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4th Grade Dig Tennessee Rocks

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West Elementary 4th Grade
Classroom Geological Dig
Mt. Juliet, TN

One of our members teaches the 4th grade at West Elementary.  This year on May 19, 2000, the 3rd annual Classroom Geological Dig was a highlight for the three 4th grade classes.  Through this program, children not only learn more about science, but they also learn how much fun it can be.  This year, these great teaching skill have not gone unnoticed.  Tina has been awarded with the Presidents Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.  We are very proud to have members that devote so much of their time helping to educate others.  We have been allowed to share some of this information with you and hope that others might be able to learn more.  Be sure to check out the Photo Gallery.


This classroom geological dig involves the students in learning about fossils, minerals, and earth science before the day of the dig. They participate in activities that lead to research as they handle real fossils and minerals, grow crystals, and make fossil molds and casts. The students also connect earth science to biology as they study bones and skeletons. We begin our geological dig study by observing the make-up of soil taken from our schoolyard. When the students found ant tunnels in their section of soil, it helped them to understand the concept of trace fossils. Since the students found many worms buried in their sample of soil, we later dissected worms to compare the worms' body system with our own... again relating earth science to biology. The geological dig is a culmination of many lessons. As the students grow crystals, they make predictions, as well as record observations of their crystals over a three to four week time period. On the day of the dig, the students have an appreciation for the minerals that they find as they crawl through a man-made cave or pull their mineral out of a bucket lowered into a mineshaft.

On the day of the dig, the students work together cooperatively as they actively participate in several learning activities. The three fourth grade classes are divided and rotated through three areas. The first area is the "dig site" which is on a hill behind our school. The students use their field notebooks, study guides, and grids to record the grid location and information about the five fossils that they excavate from their shoebox size container. As the students use paintbrushes to brush away the dirt, they carefully locate and grid the coordinates of each fossil. The students use their study guide to help them determine unknown fossils. Twenty-one different types of fossils have been buried. These fossils were purchased at a local rock show, from dealers in Oklahoma and South Carolina, or from rock club members. The students use toothbrushes as they clean their fossils in tubs of water at this site. The students also choose a rock or fossil from a "rock pile". If time permits, the students sift for fossils and minerals for identification purposes only. After 60 minutes, the students rotate to the next area. The cave area is in the gym. In this area, the students are divided up into three groups. One group goes into a black- light area to team and see fluorescent rocks from a member of a local rock club. Another group finds minerals in a cave, mineshaft, and in a "mineral pile". They also view different types of minerals, such as TV rock, magnetite, agates, and identify an assortment of minerals. The third group learns how to test minerals by making predictions and performing experiments by doing a hardness test, streak test, or chemical test in hands-on activities led by a local rock club member. After 60 minutes, the students rotate to the third area. Again they divide up into three smaller groups. The first group learns about tumbled stones. They see both naturally tumbled stones, as well as see a tumbler in action. The students find seven tumbled stones in the sand and receive a mineral bag for storing their collection of stones. They identify the stones that they find and record the names of the tumbled stones in their field notebook. They also crack and learn about geodes. The next group learns about core samples as they make predictions and take core samples of layered cupcakes. They also learn about strip mining as they use toothpicks to carefully excavate chocolate chips from a cookie without devastating the area around the chips. The third group learns about seashells, especially since the students find fossilized shells in our local limestone. The students end the day with a "rock swap", which enables the students to show or trade their fossils and minerals. 

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