Pikes Peak Pebble Pups

Pikes Peak Pebble Pups

Merit Badge Assignments

Winter/Spring Merit Badge: The World in Miniature

The World in Miniature Merit Badge
When we collect, we usually seek the biggest rock on the ground.  But you may be surprised at what you’ll find within the world in miniature!  Step through the magnifying glass and learn to collect, clean, and store the smaller wonders of the mineral and fossil world and discover great specimens most people walk right over.  Many people focus on cabinet specimens (ones that are fist-sized).  Here, you’ll learn about miniatures (a specimen small enough to fit in the space of a 2-inch cube), thumbnails (fits within the space of a 1-inch cube) and micromounts (specimens so small as to require magnification with a hand lens or microscope to identify and evaluate).  You’ll find one thing for certain:  these small specimens sure are easy to store!

To earn your World in Miniature badge, you need to complete at least 3 of the 7 activities. Contact your Pebble Pup Leader of when you have completed.  Optional: write a one-page report about your experience with all of this and include a few photos of what you have done.

Activity 16.1:  Collecting, preparing, and storing miniature minerals.
Except for their size, miniatures aren't a lot different from larger specimens you may have collected, but you may need to use special techniques to trim and store a small mineral.  Learn those techniques and make a collection of at least 10 miniature minerals.

Activity 16.2:  Collecting, preparing, and storing thumbnail minerals.
You might extract thumbnail minerals from a cavity in a rock, sift them from soil, or carefully split one away from a larger mass of crystals.  Learn special techniques to collect, mount, and store thumbnail minerals, and make a collection of at least 10.

Activity 16.3:  Collecting, preparing, and storing microminerals.
Microminerals are a special class requiring extra special care and materials.  Because they are so very tiny, they’re easily lost or destroyed.  Learn what special efforts to take to collect, mount, and store them, and make a collection of at least 10 microminerals.

Activity 16.4:  Collecting, preparing, and storing miniature fossils.
Sometimes you’ll find small fossils in mint condition sitting right on the surface.  More often, you’ll need special techniques to collect, trim, and store a small fossil without damaging it.  Learn those techniques and collect at least 10 different miniature fossils.

Back-up information for the World in Miniature badge.

Let’s start with some definitions…
•          A cabinet specimen fits within the confines of a 5-inch cube.  These are the sorts of specimens we often see on display at gem and mineral shows.  They’re generally no bigger than fist-sized and would fit comfortably within the palm of your hand.  But that’s not what this unit is about…
•          A miniature is a specimen that fits within the confines of a two-inch cube.
•          A thumbnail is a specimen that fits within the confines of a one-inch cube.
•          A micromount is a specimen so small that it requires a hand loupe (generally 10X or 20X) or a microscope to identify and appreciate it.  It’s also usually permanently glued and mounted in a small box or slide.

It’s probably best to start exploring smaller specimens with “miniatures.”  The smaller you get on the scale presented above, the more complicated and expensive it can become to build and maintain a collection, and micromounts are pursued primarily by “connoisseurs” of the mineral and fossil world.  These tiny specimens often represent the pinnacle of perfection.  Many of those stunningly perfect crystals you see featured in colorful magazine photo spreads are actually micromounts; take a close look at the captions, and you’ll often see measurements expressed in terms of millimeters.
Still, it doesn't necessarily have to be complicated nor expensive to make a start with even a micromount collection.  In this unit, we won’t try to be comprehensive but instead will focus on simple, inexpensive basics while providing recommended resources for anyone wishing to go into more depth, particularly with microminerals and microfossils.

Smaller specimens provide a great way to get you started in collecting.  For one thing, such specimens are often a lot kinder to your budget if purchasing specimens at a gem show.  While perfect crystals of precious gemstones such as rubies, sapphires, diamonds, or emeralds are going to cost a bundle no matter what the size, many common specimens of such minerals as quartz, calcite, or pyrite, or of fossils like brachiopods, horn corals, or ammonites usually cost a whole lot less the smaller they are.

You are also more likely to find “mint” condition fossils or crystals of smaller sizes when collecting in the field.  They just need to be trained to look for and appreciate these smaller specimens.  When I was a child, I was on the lookout for the twelve-foot long petrified log or the T. rex skull—perhaps somewhat unrealistically, given that I grew up in Illinois….I haven’t done a formal count, but I’d safely wager that the vast majority of my own self-collected fossils fall within the categories of miniatures and thumbnails.

A miniature or thumbnail collection certainly takes a lot less space to store.  While those fist-sized cabinet specimens could fill up shoebox after shoebox in a child’s closet or under the bed, over 100 thumbnail mineral specimens can easily fit in a space just one foot by two feet and literally thousands of microfossils mounted on slides can be tucked compactly into a space no bigger than a breadbox.  Finally, as a fringe benefit, working with small specimens refines hand-eye coordination and helps a child in developing concentration, patience, and focus.

Back-up page 16.1:  Collecting, preparing, and storing miniature minerals.

Collecting miniatures.  One good way to start kids collecting miniature minerals is in the backyard of a willing club member who has a 40-year accumulation of rock sinking into the ground, with small chips and pieces scattered all about.  Let kids know they won’t be seeking a spectacular giant hunk but instead rejects and cast-offs:  the quartz or calcite-filled geode that shattered under a hammer blow and now sits in unwanted pieces.  On close inspection, and with a little scrubbing, these pieces may yield perfect miniatures.  Encourage kids to get up-close-and-personal with the rocks.  Other sources of miniatures  include gem shows, swaps with fellow club members, and—of course—field trips to mines and mineral localities listed in guidebooks for self-collecting.

Tools for field collecting miniatures will be the same as those used for collecting bigger specimens (see Back-up page 8.2):  a rock hammer and chisel, goggles for eye protection,  work gloves to protect hands, a roll of toilet paper for wrapping specimens so crystal tips and faces don’t get chipped or scratched, zip-lock baggies for transporting specimens safely home in buckets, knapsacks, or soda flats, and masking tape, markers, and notebooks for recording locality and other field information for each specimen.

Preparing miniatures.  Preparing miniatures basically involves trimming away matrix and unwanted damaged crystals.  You shouldn't try to trim excess matrix in the field but rather at home, where they can better control the trimming.  Basic supplies needed include lapidary hammers and small chisels (along with eye protection), rock or tile nippers and/or special vice-like rock trimmers to snip away pieces of matrix, a small rock saw, a hack saw fitted with a grit-edge or tungsten carbide blade rod, and a regular hand magnifying glass or, better, a bench magnifier that allows one to work with both hands free.  Small sand bags are also helpful to secure a specimen and to absorb the shock of any hammer-and-chisel blows, which should be administered with a light touch.
For sturdier, non-soluble minerals and crystals, cleaning often involves nothing more than a scrubbing with soapy water and a toothbrush.  I've also used steel dental picks and a dental water pick to get at stubborn dirt packed within tiny crevices.

Storing miniatures.  Miniatures may be stored in egg cartons, small fold-up cardboard specimen boxes, or compartmentalized plastic storage boxes with fold-top lids sold with fishing tackle or in bead-supply stores.  A more expensive option is the 2-inch Perky box, named after its creator, Willard Perkins of Burbank, California, who was known to friends as “Perky.”  For use with miniatures, these come in two sizes:  medium (1-3/8"X2"X2") and large (2.25"X2.5"X2.5").  These small plastic boxes, available from mineral suppliers, usually have a black bottom lined with Styrofoam and a clear plastic top.  Specimens can be pushed into the Styrofoam or held in place with a dab of mineral- or poster-tack.  These Perky boxes, in turn, can be stored in soda flats or small cabinets.

Back-up page 16.2:  Collecting, preparing, and storing thumbnail minerals.

Collecting thumbnail minerals.  See Back-up page 16.1 on ways to collect miniatures.  It’ll be much the same when approaching thumbnails.  However, the “tools of the trade” get a little more specialized.  You’ll need the same tools used for collecting miniatures, augmented with a loupe, flat screwdrivers and ice picks, and chisels of various sizes but especially small ones.  The screwdrivers and ice picks can be used to probe small crystal-lined pockets and to remove mud and clay from cavities.  If trying to chip out a little crystal-lined vug, stuff bits of rags (or shaving cream) into the cavity, both to protect crystals from shocks of hammer blows and to keep them in place so they don’t go flying.  In areas where small crystals may be loose in the dirt or gravel or when searching through mine tailings, your best tools are hand rakes, small shovels or trowels, and quarter-inch mesh screens in wooden frames.  This is how many fee dig sites operate, with a pile of earth from mine tailings to be dumped into screens and sifted in water for quartz crystals, tourmalines, garnets, etc.  Also handy:  a supply of small zip-lock baggies to store finds.

Preparing thumbnail minerals.  For thumbnails, as with miniatures, the goal is to reduce larger rock blocks with hammers and chisels if the crystals can take the shock of blows being delivered around them.  You want to trim away as much matrix as possible without damaging the crystals, switching to increasingly delicate techniques the closer you get.  Instead of delivering sharp blows with a standard rock hammer and chisel, you’ll switch to small chisels and deliver delicate blows with small lapidary hammers (while wearing eye protection).  You can also use rock or tile nippers and vice-like rock trimmers.  For especially stubborn matrix, you may need to use a trim saw lubricated with water rather than oil, but most collectors prefer a “natural” edge on matrix as opposed to the straight edge of a saw cut.  

One way to create a natural edge is to saw a shallow groove from below and then tap with a small chisel and hammer from above.  When using hammers and chisels to remove matrix close to your specimen, place your rock on a sand bag to cushion blows, and use a bench magnifier to leave both hands free.  Two other important tools are tweezers and glue should a crystal in a cluster pop loose.

Storing thumbnail minerals.  Thumbnails are best stored in 1-inch Perky boxes, which are actually 1.25"X1.25"X1.25".  This is how I store most of my specimens. These small acrylic boxes, available from mineral suppliers, have a black bottom lined with Styrofoam and a clear top.  Specimens can be glued onto or pushed into the Styrofoam or attached with tack.  Instead of Styrofoam, you can also use 1-inch acrylic squares that make it easy to remove a specimen from the Perky box for display in an exhibit.  For kids just beginning and on a budget, matchboxes will also do, or—as with miniatures—plastic boxes with compartments and fold-top lids sold in bead stores or with fishing tackle.  The bottom of each compartment should be lined with cotton to keep specimens from rolling about.  Basically, use anything that’s enclosed so as to contain the small specimen securely and to keep out dust.

Back-up page 16.3:  Collecting, preparing, and storing microminerals.

Collecting microminerals.  What does a chunk of rotting granite shedding flakes of mica, quartz, and feldspar have in common with a freshly cracked geode with interior crystals speckled with black dots?  On close inspection, both may yield perfect microminerals.  In collecting microminerals, kids need to dive in nose-first and really get up-close-and-personal with the rocks.  It’s not enough to scan the ground from above.  Kids need to get on hands and knees or even their bellies when searching through gravel or over matrix likely to hold tiny crystals, and they’ll definitely need to bring their 10X or 20X loupes to look closely at what they spy.  I’ve found perfect little “Pecos diamond” quartz crystals while lying on the ground, picking through the sandy ruble of an ant hill in New Mexico.

Preparing microminerals.  Preparing microminerals involves trimming away matrix, very carefully, very slowly, just a little at a time.  Basic supplies include hammers and small chisels (along with eye protection), nippers and/or special vice-like rock trimmers, a small rock saw, Dremel-type grinding and cutting bits, dental picks, pointed-nose pliers, tweezers of various sorts, glue, and a bench magnifier that allows for hands-free work or even better, a binocular stereomicroscope, commonly called a dissecting microscope.

Storing microminerals.  Microminerals are usually permanently glued into a protective container and are then referred to as micromounts.  Micromount boxes with a black bottom and clear, snap-on lid can be purchased from mineral supply stores, or you can use those small plastic boxes with snap-on magnifier lids.  There are many sophisticated techniques for gluing microminerals onto tiny rods and mounting them in display boxes.  But for kids just beginning, it’s probably best to use pedestals of tiny corks painted black.  They can be handled more easily, both for gluing on the specimen and for positioning and gluing the pedestal into the box.  Trim down the pedestal to keep the top of a mineral specimen just under the upper lip of the box so the lid never comes in contact with the mineral.  If possible, the pedestal should not be visible beneath the mineral when viewed from above.  Have kids practice with less desirable specimens until they acquire patience and skill at gluing and positioning with tweezers.  For practice, you should start with larger specimens with flat bottoms to glue to larger pedestals.  Great attention is needed, with a steady hand, to place and glue a micromineral to a pedestal.  Also, work should be done on a tray under good lighting so tiny specimens don’t get dropped and lost
.
Sauktown Sales (Mill Creek, Indiana) specializes in micromount specimens and supplies.  On their web site www.sauktown.com, they provide not only supplies but much useful information and links to nearly two dozen web sites related to micromounts.  Although pitched toward an adult audience, a couple reference books and a web site also provide fine information for you to consult in working with kids on this activity:

•          Milton Speckel, The Complete Guide to Micromounts (1965, 1980; now out of print?)
•          Quintin Wight, The Complete Book of Micromounting (1993).  Available through the Mineralogical Record, www.minrec.org
•          “The Micromount Corner,” www.gamineral.org/micromount_corner.html

Back-up page 16.4:  Collecting, preparing, and storing miniature fossils.

Collecting miniatures.  Kids will find miniature fossils as they seek other, larger fossils during your regular field trips.  In fact, a great many common invertebrate fossils fall within the size range of one- to two-inches and are often found weathered free at an outcrop:  sea urchins and small sand dollars, small clams and snails, “Devil’s toenail” oysters, a great many brachiopods, crinoid stem fragments, twiggy bryozoan, trilobites, horn corals, and more.  You should also encourage kids to make trades with fellow collectors since they’ll often bring home multiple examples of a fossil species.  Encourage them to trade duplicate specimens from their collections with duplicates in other kids’ collections to more quickly expand the variety of their holdings at no cost—while at the same time making friends within the hobby.  Finally, they’ll discover true bargains at gems shows for fossils that fall within the one- to two-inch size range, specimens that are a lot more affordable than big flashy fish fossils from Wyoming or two-foot limestone slabs with whole crinoids from Morocco.

Preparing miniatures.  Preparing miniatures involves trimming away as much unnecessary matrix as possible without damaging the fossil.  Basic supplies needed include hammers and small chisels (along with eye protection), rock nippers and pliers and/or special vice-like rock trimmers to snip away pieces of matrix, a small rock saw, and a regular hand magnifying glass or, better, a bench magnifier that allows you to work with both hands free.  With a miniature fossil, you usually want to remove all the matrix, if possible, and Dremel-type bits and brushes and dental picks can help in removing final specks of dirt or matrix from small nooks and crannies.  If the fossil has been silicified and is in a limestone matrix, soaking in vinegar (acetic acid)—followed by a vigorous brushing—can also help dissolve, loosen, and remove matrix.  (Afterwards, soak the fossil in water and baking soda to neutralize any remaining acid from the vinegar.)

If a specimen is delicate or can really only be exhibited in matrix, as much matrix as practical should be removed.  If a specimen is in hard limestone or shale, a small rock saw or a hack saw fitted with a grit-edge or tungsten carbide blade rod is often used.  However, many collectors prefer a “natural” edge to the matrix rather than the flat edge that a saw produces.  One way to create a natural edge is to saw a groove from below and then tap with a small chisel and lapidary hammer from above.  When hammers and chisels are being used to remove matrix that’s very close to a specimen, the rock should be placed on a sand bag to cushion blows.

Storing miniatures.  Miniatures may be stored in egg cartons, small fold-up cardboard boxes, or in 2-inch Perky boxes, named after their creator, Willard Perkins.  These small plastic boxes, available from mineral suppliers, usually have a black bottom lined with Styrofoam and a clear plastic top.  These Perky boxes, in turn, can be stored in soda flats or small cabinets.

Back-up page 16.5:  Collecting, preparing, and storing thumbnail fossils.

Collecting thumbnail fossils.  Small thumbnail fossils might be found right on the surface of a fossil locality, having weathered free and mixed in with surrounding soil.  To increase the odds of finding specimens, take screens to sift through such soil at the base of a fossil outcrop.  You’ll also find many thumbnail fossils embedded in limestone, sandstone, or shale.  Rather than trying to remove fossils from hard matrix in the field, kids should bring those specimens home to work in a more controlled setting with an assortment of tools at hand.

Preparing thumbnail fossils.  As with miniatures, preparing thumbnail fossils involves trimming away matrix.  Basic supplies needed include:  rock- or lapidary hammers and small chisels (along with eye protection); pliers or nippers to snip away pieces of matrix and/or special vice-like rock trimmers; a small rock saw; a regular hand magnifying glass or, better, a bench magnifier that allows you to work with both hands free; Dremel-type bits, saws, and brushes; dental picks; tweezers; and glue.  Some small silicified fossils embedded in limestone may be freed in acid baths using acetic acid (vinegar) or muriatic acid (often sold with swimming pool supplies).

Caution:  Working with acid should always be done by an adult exercising great precautions with long rubber gloves and aprons, eye protection, and a high quality respirator mask in well ventilated areas, with any open containers kept away from areas where pets might be or where fumes might cause damage to paints, pipes, etc.  We do not recommend that you work with acid of any sort, and any adults electing to do so should first thoroughly familiarize themselves with all procedures and precautions.

Storing thumbnail fossils.  Thumbnails are best stored in 1-inch Perky boxes, named after their creator, Willard Perkins.  These small plastic boxes, available from mineral suppliers, usually have a black bottom lined with Styrofoam and a clear plastic top.  Specimens are often pushed into the Styrofoam or attached to it with a dab of tack.  Instead of Styrofoam, you can also use 1-inch acrylic squares that make it easy to remove a specimen from the Perky box for display in an exhibit.  For kids just beginning and on a budget, matchboxes will also do, or plastic boxes with compartments and fold-top lids of the sort sold in bead stores or with fishing tackle.  The bottom of each compartment should be lined with cotton to keep specimens from rolling about.  Basically, use anything that’s enclosed so as to contain the small specimen securely and to keep out dust.

Back-up page 16.6:  Collecting, preparing, and storing microfossils.
Collecting microfossils.  In areas of recent marine deposits, microfossils might be mixed loose with soft sediments (sand and mud), requiring only that you scoop up a sample and sift it through a screen.  Or microfossils might be embedded in limestone, sandstone, or shale.  To check sediment or rock samples, take a 10X or 20X loupe into the field.  If you detect small fossils in a sediment sample, take home a supply in zip-lock baggies; if in matrix of hard rock, take several hand pieces home.  Use the same tools already listed in Activities 16.4 and 16.5, but add sifting screens of various mesh sizes.  You can purchase stackable graduated screens from geological supply houses such as Ward’s, or you can do like I did and make your own with wooden frames and screens of various sizes purchased from a hardware store, starting with quarter-inch down to window screen and smaller.  Small trowels and hand rakes are handy for sifting through soft sediments and dirt containing fossils that may have weathered out of a limestone, sandstone, or shale bank.  It’s always a good idea to sift through dirt surrounding such “hard rock” outcrops.

Preparing microfossils.  For microfossils in soft sediment and for those that are weathered free in the dirt around hard sediments, all that’s required is sifting away the sediment with a series of graduated screens.  You’ll also want a bench magnifier that allows for hands-free work or even better, a binocular stereomicroscope, commonly called a dissecting microscope, along with stick pins and tweezers.  Work should be done on a tray under good lighting so tiny specimens don’t get dropped and lost.  (Microfossils embedded in limestone may be freed in acid baths and those in shale can sometimes be freed by soaking samples in kerosene, but those techniques are best reserved for adults exercising due precautions; see the references listed below for specific techniques.)

Storing microfossils.  Microfossils can be prepared as “micromounts” in the same manner as microminerals, within small micromount boxes (see Activity 16.3).  Alternatively, professional geology supply houses, such as Ward’s, sell small slides made especially to hold microfossils.  These are made of two layers of cardboard, a glass top, and an aluminum frame to hold the glass atop the cardboard.  Specimens may be glued in with a small dab of white glue or a droplet of gum tragacanth or gum arabic.

Although most reference books published about microfossils are pitched to an adult audience, they provide fine reference for any adult working with kids on this activity:
•          Brasier’s Microfossils (1980).  This one is detailed and technical!
•          MacFall & Wollin’s Fossils for Amateurs: A Handbook for Collectors (1972).  Now out of print, this was a longtime standard for amateurs and is in many libraries or used book shops.  Chapter 12 is a nice overview of microfossil collecting.
•          Margaret Kahrs (editor), Microfossils: M.A.P.S. Digest Expo XXI Edition (Mid-America Paleontological Society, Vol. 22, No. 4, 1999).
•          Jim Brace-Thompson, “Microfossil Techniques: Tools & Methods for All Budgets,” in Kathleen Morner (ed), Paleotechniques: M.A.P.S. Digest Expo XXVI Edition (Mid-America Paleontological Society, Vol. 27, No. 2, 2004). 

Back-up page 16.7:  Collecting and classifying sand.
A psammophile is a sand collector (psammo = sand; phile = lover of).  And a heap of sand is basically a collection of microminerals and microfossils.  Help your juniors become psammophiles by forming sand collections and exploring the world of sand grains with samples from at least five very different locations.  Explore samples under 10X or 20X loupes or microscopes and discuss why they may look different.  For instance, sand that has been transported a great distance and ends up along a beach or in an area of sand dunes is often well sorted; that is, it often consists of grains that are rounded and of relatively uniform size and composition.  This is the case with nearly pure white quartz sands found in areas around the Monterey Peninsula in California or white carbonate beaches in parts of Florida.  Sand that hasn’t been transported far (as along a stream in a mountain valley) may have rough, angular grains of all sizes and may consist of a wide variety of rocks and minerals (poorly sorted).  The color of the sand is due to the color of its constituent minerals.  For example, White Sands National Monument in New Mexico holds vast fields of pure white sand composed of gypsum, whereas PapakĊlea Beach in Hawaii has green sand due to the mineral olivine.  Work with your kids to explore the differences in the shape, size, texture, color, and other characteristics of sand samples and encourage them to speculate about what caused those differences.

In building their collections, kids can conveniently store samples in small baggies, bottles with lids, or stoppered test tubes.  This is one hobby involving little or no expense.
A couple great books have been published all about sand.  As a reference in working on this activity, you may want to purchase these or see if your library has them:
•          Gary Greenberg, A Grain of Sand: Nature’s Secret Wonder, 2008.  This is both a font of information about the diversity of sand and a gorgeous coffee table book filled with wonderful close-up photos.  My top choice for a book that inspires!
•          Ellen J. Prager (author) & Nancy Woodman (illustrator), Jump Into Science: Sand, 2006.  This book, published by National Geographic, is aimed squarely at kids, with a fun “sandpiper sleuth” seeking answers to what sand is, where it comes from, and how it gets to the beach.  My top choice for young readers.
•          Michael Welland, Sand: The Never-Ending Story, 2010.  A university press book for more advanced readers, this is still a great read with interesting facts and surprises.
•          Bagnold, The Physics of Blown Sand and Desert Dunes, 2005.  A reprint of a classic text first published in 1954, this advanced tome is for the true scientist among us.

FRA junior leader Anne Lowe-Salmon in Connecticut has pointed me to the International Sand Collectors Society (www.sandcollectors.org) that publishes a quarterly newsletter called The Sand Paper.  In the past, they’ve sold an educator’s kit for about $30 that included sand samples and a CD of sand-related activities.  Check them out!  This is the best resource I’ve seen, with great information telling all about sand, the hobby of sand collecting, and how to become a psammophile.
Activity 16.5:  Collecting, preparing, and storing thumbnail fossils.

Learn how to use small chisels, saws, and nippers to trim matrix from around thumbnail fossils.  Also learn how to safely store your small treasures so they aren’t lost or destroyed.  Then make a collection of at least 10 different thumbnail fossils.

Activity 16.6:  Collecting, preparing, and storing microfossils.
You can find microscopic fossils loose in the dirt at a fossil site.  Learn about graduated screens for sifting sediment to retrieve tiny fossils.  Also learn how to store your tiny treasures so they aren’t lost or destroyed, then collect of at least 10 different microfossils.

Activity 16.7:  Collecting and classifying sand.
A heap of sand is basically a collection of microminerals and microfossils.  Form a sand collection and explore the world of sand grains with sand samples from at least five very different locations.  Explain why your samples may look different from each other.


END!


Summer Merit Badge: Maps


Our world is a complex, three-dimensional sphere. Maps―translate our three-dimensional world into a flat, two-dimensional portrait, and different types of maps have been created to help us understand different things about our complex world. To earn this badge, you should demonstrate your knowledge of maps of different types, what each type tells us, and how to use them. You might also go on to learn about making a map, where maps may be found, and how to use electronic techniques involving GPS for finding your way around the world.


Activity 20.1: Learning about the different sorts of maps and how to read them.

Most of us think of maps in terms of taking us from Point A to Point B, but that‘s only one sort of many maps. Different sorts of maps tell different stories. There are roadmaps, geographic maps, geologic maps, topographic maps, weather maps, and others. Buy a book or pick one up at the library to learn about different sorts of maps and what each one tells us. Make a chart of common sorts of maps and their characteristics.

Activity 20.2: Sources of paper maps.

Learn about the different places where maps of different sorts may be found, then go out and get the map of your choice and demonstrate how to read and use it. Also, find out what companies and agencies publish maps.

Activity 20.3: Making maps.

Make a map of your choice. This could be a simple street map of your neighborhood, a roadmap showing how to get to a mineral or fossil site from your home, a topographic map showing the hills and valleys of a nearby park, or even a map of a room in your own home. How about a treasure map showing where you buried a can of crystals or tumbled stones? In crafting your map, keep in mind such considerations as orientation, scale, symbols, legend, and labels.

Activity 20.4: Using GPS.

What do the words GPS stand for? Find out, and learn how to use it.
Activity 20.5: Maps on the Web.

The World Wide Web has become a wonderful source for maps of all sorts, including ones that allow you to change angles of view, zoom in or out, fly around the world, and otherwise have fun. Explore the Web and report on what sorts of maps you can find there.

To earn this badge you must pick three of these activities and submit them the the pebble pup leader.
Learning about the different sorts of maps and how to read them:

Maps are two-dimensional representations of different aspects of our world. You should learn about the different sorts of maps and what kind of information each conveys. For instance, here are a few types of maps you are likely to encounter:

Roadmaps show how to get from point A to point B on streets, roads, or highways. These are what most folks think of when hearing the word―map.

Political maps show borders of countries, states, and regions, locations of capital cities, etc. You will see these in political science and history textbooks from school.

Geographic maps may show both natural features (rivers, mountains, lakes) and manmade features (cities, roads, railroads), as well as artificial, political features (borders between countries and states).

Geologic maps show the underlying geology of a region, highlighting different types of rocks and formations. These are very colorful, for a very practical reason. The colors have been standardized to tell readers specific information about the type of rocks and their ages. Geological time periods are further delineated by letter codes, for instance, capital J for Jurassic, with lowercase letters indicating formations.

The most useful maps to pebble pups and earth science scholars, and to me, are:
Bureau of Land Management Maps
US Forest  Service Maps

Topographic maps with concentric lines allow you to―read the landscape. Each line corresponds to a different elevation and once you become adept at reading these, you can see the landscape in three dimensions. Many hiking maps are topographic maps so that hikers will know just how steep the trail ahead will be.



Many good books are available to purchase or to borrow through the library. Some can get fairly technical, but you can also find age-appropriate books at stores that cater to school teachers and sometimes at more general bookstores. Check with the store clerk to direct you to books about geography. Following are some I‘ve found.

More advanced, technical books:

• Barnes & Lisle‘s Basic Geological Mapping, 2004.

• Maltman, Geological Maps: An Introduction, 1990.

• McClay, The Mapping of Geological Structures, Second Edition, 2003.

• Books aimed at you:

• Richard Panchyk, Charting the World: Geography & Maps from Cave Painting to GPS with 21 Activities, 2011. (Ages 9-12.)

• Tish Rabe, There’s a Map on My Lap! All About Maps, 2002. Cat in the Hat‘s Learning Library (Ages 4-8.)

• Scott Ritchie, Follow That Map! A First Book of Mapping Skills, 2009. (Ages 4-8.)

• Sharon Thompson, Map Skills, 2003. (Aimed at Grade 5.)

It used to be, you got your map at your corner gas station. But different places specialize in maps of different sorts. One of the biggest places folks turn to nowadays is the Internet, but we‘ll cover that in Activity 20.5. In this activity, the focus is on traditional paper maps. Here are a few places you can point you:

• Libraries. The library can be your one-stop shop for maps of all sorts. Just ask at the front desk!

• Geological Surveys. The office of the Colorado Geological Survey contains geological and topographic maps, as well as maps showing mines and natural resources, and more. They usually have a catalog of maps of your state and its counties and townships, and you can often purchase them online or by mail or, if you‘re lucky enough to live close to the survey office, you can often buy them right there.

Our national United States Geological Survey (USGS) is another source. In fact, on the opening page of its website, www.usgs.gov, is a map of the U.S.; click on your state, and you‘ll be led to local resources.

• American Association of Petroleum Geologists. AAPG offers geological maps including cross sections, tectonic maps, landform maps, and more; www.aapg.org

• University Geology Departments. If you have a nearby college or university with a geology department, see if they‘ll let you look through their large, oversized geological maps that are often stored in big, flat drawers. Colorado College has these.

• Outdoors & Camping Supply Stores. These stores often have maps of major parks and trails, including topographic maps, hiking maps, etc.

• Bookstores. Here‘s where you‘re most likely to find geographic and roadmaps, including the Thomas guide series, atlases, etc.

• Gas stations & Convenience Stores. Yes, you still can get roadmaps at the corner gas station, as well as at convenience stores, drugstores, and elsewhere.

A number of publishers and organizations specialize in making maps. These include:

• National Geographic. http://maps.nationalgeographic.com/maps

• Rand McNally. http://store.randmcnally.com

• Thomas Guides. http://www.thomasmaps.com (now owned by Rand McNally)

• DeLorme. http://delorme.com

• American Automobile Association. http://www.aaa.com

The U.S. Geological Survey has neat, helpful sections all about maps and map making that you may want to explore. Go to http://www.usgs.gov and click on the ―Education link and start exploring all the resources they have to offer for free!


Using GPS

GPS stands for ―Global Positioning System, a satellite-based navigation system operated by the U.S. Department of Defense. It allows for determining accurate positioning on the earth‘s surface in latitude and longitude coordinates aided by some two dozen satellites in space. Initially reserved for military and government use, a part of the system known as the Standard Positioning System, has become readily available for civilian use and now appears in navigation systems for cars, for general aviation pilots, for recreational hikers, and more.

You can use GPS to find your way around with a handheld GPS receiver device or even a smartphone, and learning to use GPS is an important skill in today‘s world. In fact, most gem, mineral, and fossil guidebooks are now including GPS coordinates along with basic roadmaps, and some books are entirely geared to GPS, such as David A. Kelty‘s The GPS Guide to Western Gem Trails. Keep in mind, though, not all published coordinates are precise, and I‘ve been warned by Christina Morrissey of the Northwest Federation that there are three formats for coordinates. That is, the numbers can be expressed in three different ways, and they do not mean the same location. For instance, see coordinates of Delorme Gazetteers versus Benchmark Maps. Every GPS unit can be set to express each of these three formats, but the fact that they exist is rarely discussed.

One fun way to learn how to use GPS is geocaching, which has become an increasingly popular pastime. It‘s basically a treasure hunt or a variation on hide-and-go-seek. People all across the world (even Antarctica!) have hidden waterproof containers, called geocaches, and they‘ve posted coordinates so that others can locate the hidden caches. When players find a cache, they‘ll often enter the date and their own ―code into a logbook in the container. Sometimes the caches also contain little trinkets for players to trade. Players then share their experiences online.

Dennis Gertenbach, leader of the Junior Geologists of the Flatirons Mineral Club of Colorado, recommended this activity to me. He has taken pebble pups geocaching to an area where he also demonstrates how to use a topographical map. For more information on geocaching, Dennis refers us to the following website: http://www.geocaching.com. A good article entitled ―GPS and Geocaching in Education‖ provides a nice, clear overview and introduction to this fun activity, along with some how-to video slide shows. It‘s available via a web site created by professors and graduate students at San Diego State University: http://eet.sdsu.edu/eetwiki/index.php/GPS_and_geocaching_in_education.

In addition to exploring the geocaching website, you might encourage you to read Donald Cooke‘s book, Fun with GPS (2005). Written specifically for you and illustrated with hundreds of pictures, it explains what GPS is and how they can use it. It‘s also filled with fun activities for you to gain hands-on experience. As one way of fulfilling this badge unit, you might encourage them to try one of those activities.

Maps on the Web

The World Wide Web has become a rich trove of increasingly sophisticated maps, from MapQuest programs that give driving directions and roadmaps and estimated drive times between destinations, http://www.mapquest.com/, to Google Earth, and more.

Another really neat website sponsored by the U.S. Geological Survey is EarthNow! Visit it at http://earthnow.usgs.gov. It consists of real-time, bird‘s-eye images of the Earth‘s surface being beamed down from Landsat satellites. You actually feel like you‘re in a spaceship, with the surface of the Earth scrolling away beneath you. To orient you, city and town names appear in blue text



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Spring Leadership Merit Badge  2013


□ 9.1 Organizing a group display

□ 9.2 Leading a show-and-tell session or presentation

□ 9.3 Planning and leading a field trip


□ 9.4 Overseeing a newsletter column or write several articles/poems

□ 9.5 Managing a youth activity booth at a local gem show

□ 9.6 Mentoring

To earn your Leadership badge, you need to complete at least 3 of the 6 activities listed above. Check off all the activities you‘ve completed.

9.1: Organizing a group display.  One thing I always look for at a local gem show—and more and more often am disappointed not to find—is a Pebble Pups group display. Frequently, members of neighboring clubs band together and enter a club display at shows of neighboring clubs, and the combined efforts and materials make for truly outstanding exhibits. Similarly, while a single young child just starting out in the hobby may not have many pieces in his or her collection, the combined efforts of all the kids in a club can result in a great display that illustrates the range of individual interests and the overall scope of the hobby. The kids in any club should always be encouraged to put together such a group display—and it‘s even better if the kids themselves take charge of organizing and arranging it. For any kids who volunteer to oversee such an effort, you should lend advice and assistance as requested and should the need become apparent. Among the procedures they‘ll need to consider are:

Should we have a theme (for instance, fossils, or the many varieties of quartz, or local rocks and minerals)?

How and when will we gather together material from our fellow club members?

Where and when will we all meet to talk about how best to arrange our display?

Where will we get our case and when will we set it up?

What will we need for set-up (e.g., liners, risers, display stands, etc.)?

Will we make uniform labels or ask that everyone bring their own labels?

How will we keep track of everyone‘s individual specimens?

How and when we will return everyone‘s specimens?

The easiest place to assemble such a group display is at the club‘s annual show. However, search out other public spots within the community, as well, such as the local library, public schools, or local museums.

9.2: Leading a show-and-tell session or presentation.

Show-and-tell sessions are the easiest to arrange and ought to be organized around a theme.  Here are just a few ideas:

Things I collected on our most recent club field trip.

Things I purchased at our annual club show.

Doing the class presentation at a pebble pup meeting.

My most valuable specimen and why I like it.

9.3: Planning and leading a field trip.

9.4: Overseeing a newsletter column or write several articles/poems about our hobby. Start a Fact of the Month column in the club newsletter, a column devoted solely to the topic of fossils (usually dinosaurs) and graced with your own dino drawings, or some other theme.  Have a theme going so it is easy to come up with topics each month. Your column can start with a simple question that grows into a short essay: What color were dinosaurs? Were dinosaurs warm-blooded or cold? How did the dinosaurs die? A year-long series of mineral columns can evolve from focusing on the birthstone of the month.  You might establish themes like these, or simply write what tickles their fancy at the time.

9.5: Managing a youth activity booth at a local gem show.

Every show should have a youth activity booth, and it‘s even better if youth are actually running it!  You should hold a meeting with kids to decide on what sorts of activities they‘ll want to sponsor and how much space they‘ll need.  Participating in family geology day at the Western Muesum of Mining and Industry  or Cool Science at UCCS also counts to satisfy this particular requirement.Here are examples of fun activities often seen at gem shows:
A Wheel of Fortune spinning wheel, where every spin wins a rockhound prize of a mineral specimen, crystal, polished slab, fossil, etc., donated by club members. If you don‘t have a spinning wheel, a variation is to have kids draw a numbered ticket from a hat or a bowl and match it to numbered specimens on a prize table. 

Grab bags filled with tumbled stones.

Sand-sifting with a screen or colander for small fossils and gemstones in a box of sand.

A ―Pirate‘s Treasure Chest filled with tumbled stones from which kids get to pick an assortment.

Black Sand Fun, where a container is filled with magnetic sand and a series of magnets.


Making rock critters by gluing together flat or round stones and attaching eyes, pipe cleaner arms or antennae, feathers, etc., to make snowmen, caterpillars, bugs, etc.

Coloring and drawing with coloring book pages of earth science scenes (available at children‘s bookstores, teaching stores, etc.) or on large sheets of paper rolled out on a table.

9.6: Mentoring.

Becoming a mentor means helping younger or less experienced club members, sharing one‘s knowledge and experience with them in a specific project, such as how to craft to build and curate a collection, how to identify a mineral or fossil, etc. A mentor is someone who is always on hand, ready and willing to lend help and advice as a friendly and sympathetic colleague, someone who has already been through the ropes and who can share from experience. As new kids join the club, you might consider being their pebble pup buddy and help them get used to the club.

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The World in Miniature Fall Merit Badge 2012
When we collect, we usually seek the biggest rock on the ground. But you may be surprised at what you‘ll find within the world in miniature! Step through the magnifying glass and learn to collect, clean, and store the smaller wonders of the mineral and fossil world and discover great specimens most people walk right over. Many people focus on cabinet specimens (ones that are fist-sized). Here, you‘ll learn about miniatures (a specimen small enough to fit in the space of a 2-inch cube), thumbnails (fits within the space of a 1-inch cube) and micromounts (specimens so small as to require magnification with a hand lens or microscope to identify and evaluate). You‘ll find one thing for certain: these small specimens sure are easy to store! 


To earn the merit badge you must complete three of these activities.  You choose!
Activity 16.1: Collecting, preparing, and storing miniature minerals. Except for their size, miniatures aren‘t a lot different from larger specimens you may have collected, but you may need to use special techniques to trim and store a small mineral. Learn those techniques and make a collection of at least 10 miniature minerals.

Activity 16.2: Collecting, preparing, and storing thumbnail minerals. You might extract thumbnail minerals from a cavity in a rock, sift them from soil, or carefully split one away from a larger mass of crystals. Learn special techniques to collect, mount, and store thumbnail minerals, and make a collection of at least 10.

Activity 16.3: Collecting, preparing, and storing microminerals. Microminerals are a special class requiring extra special care and materials. Because they are so very tiny, they‘re easily lost or destroyed. Learn what special efforts to take to collect, mount, and store them, and make a collection of at least 10 microminerals.
Activity 16.4: Collecting, preparing, and storing miniature fossils. Sometimes you‘ll find small fossils in mint condition sitting right on the surface. More often, you‘ll need special techniques to collect, trim, and store a small fossil without damaging it. Learn those techniques and collect at least 10 different miniature fossils.

Activity 16.5: Collecting, preparing, and storing thumbnail fossils. Learn how to use small chisels, saws, and nippers to trim matrix from around thumbnail fossils. Also learn how to safely store your small treasures so they aren‘t lost or destroyed. Then make a collection of at least 10 different thumbnail fossils.
Activity 16.6: Collecting, preparing, and storing microfossils. You can find microscopic fossils loose in the dirt at a fossil site. Learn about graduated screens for sifting sediment to retrieve tiny fossils. Also learn how to store your tiny treasures so they aren‘t lost or destroyed, then collect of at least 10 different microfossils.

Activity 16.7: Collecting and classifying sand. A heap of sand is basically a collection of microminerals and microfossils. Form a sand collection and explore the world of sand grains with sand samples from at least five very different locations. Explain why your samples may look different from each other.

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Earth in Space Merit Badge  Summer 2012
While we usually keep our eyes on the ground when rockhounding, geology isn‘t only underfoot. The earth is like a little blue marble floating among other marbles and big gassy balls, accompanied by metallic BBs and splinters of ice in the form of meteors and comets. On a clear night, look to the sky, and you‘ll occasionally see streaks left by meteors burning up in our atmosphere. Sometimes, though, they make it to the earth‘s surface, where we can collect them and hold a piece of space in our hands. This unit will teach you about such visitors from space.


Activity 11.1: Modeling the solar system.

Check out a book to learn about the earth and its fellow planets. Then use materials like marbles, balls, and similar round items to make a model of our solar system. Or draw a colorful poster of our solar system on long paper or a big sheet of poster board.

Activity 11.2: Learning about visitors from space.

In addition to planets, our solar system is filled with ―cosmic debris‖ in the form of meteors, an asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and the Oort cloud of comets. Read about our solar system and learn the definitions of a.) meteorite, b.) tektite, c.) asteroid, and d.) comet. If someone in your club has a collection of meteorites or tektites, invite them to show-and-tell so that you can hold a space rock in your hand.

Activity 11.3: Effects of meteorites and famous craters.

Most meteors are tiny and burn up in our atmosphere, creating bright streaks in the night sky that we often call ―shooting stars.‖ But some bigger meteors make it to the earth‘s surface. If they‘re big enough, they can create craters and shoot out glassy fragments called tektites when they melt rock from our earth‘s crust on impact. Make a crater by dropping or tossing marbles or ball bearings into wet sand or mud. Find pictures of meteor craters in a book or on a web site. Then pick one crater and learn everything you can about it and write a report on it for your club newsletter.

Activity 11.4: Collecting meteorites and tektites.

If you happen to be lucky enough to live near a known ―strewn field‖ where a meteor exploded and left fragments over a wide area and you have club members with metal detectors, organize a field trip to search for a meteorite. However, meteorites are very rare and hard to identify in the field. So if you want to add a meteorite or tektite to your rock collection, your best bet will be to purchase one at a rock shop, gem show, museum gift shop, or through a meteorite dealer on the web.

Activity 11.5: Collecting meteorite dust.

While large meteorites are very rare and hard to find, a constant ―rain‖ of meteorite dust falls through the air all the time from all those meteors that burn up in our atmosphere. By some estimates, 30,000 to 90,000 tons of such dust falls every year! Work with your youth leader to develop a way to collect such dust to examine under a hand lens or a microscope.


To earn your Earth in Space badge, you need to complete at least 3 of the 5 activities.

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Welcome! This is the gateway to adventure and discovery

Through this blog pebble pups and junior members of the Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society can access their lessons, work on assignments and projects, and receive details about field trips in the Pikes Peak Region. This Internet program is also suitable for young people who are interested in Earth science but do not live near a rock club or gem and mineral society or for young people anywhere who want a deeper dive into these topics. The only requirement is that all participants must be members of the Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society and must fill out the CSMS membership form (under important websites) and send their registration and membership fee in. Steven Veatch is the senior instructor and will need an email from you with your name, address, phone number, and permission from your parents to participate in this program.