The Santa Clara Valley Gem and Mineral Society (essentially a geologist and rock hunter club) had a brilliant idea to improve attendance and interest in its annual show: they recruited the youth leaders amongst themselves so that Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Cub Scouts could earn badges learning more about geology while at the show.
Neil’s troop announced the news in a sort of BTW fashi0n, but I recently volunteered to become the newsletter editor just so that I’d be aware of this sort of stuff. By the time I called, the official appointments were all booked, but the woman in charge of the matter said that if we came in during the afternoon, when things typically slowed down, Neil would probably be able to slide in and earn a merit badge for geology.
When we arrived, it was clear that many, many youth groups from the area were taking full advantage of the oppornity. There were entire boy scout and girl scout troops crowding towards the entrance as we arrived. Once we got in, the Society deserves full credits for setting up a show with youth appeal. For just entering, both children received a treasure hunt list, which if they completed it, would win them a prize. I paid for both Neil and Kelly to get into the “Kids’ Area” (a whole $2.50 each, which included a rockhunter club badge for both), and within that area, there were several educational areas a homeschooling parent could only hope for, including the differences between rocks and minerals; the parts of a volcano; how to be a safe rock hunter; and how a fossil is created. Neil met with the merit badge counselor, who already had materials set up for successfully completing a merit badge, including geological maps of Santa Clara County.
While Neil was working on his merit badge, Kelly and I enjoyed the show. There were tons of terrific exhibits showing what could be done with carving and heating rocks and metals, activities for children (such as creating gem friendship bracelets), and areas showing, say, fluorescing rocks. In an educational area, Kelly and I walked in late to a lecture about dinosaurs and fossils. It was in a word, fascinating. The lecturer was nothing less than a rockhunter Indian Jones type who gave an animated lecture which enthralled his audience, including Kelly (on the right in the Tinkerbell costume):
I learned some, and Kelly more. She happily told Peter about the huge meteor which extinguished dinosaur life with a huge cloud of dust at dinner time.
Kelly completed her treasure hunt and found out that, um, a gold nugget is, um, gold, and jade is, um, green, but it was truly fun for her. I learned the state mineral is the rare and local Benitoite, of which we saw more than a few samples. Eventually (with not inconsequential effort) Neil completed his merit badge, thanks to the well-organized merit badge counselor, and thanks to the fact that he’d already studied geology at Charybis and Scylla and had a rock collection.
In a separate building at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds where this took place, Kelly and Neil saw skeletons of local ice age animals, and posed in front of a bronze dragon:
Kelly finished her treasure hunt, and both children received a shark tooth pin as a prize. Overall, the show was incredibly well done to appeal to children, and clearly, it made me (and my children) more exited about geology, rock and gem art, and fossils as well. So my hat goes off to the Society for a well-done show with general appeal to both rockhunters and future geologists. Neil completed the requirements for a geology badge and Kelly and I had a great time learning more about rocks and minerals.