Outpost – Rocks and Minerals

Growing up in the wilds of Ohio (?), I became rather interested in rock collecting due to a computer game that I had about science that discussed rocks and minerals. I had a collection of shiny rocks and minerals that we picked up from our travels, and I would love to start collecting them again, if only in a small capacity.


Beginner Level

Research the difference between rocks and minerals.

According to the United States Geological Survey,

“A mineral is a naturally occurring inorganic element or compound having an orderly internal structure and characteristic chemical composition, crystal form, and physical properties.

A rock is an aggregate of one or more minerals, or a body of undifferentiated mineral matter.”



Learn about the characteristics of minerals and identify the three types of rocks.

There are 5 characteristics of minerals. They are:

  • Solid
  • Formed by inorganic processes
  • Naturally occuring
  • Definite chemical composition
  • Definite crystalline structure

There are three types of rocks:

  • Igneous Rocks – solidify from molten rock
  • Sedimentary Rocks – these rocks are layered
  • Metamorphic Rocks – these form where sedimentary, igneous or preexisting metamorphic rocks are changed by heat pressure and/or chemically reactive waters.
  • (per American Museum of Natural History)

Research the ways rocks and minerals are used in our everyday life.

Rocks and minerals are used in many varieties of ways in our daily lives. I chose the top 5 ways that I found most interesting and had not heard of before.

  • Beryllium – used in the manufacturing of light, X-Ray tubes and by the nuclear industry
  • Gypsum – used in the manufacture of ‘sheetrock; or wallboard
  • Molybdenite – when alloyed with other metals, this improves hardness. Used principally in catalytic converters but also to make jewelry
  • Soda Ash – used to make glass containers
  • Vanadium – used in metal alloys for aerospace applications

Intermediate Level

Find a museum near you that has a rock, mineral, or gemstone display. See how many you can identify.


Expert Level

Become a rockhound! Collect at least 10 different rocks or minerals. Identify if each is either rock or mineral, and write your observations down.


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