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Science & NatureReading the rocks at Huntley Centennial Public School

Reading the rocks at Huntley Centennial Public School

by Neil Carleton, Metcalfe Geoheritage Park Committee

Last fall 15 loan collections of rocks and minerals were prepared for grade 4 classrooms as a pilot project of Canada’s first municipal geoheritage park.  This winter each Rocks Box was tested at Huntley Centennial Public School, in Carp, by Lisa Gaudet and her grade 4 French immersion students.

Metcalfe Geoheritage Park, Almonte

As a component of the Ontario science and technology curriculum, the study of rocks and minerals in grade 4 introduces students to geology.  The investigation, testing, and comparison of specimens in the classroom is important for learning about and understanding the physical characteristics of rocks and minerals.

Photo courtesy of Lisa Gaudet.

The large Rocks Box display samples were a big hit with the students as an introduction to the rocks and minerals of our region.  These ranged from metamorphic and igneous rocks of the Canadian Shield (marble, schist, gneiss, granite), about a billion years old, to the flat-lying sedimentary rocks under most of our farm fields  (limestone, sandstone, shale), about 450 million years old.

Photo courtesy of Lisa Gaudet.

The accompanying display labels with stands included the rock type and name (i.e. sedimentary limestone) + geological age (i.e. Ordovician Period) + look fors (i.e. brachiopod fossils).

Photo courtesy of Lisa Gaudet.

Each Rocks Box includes a classroom set of hands-on specimens.  Their study by the 49 grade 4 students in Lisa Gaudet’s two French immersion classes included drawing the samples and describing their surface features.

Photo courtesy of Lisa Gaudet.

Classroom sets of testing samples enabled the students to investigate and compare the colour, streak, and hardness of the hands-on rocks and minerals.

Photo courtesy of Lisa Gaudet.

They also tested for magnetism and how reflective the mineral surfaces were.

Photo courtesy of Lisa Gaudet.

Studying the display samples, hands-on specimens, and testing material was a fun learning adventure according to the notes I received from the students.  These are the first six comments I read:

… I like seeing rocks better in person than in pictures – Alex;

… so cool looking at them up close especially looking for fossils – anonymous;

… it was a lot of fun doing the tests – Hailee;

… the whole experience was AWESOME – Lucy;

… I liked how I got to see the rocks in real life instead of a photo – Maria;

… I liked it because you learned and had fun at the same time – anonymous.

The teacher’s feedback was equally encouraging.  “The Rocks Box collections from Metcalfe Geoheritage Park are a great teaching resource.  Everything is carefully prepared and organized for an exciting grade 4 study of rocks and minerals.”  Lisa Gaudet, Huntley Centennial Public School, Carp.

The 15 Rocks Box collections are now available for teachers of grade 4 classes in the greater Almonte area.

Rocks Box 1    sedimentary rock – limestone  – fossils:  honeycomb coral

Rocks Box 2    sedimentary rock – limestone – fossils:  cephalopod, crinoid, etc.

Rocks Box 3    sedimentary rock – limestone – fossils:  brachiopods

Rocks Box 4    sedimentary rock – limestone  – glacial striations

Rocks Box 5    sedimentary rock – sandstone  – cemented sand grains

Rocks Box 6    sedimentary rock – sHALE – cemented silt and mud particles

Rocks Box 7    metamorphic rock – marble – formed from sedimentary limestone

Rocks Box 8    metamorphic rock – mica schist – formed from sedimentary shale

Rocks Box 9    metamorphic rock – gNEISS – formed from igneous or sedimentary rocks

Rocks Box 10    igneous rock – granite – formed from magma

Rocks Box 11    mineral – QUARTZ – one of the most common minerals of the Earth’s crust

Rocks Box 12    mineral – FELDSPAR – an abundant rock forming mineral

Rocks Box 13    mineral – MICA – a common sheet or flake mineral

Rocks Box 14    mineral – CALCITE – a common mineral of sedimentary limestone and metamorphic marble

Rocks Box 15    4 rocks and 4 minerals – TESTING SAMPLES –  limestone, sandstone, shale, marble, quartz, feldspar, mica, calcite

Lisa Gaudet with the entire Rocks Box collection, which easily fits in a small vehicle.

Each Rocks Box includes teacher notes, classroom sets of hands-on + testing specimens, and a large display sample.

Hands-on specimens of Precambrian age mica schist, about 1 billion years old, from Rocks Box 8.

Display sample of Ordovician age fossiliferous limestone, about 450 million years old, from Rocks Box 3.

COST    The loan collections are free.  Donations for their upkeep are welcome.

LOAN PERIOD    Each Rock Box can be borrowed for a day or so, or a week, or longer.

PICK UP    3 Argyle Street, Almonte.

RESERVATIONS    By email or phone on a first-come-first-serve basis.  Neil Carleton, Metcalfe Geoheritage Park Committee, 613-256-2018 home, 613-220-7765 cell, <geoheritagepark@gmail.com>

LESSON PLAN    Please contribute a lesson plan to each Rock Box that your borrow. 


Display Samples    For classroom display and viewing only please.

Hands-on Samples    No scratching or other marking please.  For students to hold / study / measure / classify / describe / explain / draw / photograph.

Testing Samples    Use the samples in Rocks Box 15 to test for hardness (scratch), or colour (streak test), or the presence of calcium carbonate CaCO3 (vinegar test).

FEEDBACK    What did you like best, and least, about the Rock Box you borrowed?  How could it be improved?  Your comments / critique / review / suggestions are important.


1  Grade 4 Rocks and Minerals Activities  FREE  Science Teacher’s Association of Ontario


2  Grade 4 Rocks, Minerals, and Erosion  FREE  Department of Earth Sciences, University of Western Ontario  http://www.ontariogeoscience.net/lessonplans/Grade4-Lesson1.pdf

3  Grades 4/5 Curriculum Planner Units  FREE  Rocks, Minerals, Erosion and Weather – When Disaster Strikes – Queen’s University  http://orgs.educ.queensu.ca/curr/curriculum-planner-units.html

4  Grade 4 Rocks and Minerals Unit  for the Ontario Curriculum    $5  Teachers Pay Teachers



2016  opening  http://metcalfegeoheritagepark.com/

2017  QR code system installed  https://millstonenews.com/2017/08/qr-code-signs-installed-at-metcalfe-geoheritage-park.html 


2017  QR code system inaugurated https://millstonenews.com/2017/09/geoheritage-park-inaugurates-qr-code.html

2017  website  http://metcalfegeoheritagepark.com/




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