I’m knee-deep in preparation for sixth grade these days and our first block of the year is scheduled to be Rocks and Minerals, or Mineralogy. Last time I taught this block it ended up being one of my favorites of the entire middle school. Who knew that rocks could be so interesting? This time I’ve found even more fantastic resources for teaching the block.
Earth’s Dynamic Systems by Kenneth Hamblin and others — This is an updated version of an old college textbook that I found during a book sale at our local library. I got it for super cheap and a quick search on Amazon showed that purchasing an older version there is just as affordable. Because it is a college level book, the depth of the material is way above the kids’ heads, but I found it really valuable to have the background information in my head. I always feel like I need to have an understanding of the larger picture in order to be able to present the information to the children and be able to answer their questions.
All About Rocks and Minerals by Anne Terry White — A colleague suggested this book to me and I quickly went to Amazon and ordered it. It is long out of print, but it is really fantastic. Often these older books are the ones that do the best job of relating concepts in an imaginative way, and that is definitely true for this book. It tells the stories of historical geologists and the theories that they came up with to explain the formation of different rock forms. I love using biographies with my students as they so instantly bring the concepts and ideas to life. This book takes much of the material that is presented in a dry way in Physical Geology and transforms it into a form that is accessible and interesting to children. The style and voice of the writer actually reminds me quite a lot of one of my favorite Waldorf authors — Charles Kovacs.
Geology and Astronomy by Charles Kovacs — Though I’ve never used this book (it hadn’t been published when I taught this block last) I can wholeheartedly recommend everything that Charles Kovacs has written. His books give the Waldorf teacher a number one, primary resource for the block. So many of his books can be used to directly teach the block. You can look at his list of chapters and just fill in your lesson planner. I will say, though, that teaching this way is not particularly inspired and it is always better to enliven the material and make it your own, but it is quite handy to have a solid resource that you know you can depend on.
The last resource that is an essential for this block is Roadside Geology. There is an edition of Roadside Geology for every state and it will give you all of the local information you need to know about your particular area. Though it is important to teach the universal concepts (the rock cycle, the different types of rocks and minerals) it is also important to address the geological features that are relevant to your area. When you go out exploring with your students you’re going to want to be able to identify the most common rocks that you find together and this book will help you do that.
The last thing you’re going to want to have to teach this block is a good classroom collection of rocks and minerals. This set I found on Amazon is a really good one. The rocks are labelled with numbers so that you can look at the legend to identify them. This system of numbering is really good for creating rock identification quizzes. I think students of this age really appreciate having tests and quizzes so they can see and prove for themselves how much they have learned and a rock identification quiz is particularly satisfying.
This is the exact set I used with my last class and it was just perfect because it includes both rocks and minerals.
One warning, though, resist the temptation to pull out this set right at the beginning of the block. It is far better to start with rocks that you find in the world around you and then move to the set (which is pretty disconnected from the natural world) later.