You can collect them. You can mine them. You can even skip them across the water. Rocks and minerals are everywhere, and one ECC faculty member has made it a point for the last 17 years to explore them with his students.
Every semester, Larry Pierce takes his geology class to the Missouri Mining Museum, Silver Mines Recreational Area and Elephant Rocks State Park. The trip is less about seeing tourist sites and more about understanding Missouri’s geological history.
“After the trip,” Pierce explained, “many students say they will never look at rocks the same anymore!”
Rocks are common; it’s easy not to think much about them. As students found out, there is a lot to learn.
“We made some stops along the highway to look at different geological formations that dated back to Precambrian times,” said student Andrew Tchiblakian, “and we got to see examples of non-conformity in layers of granite and limestone. Some differed in age by about eight million years!”
Students also learned about Missouri’s mining history near Park Hills—evaluating different kinds of rocks, minerals and mining equipment from all around the state and other areas in the Midwest. They also saw a surface mine up close and searched for rock and mineral samples that are common in the area, including quartz and fluoride.
“Another part of the trip is learning about the effects of chemical weathering,” said Pierce, referring to the granite at Elephant Rocks State Park.
“It was quite fascinating to see a large scale example of biological, mechanical and chemical weathering,” Tchiblakian said, “and how to identify rock that has undergone this massive change.”
Sixteen students attended the trip this year, along with along with Science Division Lab Manager Jennifer Chitwood and Division Chair Fatemeh Nichols.