Sixth graders get real-world geology prep for science exam

Sixth grade students at Polk County Middle School undertook a geology adventure in early May to have a bit of fun while reviewing for the Science Final Exam they will take next month.

The first destination was the Vulcan Materials Company in Hendersonville. Students got a tour of the currently 420-foot open pit mine, got to stand next to one of their giant loaders and listened to a presentation on the mining industry. Students learned that nearly every material they use, and some they eat, contain minerals. For example, Oreos and M&Ms both contain titanium oxide.

After lunch at a Pisgah National Forest picnic area, the group stopped at Pisgah Forest Gem Mine in the tiny town of Pisgah Forest. Here students participated in three activities – mining for minerals, testing some physical properties of minerals and an interactive discussion of plate tectonics.

In writing thank you letters to Vulcan Mine, McKenna Morris wrote, “Thank you for letting us come to Vulcan Mine and see how gravel is made and what an open-pit mine is.” Student Sophia Fireman wrote, “My mind was blown when I learned about how many things are based on rocks/minerals in our everyday lives.”

In his thank you letter to Pisgah Forest Gem Mine, Michael Barnes wrote, “I rather like rocks and gems, I may even have a career that deals with rocks.” Ella Waldman wrote, “I really enjoyed mining for gems, identifying different kinds of rocks and minerals, and thank you for teaching us more about plate boundaries.”

The field trip was a huge success. PCMS thanks Vulcan employee Chad Hodges for putting together a very informative and fun presentation on the mining industry and for the donation of gneiss samples and books for all students. Thank you also to Lisa and Daryl Waldrop at Pisgah Forest Gem Mining for the wonderful hands-on learning experiences and for adding plate tectonics content to the program. Also, a special thank you to all of the parents that chaperoned this trip.