, there are a number of annual shows. Click here for a list we know of. 
       

  • You can buy rocks in rock shops, small import stores, museums and the Science Centres. The best place to buy rocks is in a rocks shop. Some that we know of are listed in our section under Family Excursion.
     

  • online through specialty sites or on eBay

Going on Field Trips

There are rocks & minerals all around you. In nature, minerals and rocks can be found anywhere you see the rocks peeking out from the soil. For young people, it is hard to go collecting rocks because of safety concerns and need for transportation. Creeks and river beds are among the easiest places to find rocks that have already been broken up. To start going on field trips, it is easiest to join a local rock & mineral club. Members of the club know what locations nearby are accessible and have interesting rocks.

You can also start learning about rocks when you are in the car with your parents. Take a look at the scenery that you drive through. Sooner or later you will see rocks, especially at road cuts.

One of the best places in Ontario to start is Bancroft, Ontario. http://www.bancroftdistrict.com/index.php
Not only are there lots of different minerals in a small area, but the local Chamber of Commerce encourages family rockhounding and provides maps and guided excursions. Bancroft is known as Canada Mineral Capital!

And of course, if you join a local Rock & Mineral Club, you will learn where other rockhounds go collecting!

Safety

When you collect rocks, you have to make sure you don't get hurt. Rockhounds know all about that & so should you.

  • Never try to break a rock without wearing safety goggles. 
  • Breaking rocks takes practice. Have an experienced rockhound show you how. Each rock has a different way of breaking. 
  • You will also need a proper sledge. Never try to break a specimen by hitting it with the pointed end of a geologists pick. 
  • Do not use regular tools like hammers, chisels, woodworking chisels, axes etc. to break your rocks. They weren't designed for this, you will damage them and you will hurt yourself when the tool breaks.
  • Wear gloves. Sometimes rocks can give you slivers and quartz is sharp enough to give you a nasty cut.
  • Rocks are hard and often rough. They can scratch you as well as any furniture you put it on.
  • Wash you hands thoroughly after handling rocks and before eating. Some minerals can make you sick.
  • Don't wash your rocks in the sink at home. You could scratch the sink and the dirt could clog up your pipes. Wash your rocks in a tub of water and dump the water on your flowerbed outside.
  • MSHA Kid's Page
    Safety tips for kids around quarries & mines.
    Maintained by Mine Safety and Health Administration, USA
  • Rock Hound Collection Safety

 

Road Cuts

One of the best places to get started in collecting rocks is at road cuts. A road cut is where the rock has been cut to let the road go through. This is usually done so that the road doesn't go up & down. When you are on the road in the countryside and go by a road cut, look for veins of different coloured materials, vugs (holes) or sparkles.

As you're driving along the road, keep you eyes open for road cuts. This is where the rocks in the hills have been cut to let the road go through in a more straight line. The road cuts are made by blasting the rocks with dynamite. The rock that gets blasted out is used to fill in the valleys where the road will pass, so that the road is more flat. If you look closely, you will be able to see interesting designs in the rocks and many different colours. Ask your parent to stop sometimes if the rocks look especially interesting. Remember to be safe when you are on the side of the road. There are rules about collecting along road cuts so be sure that you know if you are allowed to collect. Different provinces have different rules. You also need to be sure that you are safe and that the cars driving by are safe from falling rocks.

 

   
Be careful of broken glass, especially if you kneel down to get a better look at the rocks. You'll be surprised by the amount of garbage that you will find by the side of the road. Do your part & try to pick up a few pieces whenever you stop to look at a road cut. Consider it part of doing your bit for the environment.
 

A Geologist's Lifetime Fieldtrips  This a list of essential or desirable locations for geologists or travelers to visit. It contains many of the interesting geological wonders of the world, with links for most of them. Other interesting natural phenomena are also presented.

Bancroft, Ontario is known as the Gem Capital of Canada. It has a great variety of minerals in a small area. The town encourages amateur rockhounds by having a geologist on staff during the summer to lead field trips. Kids are welcome on these trips. There are also local businesses that cater to amateur rockhounds.

Displaying Your Collection

Start off by having a shelf where you can put your rocks.
Remember to keep a label with it which tells you where you collected the rock and the date.
Don't worry if you don't know the name of the rock because later you might find that rock in an identification book. You can always add that information later.

 

Identifying Your Rocks - What books should you have?

There are many books on rocks & minerals to choose from. Whatever book you get should have lots of coloured pictures because rocks are so beautiful to look at. To start, we suggest you get 1 field guide and 1 general reference book. In our opinion, the best books to start with are:

Field Guides

Field guides are great because they tell a little bit about the hobby and a lot about specific rocks & minerals. Besides having fantastic pictures of mineral specimens, each page tells you some interesting facts. Everyone who has a collection should have at least one field guide & many people have more than one.

Simon & Shuster's Guide to Rocks and Minerals
ISBN 0-671-24417-5
 

General Reference - Eyewitness Books

The Eyewitness series by DK Publishing (Dorling Kindersley) is one of the best on the market for general reference books for people of all ages. Each page spread is full of excellent photographs and informative captions with enough background information for any amateur enthusiast. Children as young as 6 are enthralled with the pictures and young people never tire of poring over the pages. A similar series geared towards the 7 to 11 years age range called EyeWonder also has titles on rocks & minerals.

Eyewitness Books ~ Rocks & Minerals
ISBN 0-7737-2180-0

Eyewitness Books ~ Crystal & Gem
ISBN 0-7737-2463-X

Eyewitness Books ~ Fossil
ISBN 0-7737-2346-3
   

 

   

 

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