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I have no expertise in geology or earth science, but I would like to do a "field trip" with my home-schooled young children (under age 10) where I could teach them about geology from a hands-on perspective.

What could I do on this field trip that would make this event memorable and special for the children, that would not be possible just at home at the dining table?

If you are unfamiliar with small children, here are some outside things they like to do that I think may be compatible with this kind of event:

  • digging (and hopefully finding pretty rocks, crystals, fossils, etc)
  • hiking, walking, and running
  • exploring "the wild"
  • caves
  • creatures

I had a few ideas, but I don't know if any of them are practical or possible, or where I could gain the skills to make these really happen?

  • Use our knowledge of geology to predict what kind of rocks we'd find if we dug in one place. Go there and dig, and see if we are right.
  • Somehow actually find something that is uncommon: iron, shark teeth, crystals
  • Find an area with 2-3 distinct kinds of rock, so it is very easy for the kids to distinguish this sedimentary rock over here from that igneous rock over there.
  • Bring back something that would be more interesting when viewed under a microscope

I would hope that any answers could be generally applied anywhere, but if it is helpful I live on the Wasatch Front in Utah, USA

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You live in an very good state for interesting geology, rock collecting, etc. In regards to looking for things the kids can collect, view and otherwise analyse the PDF, "The Collectors Guide to Rocks, Minerals, and Fossil Localities of Utah" would be a good start to your research. The publication is from the Utah government and covers a large number of areas in the state. Over 30 years ago I made a trip to the Caineville just east of Capital Reef National Monument and collected pelecypods, they where laying on the soil with the occasional gypsum spars. I believe the area is in the document I suggest you read, I doubt I could find it now but there was lots to find in the area in general including some evaporative type minerals, agates, and fossils.

You also have the Great Salt Lake, some areas would be good to collect and view brine shrimp, protozoa, and algae with a microscope, many would be easily viewable with a dissecting microscope. You could also discuss the geological history of lake Bonneville of which the Great Salt Lake is but a remnant.

Finally the Gem Trails of Utah guide can provide some sites where collecting might be appropriate, though this publication is getting old and doesn't focus much on geology.

The land status and access to these areas change frequently and sometimes it is difficult to locate the sites, expect some failures in your adventures. I would also suggest that you field check the surrounding areas because published areas often get damaged by careless individuals. Finally, would also suggest you follow leave no trace principals as much as possible within a collecting trip, the scenery and wildlife in many of these areas are really impressive and it is a shame to see it all dug up by collectors.

As a final thought most states have some form of Geological Road Maps, there are some listed on this government site.

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Some road cuts are interesting to look at. When a cut exposes several obviously different layers of rock, you can see differences in texture, layer thickness, and so forth. They also convey very clearly the concept of rock being deposited in layers.

You'll need to do some scouting, though -- some cuts are boring (only one kind or rock exposed), and some have other problems, like no safe way to get off the road or poison oak between the road and rock face.

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Plan out the trip(s) in detail with the various road cuts stops on the trip guide. Be sure to do the trip by yourself so that there no surprises (such a 3 feet of snow covering the site or a bridge is washed out). Fossils and arrowheads are a good start.

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