Young Cultivators Merit Badge: Outpost/Rocks and Minerals, Beginner Level

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 7,050 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—10,044 total! Take it away, MBA Jane!!! ~MaryJane 

Wondering who I am? I’m Merit Badge Awardee Jane (MBA Jane for short). In my former life

For this week’s Outpost/Rocks and Minerals Beginner Level Merit Badge, I needed to learn the difference between rocks and minerals.

Mineral collection, Nature History Museum, Vienna. Photo by Dr. Bernd Gross via Wikimedia Commons.

This is one of those questions that if you were to pose it to me, I would suavely nod and try to say something that sounds intelligent, but inside would be quivering with social anxiety and the appalling knowledge that I forgot everything my first grade teacher taught me.

Sorry, Miss Banks.

It’s just one of those things you think you know, until you really ponder it a second. So, it was time to put my ego aside and relearn some basics.

Here is what I found, my wee farmgirls:

Rocks are:

  • Made up of lots of minerals
  • Have no definite shape
  • Colors will vary
  • Some will have fossils
  • Not a single crystal

photo by Rennett Stowe via Wikimedia Commons

Minerals are:

  • Made up of one pure substance
  • Have a more definite shape
  • Will be more colorful
  • Will not have fossils
  • Usually have crystals

photo by Didier Descouens via Wikimedia Commons

Ah ha! It was all coming together. (And sounding familiar, too.)

*Miss Banks breathes a sigh of relief that she didn’t waste her life after all.*

Three forms of rocks are:

IGNEOUS – granite, scoria, obsidian
SEDIMENTARY – sandstone, conglomerate, shale
METAMORPHIC – marble, schist, gneiss

(That last one sounds like a character from a Dr. Seuss book, if you ask me, but I checked my spelling several times.)

It turns out that identifying rocks or minerals is pretty complicated, and sometimes even geologists have a tough time. My respect for such devoted gurus of the lowly rock went up several notches.

A couple of other things I learned that I didn’t find in my helpful library books but thought I would share with you:

  • Rocks are better for skipping on lakes than minerals. My record is six skips. *blows on nails with humble air and shrugs lightly as if to say, no biggy*
  • I was the third rock from the right in my third grade school play. I played it with such convincing believability, you would have been impressed. I mean, I was the rock. Method acting, kiddos. It’s not just for Daniel Day-Lewis.
  • Rocks are fun to paint when you’re feeling stressed. No, really! Try it. Ladybugs are cute, but the solar system is even better. Then you can line them up in order of size. Don’t forget Pluto. Never forget Pluto … I’m making t-shirts with that promise.
  • Rock Museums are wayyyy fun, and educational to boot. Most of them have polishing machines and I don’t care how old you are; watching a dull, brown rock become something shiny and special is mesmerizing, peeps.

Old Thomas River Village, Rock Art Museum (Eastern Cape, South Africa). Photo by Lysippos via Wikimedia Commons

Another interesting fact is that some minerals, like quartz, mica, or feldspar are quite common, while others have been found in only one or two locations worldwide. Like, ever. Suddenly, I found myself daydreaming of traveling to those locations, and coming back with rare forms of unusual minerals! I’d be like the Indiana Jones of rocks and minerals. Dr. Seuss could write a book about me.

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Rocks and minerals have always been interesting to me. Whenever I pick up a stone or see a big bolder, I immediately want to know the geological history of how it came to be. The stories of our planet are wrapped up in these interesting bits and pieces of time. One of the activities I love to do when I visit a national park, is read the marquis throughout the areas about how the space developed over time. Rocks and minerals are what we have left that testify to great fires, ice ages, raging waters, and shifting tectonic plates. These are the stories of us and I love to read and explore them.

  2. Karlyne says:

    Dumb as a box of rocks has always seemed wrong to me… I love rocks! And minerals…

  3. I was a rockhound from my earliest days. I used to have quite a collection for a kid, and my parents were always horrified I’d spend my allowance buying minerals. I liked geodes the best , where the crystals are in the inside. I still have a few on display right in my living room now. My birthstone is amethyst and I have a big slab of them . And then there is the ” ARKANSAS DIAMOND”- my prized possession of my childhood. My grandmother collected big quartz crystals there in AK, and gave me one and I thought it was a real diamond!

    • Karlyne says:

      Kids have such a fascination for rocks! My grandkidlets love to head to our local junk store, The Bottomless Pit, where the owners give them great deals on rocks and tell them the history of them, too. It’s seriously sweet!

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