The Cleanest Science Project Ever Could Also Be A Life Lesson

Science at home is usually slimy or messy, includes some type of carbonated eruption, or involves a voice over from Sir David Attenborough. But last night didn’t need any of those things.

It just needed a rock. A hydraulic press. And safety glasses.

So, it wasn’t just any rock. Each kid got a geode, one we found in a basket in a gift shop in Palm Springs as we waited for our turn to hop on a tram that would take us to the top of Mount San Jacinto.

They had to wait a few days to find out what was inside of those geodes. Because of school and schedules. But the first opportunity we had, we cracked those puppies open.


They didn’t know what would be inside. They could only guess. And they admitted that they’d probably walk right past those dull rocks if they had seen them on a trail.

(We’re going to need to remember this when they start bringing home rocks from hikes).

rock 4
Suspicion written all over her tiny face.

Online instructions, dubiously researched by my oldest, recommended we use another rock to crack them open. Or a regular hammer. Or a sledgehammer.

Yeah. As soon as the sledgehammer suggestion became known, Ron figured we’d have the highest probability of success if we visited him at work, where he had prepared a spot for their geodes on a hydraulic press.

And one by one, they cracked their rocks. The first one scared them, because it was loud. So kids who went later became increasingly apprehensive with each pump of the rod that moved the press up and down.

One even used her free hand to plug one ear, even though they probably listen to music louder that the sound they’d hear when the rock cracked.

There could be a whole lesson in this geode thing about not judging a book by its cover, a rock by its exterior and a person by the way they look. We just didn’t go there with it.

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We just let them crack rocks. Check out the crystals inside. Compare. Reenact their fears when the rock was going to break on their turn. Taste the inside (because it looked like salt). And talk about how to know what mineral is in there.

And that was enough for them. How do we know?  Because a couple tossed their geodes into their backpacks to show their teachers the cleanest science project ever.

rock 1
The big comparison.