Everyone loves to get mail. And as we have seen while doing the nature exchange, receiving a box of nature finds in the mail is even more exciting! For a rock loving friend, the ultimate package to receive might just be a rock collection from a far away land. While it would be great any time of year, fall and winter are great times to gather rocks, put together a little collection from your nature adventures, and send it off to a fellow rock lover to share a part of your world with them. Better yet, see if they will do a rockin’ rock swap with you!
How to Swap a Rock
First you need to find that rock lovin’ exchange partner. You may already have a pen pal you could ask. If not, talk to your parents to see if they have a friend with a child who would be interested in a rock exchange. You might even ask a nature loving aunt, uncle, cousin or even one of your grandparents. Kids aren’t the only ones who slip cool rocks into their pockets while out on a hike!
Then you need to build a collection. Before you start collecting, make sure that the area where you are hiking allows for collecting. Some national parks have a no collection policy to protect the natural habitat there. Once you know it is okay be sure to take only a few samples. Whether you are hiking around at the beach, river, lake, or on a desert or forest trail there are rocks to be found. Be on the lookout for some interesting ones to send your exchange partner and a few to keep for your own collection.
You will want to decide on a time frame for collecting. Some people have extensive rock collections and could easily select twelve or more to share, while others will need time to build a collection. Depending on how often you hike it may take you a week, a month, or longer to build a collection to send. Talk to your partner about when you want to send your exchange boxes.
Decide ahead of time if you will identify the rocks for each other or leave it a mystery for you and your fellow budding geologist buddy to decipher. It is up to you. You may even find a rock you are having trouble identifying. Send it along and see if your partner can help you with identification.
Sending a Box of Rocks
A fun way to organize and protect your collection is in an egg carton. It may sound kind of funny to protect rocks, but some rocks, like shale, can be fragile and break apart easily. It also helps to prevent the rocks from knocking around in the box during transport.
Here is what you need to organize and pack your collection for safe travel:
- An egg carton
- Cotton balls or Tissue paper
- Labels (if labeling)
- A sturdy shipping box
- Packing material
Step 1: Line the bottom of each well of the carton with cotton or tissue paper.
Step 2: Place one rock sample in each well of the egg carton.
Step 3: If labeling use labels to write the name of the rock and place it next to the sample in the well. Another way to label is to write the name of the sample on the lid of the carton in the location that would correspond with the location of that rock.
Step 4: Over the top of your sample place enough cotton or tissue to secure it in place when the lid is closed. If you don’t put enough stuffing in, the rocks will move around during transport and possibly even get mixed up.
Step 5: Place the egg carton in a sturdy mailing box. But sure to pack newspaper or another packing material all around so the carton does not move about during shipping.
Step 6: Seal up the box with shipping tape and address it.
Step 7: Head off to the post to mail your collection!
More Rock Talk
To find out more about the rocks and geology in your area you can ask the librarian or folks at the local bookshop about guides specific to your area.
If there is a university nearby see if they have a geology department that gives talks, walks, or even spring or summer camps for kids.
Check out your local nature center or natural history museum for information and displays about local geology.
There are a few general guidebooks that are great introductions to rock geology:
The National Audubon Society Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals has great photos with descriptions in the back of the guide.
Peterson First Guide to Rocks and Minerals is another photo based guidebook with the descriptions right alongside the pictures.
The Golden Guide to Rocks, Gems and Minerals has detailed drawings with descriptions. Some prefer drawings to photos because the illustration represents a general idea of the most common sample while a photo is simply one specimen.
Whatever guide you choose just be sure that it has the right information for your geographical location.
Learning about rocks and how they were formed is a fun hobby that can last a lifetime. Just about anywhere you go there are rocks and once you get to know them, the history they hold about an area is fascinating.
Be sure to thank your rockin’ partner for a great exchange when you get your box of rocks.
To kick off, or add to, a young rock hound’s collection we want to give away a box of rocks – including a piece of iron pyrite (even though it is a mineral!) This box will contain rocks from both Nova Scotia, Canada and New Mexico. It will come without identification to encourage learning and research. If you would like to enter to win please leave a comment on this post by midnight November 12th. We will announce a winner on Thursday, November 13th.
We are happy to announce that Amy who said:
“My 9yo would *love* to see your rocks from places far-away from us. Thanks for the chance!”
was chosen as the winner by the random number generator!
Congrats, Amy! Your box of rocks will be in the mail shortly.
Thank you all for you super great comments!
If you do a rock swap please let us know. We would love to hear about your experience!
Happy Rock Hounding!