This is my second time through Sixth Grade Mineralogy, as it is popularly known in Waldorf Schools. Some Waldorf homeschooling parents want to take a bit broader view of mineralogy as well. I think Waldorf Schools do traditionally include such things as an introduction to plate tectonics and some include more about weather and such (see below), but many of these things are really expanded upon in eighth grade with Earth Science being taught through all four high school years. You can see some Main Lesson Book pages from A Waldorf Journey
I like to do an introduction to plate tectonics in Sixth Grade Mineralogy, and put Oceanography, Atmosphere, and Weather/Climate in mainly Eighth Grade. Water as a topic is something I would like to see worked into every grade in varying forms, and I think that is a possibility looking at the blocks in Waldorf Education.
The first time I did this block, I focused more on a movement from looking at the surface of the Earth through biomes and ecology, then what helps shape weather on the Earth and how that shapes the Earth’s surface, and then more into traditional rocks and minerals and ending with fossils and the record of time. You can see a full, long post about this approach here.
This time around, different child, different year, I first and foremost did have the Earth Science Literacy Standards in my head because I was just at a conference. These include nine “big ideas”: the idea that Earth scientists use repeatable observations and testable ideas to understand and explain our planet; that the Earth is 4.6 billion years old and how the Solar System formed, the two types of Earth’s crust , the fossil record; that Earth is a complex system of interactions between rock, water, air, and life; that Earth is continuously changing; Earth is the water planet; that life evolves on a dynamic Earth; that we depend on the Earth for resources; that natural hazards do pose risks; and that human beings significantly alter the Earth.
So this time around, I started with the minerals around us – what minerals do we eat? where are minerals in things we use every day? From there I moved into :
- What the Earth looks like from above; the layers of the Earth; an introduction to Plate Tectonics
- Old versus new crust – subduction zones; how tectonic plates can move (introduction); the idea that continents collided, drifted apart, the oceans opened and closed – and how this happened in our own state.
- Our state was mainly shaped by tectonic processes and erosion; review of our five distinct geographic regions;
- Mountain building; types of mountains and what we have in our state; how plates moving determine the location of earthquakes and volcanoes; types of faults; tension/compression/shearing; using longitude and latitude to plot where volcanoes and earthquakes have been located; contour maps
- Igneous rocks- granite, basalt, andesite, obdisian, pumice. Look at the igneous rocks of our region of our state, and then at other regions in our state. I would suggest making volcanoes here.
- Sedimentary Rock – sedimentary rock formation; the most prime example in our state is that half of the world’s kaolin is in our Coastal Plain area; so we talked a lot about kaolin and how its uses, how it is processed; looked at sedimentary rocks in the rock game I have for our state. Limestone and caves; veil painting
- Fossil record, walk back through time; what is a fossil and what is an index fossil; the eras of the Earth; what fossils do we have in our state and why; Mary Anning; Louis Leakey
- Metamorphic Rock – ; the rock cycle including erosion and deposition (water, wind, glaciers); properties of minerals; how minerals form
- Coal and Oil; formation; the coal mining industry in our state; fracking; renewable energy; what our state is doing with renewable energy (which will be our next five paragraphy essay to write – we wrote one about Jupiter in our Astronomy block)
Resources I used:
- I mentioned my two favorite ones here – Roadside Geology of Georgia and the game for identifying rocks in my state (boxes of rocks for each region of our state with a playing board for each region); notes from the symposium session I just attended regarding botany and geology
- Library books: Mary Anning biographies, Diving to a Deep-Sea Volcano by Mallory; we tried When The Earth Shakes by Winchester – very text heavy; Experiments with Rocks and Minerals by Hand; Outrageous Ores by Peterson; Volcano Rising by Rusch; DK Eyewitness books on Fossils and Oil
- Salt by Kurlansky and Schindler; Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea: Marie Tharp Maps the Ocean Floor by Burleigh
- The Living Earth by Cloos (Waldorf resource); Geology and Astronomy by Kovacs (Waldorf resource)
- All About Rocks and Minerals by White (old)
- Rocks, Rivers and the Changing Earth: A First Book About Geology by Schneider and Schneider
- Explore Rocks and Minerals! by Brown and Brown
- Different books about renewable energy: Biomass: Fueling Change by Walker; Generating Wind Power by Walker; Geothermal, Biomass, and Hydrogen by Ollhoff; Ocean, Tidal, and Wave Energy: Power From the Sea by Peppas; How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint by Bishop
- Rock samples and samples of coal
- Limestone Caverns including Luray Caverns in Virginia and Mammoth Cave in Kentucky; Granite Museum
- We missed both a tour of one of the kaolin facility and the marble festival – they are both only open to the public once a year in our state.
- There really isn’t anything much for fossils in our state as far as digs but I might join our state’s mineral society because I hear if there is any to be found it is done through that society
- Our Natural History Museum does have quite a lot about dinosaurs and a “Walk Through Time” going through our state’s prehistory – we were lucky enough to attend our museum when it had a traveling exhibit from NYC’s American Museum of Natural History about “The World’s Largest Dinosaurs”
- Another museum in our state has an extensive gem collection and a focus on the uses of gems and metals found in our state
- Gem show
- Viewing local streams and watersheds; looking for erosion
- There are some places of geologic significance we have not yet seen in our state so maybe we will get to some of those in the spring.
Main Lesson Book/Projects:
- So many projects you could do with this block! Growing crystals and basalt columns; making volcanoes and speleothems.
- Clay modeling seemed so appropriate for this block!
- Veil painting
- The writing was intensive in our Astronomy block and our sixth grader cannot write that much two blocks in a row, so this time we are going to use more of a main lesson book with foldouts, drawings and paintings and any brochures from places we visited in lieu of traditional drawing/summary tactics ( plus a report on renewable energy) that can be extended into the next block.