Waco Gem and Mineral Club, Waco, Tx

2.4 Field Trip to a Mine or Quarry


2.4: Field trip to a mine or quarry

There‘s nothing like showing kids first-hand nature‘s bounty and where it originates. Arranging tours at quarries and mines can be a fun adventure. Many mining companies are happy to provide educational tours if contacted well in advance so that appropriate arrangements can be made.

In my home state of California, opportunities abound with inactive and active gold mines, Wild West silver towns like Calico, the borax mine in Boron, diatomite mines near Lompoc, a limestone quarry near Davenport, tourmaline mines near San Diego, gypsum mines near Ocotillo, etc. Growing up in Illinois, I was often taken on organized field trips sponsored by the Illinois Geological Survey to operating limestone quarries, coal mines, and lead mines for fossil and mineral collecting. Later in Maryland, I often searched for petrified wood as well as minerals like garnets in sand and gravel quarries, and I found an abundance of active and inactive coal mines and limestone quarries when I lived in Pennsylvania.

How do you find out about local quarries and mines? One possibility is the Yellow Pages. For instance, in my local phone book, I found Best Rock Mining Company listed under Mining Companies. Look under Mining, Rock, Quarries, etc. Try the local Chamber of Commerce. Other good bets are state geological surveys, which maintain lists of mineral resources and active mining companies. You can locate your state survey via a Google search on the computer or by looking in the phone book Blue Pages under State Government listings, where it might be included under the Department of Conservation or Geological Survey. On the web site of the United States Geological Survey a handy map of the U.S. allows you to click on your state for regional geologic information.

After a field trip to a mine or quarry, have kids prepare written reports or make individual or group presentations at the next club meeting describing what was being mined, how it was being mined, and how it‘s ultimately used. They can also bring and share samples collected at the mine (some mines allow this; others don‘t) and perhaps use the experience as the basis for an educational display case at your next show or to share at their school or a science fair.

Note: Kids can use this activity toward satisfying requirements for the Field Trips badge simultaneously (Activity 8.3). Also, kids who write a report or give a talk about their trip can simultaneously satisfy requirements toward earning the Communication badge (Activities 7.1 and 7.2).

If you can‘t make it to a mine or quarry, never fear! The World Wide Web comes to the rescue. Check out Virtual Quarry Interactive, which offers a simulated field trip to a rock quarry and, under Teacher‘s Desk, 20 lesson plans related to quarrying and rock products used in everyday life. It‘s a British site, so the narrator has an accent and some of the terminology may be unusual for American students (e.g., lorry instead of truck), but it‘s a fun, informative site, nonetheless.