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Geologist’s nightmare July 26, 2010

Posted by mareserinitatis in Uncategorized.
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Lenore Skenazy (the mom who let her 9-year-old take the subway home alone) wrote a column about Consumer Product Safety Commission, which I thought was spot-on.

However, she began the column by talking about how a school opted not to buy rock samples because they thought the students would be better off looking at posters of rocks.

First, this makes me crazy. It’s bad enough that kids are taught geology by sitting in a classroom. Really. Geology is one of those things that I think you don’t get until you’ve been outside and have seen how it all fits together.

But now they’re not only sticking kids inside to learn about the outside, they’re replacing actual samples with pictures.

I’m sorry, but you can’t get a sense of many mineral characteristics unless you’re looking at samples. In fact, my experience is that you ought to have a few samples because some of them are lousy, and some of them are really good. In nature (that outside place where the kids aren’t allowed to go), you see both…really good samples and really lousy ones. In reality, the samples you see are usually somewhere in the middle.

Anyway, I’m appalled. When I’ve taught geology labs, we give the kids samples of galena (lead ore) to look at. The students have often asked me, “Isn’t that dangerous?” I tell them that they’re old enough to know not to lick their fingers and that they should probably wash their hands after lab so they don’t get it onto some food, where it may be accidentally ingested.

I haven’t had a single student suffer from lead poisoning.

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