Sunday, March 16, 2014

Lessons from a Geode

One of my geodes found in Warsaw, Illinois

I have always liked rocks.  As  a kid I had a great collection and never really forgave Maxine for not packing them when we moved from Indiana to Toledo, OH.  (My rock collection and hornet's nest somehow did not get in the moving van.)  We had a few big boulders of granite beside our small creek left when the ice age glaciers melted.  I loved taking a hammer and chipping parts of mica and quartz from these granite rocks.

I was always fascinated by my cousin's patio.  He collected rocks from each state and formed the shape of the USA using a rock from each state to represent the state in the patio.  I remember listening to him tell the names of the rocks, where he got them, how the rock was formed and what the land around that rock was like.  And since I tend to anthropomorphize...I knew those rocks had stories to tell me...if I listened.

My favorite rock is the geode.  There were a lot of geodes near my grandparents in Iowa and when we visited them we would hike along the creek beds and search for them.  These geodes came in all sizes, from as small as a marble to as large as a basketball.  My favorite size was about the size of a tennis ball.  My father would have a big crate in the trunk of the car and once it was full we had to stop.  My grandparents lined their flower beds with geodes.

If you don't know what a geode is I will give you a quick lesson.  The pictures will help.  Geodes are found in creek beds.  They are round, bumpy rocks...kind of remind me of a gray or brownish head of cauliflower...or maybe even a big wart....not pretty.  Crack the rock open and you will discover a surprise!

This is what the geode (pictured above) looks like
once it is cracked open.  Nature's work of beauty.
Sometimes the rock is hollow with miniature crystals formed on the inside.  Sometimes the crystals are large.  The crystals can be different colors, but usually they are clear and white.  The purple ones are amethysts...I have never found one of those.
Part of an amethyst geode...I did not find this one.

There are two websites that explain how these rocks are formed, where to find them, where to find the different kinds.  What is a geode?  and Rocks for Kids will give you more information.

I used the geode as a lesson when I was a teacher.  Not sure when and how often...a lot depended on how many geodes I had.  I would pass out the geodes and we would discuss the characteristics.  Most would see just a brownish, dull rock.
Then the fun began.  I would put one rock in a sock and smash it with a big hammer. (This was done outside...and it would take a lot of whacks...)  If the rock was very hollow it would crack easily so I tried to pick one that felt light for its size.  When the rock was cracked we would discuss our find.  Usually the insides were full of beautiful shining crystals.
This geode was solid inside but still had crystals.

I used this as a lesson on how we look at  people.  Many of us would like to change something about our appearance...we might find ourselves judging others by how they look.  Our first impressions of the geode were unexciting, plain, dull and ordinary.  Once we found out what was inside...WOW, an unexpected treasure.

I gave each student a geode and told them to take the geodes home and do what they wanted with them.  If they wanted to crack them open...use a sock to prevent the rock chips from flying into eyes.  Some people find a way to cut them so the edges are flat, but I like to have the ragged edges.  Some might want to keep the rock whole, knowing that the treasure is inside waiting.  Whatever they did with the geode...I hoped that the lesson of judging others was learned.

While searching the web for a good site to suggest for further information, I came upon a song about the geode.  It is lovely...and speaks of the same lesson I had for my students.  Take a couple of minutes, relax and enjoy the music sung by Carrie Newcomer, with Gary Walters, Chris Wagoner and Mary Gaines. Geode Song


  1. What a great lesson! Too often we are quick to look at the outside and not delve into what is inside. How much we miss.

  2. Can't wait to check out the Geode Song!

    My parents and I went out west when I was a little girl. My father bought several geodes, which they still have in their house. They're gorgeous. (In fact, your post is making me think I should show them to my daughter when we go there next time. I think she'll like them a lot.)

    1. If you go anywhere near Keokuk, Iowa...let me know and I can take you geode hunting...if I am in town. It is like an Easter Egg or treasure hunt.

  3. I think it would be so cool to find one. I have one I bought at a rock shop to use in a writing lesson.

  4. So pretty! Now I want to go to the farm and slosh through the creek and look for rocks, er, geodes! Fun!

  5. It's what's inside that counts. Nice geode pictures, and very nice essay.

  6. You gave so much information - in a way that has the reader so interested and intrigued. And such a good lesson - look beyond the surface. Great writing!