Waco Gem and Mineral Club, Waco, Tx

8.5 Indoor Field Trip


8.5: The Indoor Field Trip

Not all field trips need to be out into the field. In some places, all the hard work of searching, collecting, and cleaning rocks, minerals, and fossils has already been done, and the results are just waiting for you to see! Take your kids on a trip to one such locality, i.e., a college geology department or a science or natural history museum.

Many college geology departments have teaching collections, and—given that they are educational institutions—most are happy to oblige in guiding your kids through their collections if given sufficient advance notice. You should also try to arrange a question-and-answer session with one or more of the faculty on staff. Some departments have active public outreach efforts, so while visiting, you should strive to forge a long-term relationship with receptive faculty members who may be able to help you in an on-going manner with additional activities for your kids.

Museums—both the large, world-class varieties like the American Museum of Natural History and smaller, regional ones like the Santa Cruz City Museum—are terrific places to take kids. It‘s probably childhood trips to the Field Museum in Chicago, along with field trips sponsored by the Illinois State Geological Survey, that fanned my interest in the earth sciences. The most memorable visit, however, was one in which I was invited to tour not just the exhibitions on public display, but the treasures behind the scenes in none other than the Smithsonian. I vividly remember seeing tray after tray of shark teeth of all manner and variety being pulled and stacked in front of me until the stack was taller than I was. A mile-high row of such trays stretched down an aisle as far as the eye could see, or so it seemed. However large it really was, an impression was indelibly made!

Call in advance to arrange a group tour of a museum and most will assign a specific guide or docent to escort you and your kids. When calling, be sure to check into the possibility of a behind the scene tour in addition to the public displays.

The web is a great place to locate the nearest natural history museum. For instance, just a few seconds after typing Natural History Museums into the Google search engine, I found a long list of sites, with four that I explored in more detail. Each offered excellent and thorough listings of museums around the U.S. and the world, complete with links that take you to the museums‘ own web site: