League Lines: Ikes Help Youth Become “Rock Stars”

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Members of the League’s Rockville Chapter (Maryland) helped more than 50 children become “rock stars” – and taught them about geology and other earth sciences in the process. The event also brought members of the community to the chapter to learn about the Izaak Walton League.

The Rockville Chapter’s Jr. Youth Conservation Committee partnered with Mobile Mining Experience to offer a geode-cracking experience. Children used a special machine to crack open their own geodes – hollow rocks with crystals inside. Crystals form inside the rocks when mineral-filled water seeps in and out over millions of years, leaving deposits that eventually turn into crystals. The minerals in the water determine the color of the crystals.

This event was a great introduction to nature’s beautiful surprises! The children were able to pick out their own rocks and crack them open using a specially designed rock-cracking tool. (If a rock turned out to be empty of crystals, the children could pick another rock.) After cracking open the geodes, youth studied the minerals and crystals inside. Many types of minerals found in geodes glow a vivid green — and sometimes red, blue, and orange colors – when exposed to short-wave, mid-wave, and long-wave ultraviolet lights.

Children learned how geodes and different minerals and gems are formed, where they are found, how they are mined, and how some of them are used in everyday life, says Jeri Crist, who chairs the chapter’s Jr. Youth Conservation Committee. Interactive displays included large gemstones, geodes, petrified wood, and fossils – the most popular of which, of course, was fossilized dinosaur poop!

Mobile Mining Experience owner Tom Cummins – who also happens to be a member of the League’s Wildlife Achievement Chapter in Maryland – says the goal of this program and other programs the company offers is to inspire “kids of all ages” to learn more about science and to explore the wonders around them. “I studied environmental science in college and always had a passion for anything that involved the outdoors, be it fishing, canoeing, hiking, outdoor photography, and so many other things,” says Cummins. “Many years ago, my son showed interest in rocks and minerals. I jumped at the chance of getting involved in a hobby with my son, and it provided me with an opportunity to share my passion for the outdoors with him. Little did I know that it would later result in the formation of this company.”

The Rockville Jr. Youth Conservation Committee plans about five fun, hands-on events each year, says Crist. “Our goal is to get the younger generation off the couch and outside. We want our youth to get interested and learn about conservation issues and experience nature and all the wonder it has to offer. Since our kickoff last April, programs have included honey bees and bee keeping, Save Our Streams water quality monitoring, Maryland wildlife, fishing at the chapter lake, our American chestnut project, and a birds-in-winter nature hike.” Crist says these events fill up quickly and generally have between 50 and 90 participants of varying ages. Events planned for later this year include Save Our Streams water quality monitoring, a fall color hike and marshmallow roast, and a raptor program.