GLORIOUS GEMSTONES – Melissa Robak poses with a large amethyst cathedral in her shop

GLORIOUS GEMSTONES – Melissa Robak poses with a large amethyst cathedral in her shop

‘Rock My Science’ to outfit Central Alberta classrooms

Local schools will compete for a range of cutting edge geology supplies

At least one Central Alberta classroom is going to be getting a lot more support for their geology programs thanks to a new initiative out of Lacombe.

Melissa Robak, owner and operator of Silver Cove Minerals and Gems, has launched the firstever Rock My Science contest, a program where students can win a $2,500 gift package from Silver Cove to outfit their classroom with some rocking geology supplies.

Rock My Science, or the idea for it, came from previous work that Robak had done with schools, particularly Grade 3 classes, she said.

She added she found there was a huge number of kids who show a passionate interest in geology, but the supplies teachers had to instruct with were lacking in Robak’s opinion.

“When we were seeing what they were using to teach with, it was kind of sad,” said Robak. “The supplies were just very lacking.”

She went on to say that most classrooms are outfitted with a small, standard geology kit that has, if one is lucky, 26 small specimens.

She added that these kits tend to get shared between classrooms and even schools, and pieces tend to get lost. Suddenly, what was a 26-piece kit becomes a 10-piece kit and teachers have very limited resources to work with.

When she had done work with schools in the past, Robak had tried to provide classes with some supplies here and there to help things along a little bit, she said. But then she got an idea.

Instead of helping out a little bit here and there, she decided to put a program in place where she could completely outfit one classroom in style.

“We thought wouldn’t it be nice if we could just deck one classroom out and make it like the greatest thing ever?”

That idea grew to become a way of encouraging children’s interests in geology, which Robak said is substantial.

“There are so many kids out there who love geology,” said Robak. “They love fossils, you know, they all want to be archeologists or geologists or paleontologists or anything along those lines. We thought why not encourage that?”

Thus was born the Rock My Science contest.

Robak said the contest was set up to work almost like a grant program or scholarship application. Students were to explain why rocks and minerals were important to them, whether it be in school, in day-to-day life, in future career prospects or otherwise. Robak said this was done in an effort to have the supplies go to where they are needed most.

“We definitely want this to go somewhere where it’s going to be appreciated and deserved.”

Originally, Robak planned to do Rock My Science strictly as an essay contest. However, when speaking to teachers, it was suggested to Robak that children be allowed to use any medium to express their thoughts.

That way, teachers could work it into other classes like art, computer sciences, or even math class. Robak said she has already learned about some creative ideas students are planning for the contest.

“We are expecting to get in some submissions of artwork, we’re expected to definitely get some essays and things like that,” said Robak. “I have had a few people working on some pretty funky science equations to explain it all so it should be fun figuring those out. We are seeing a lot of different ways the teachers and students are bringing it all together and that’s what we wanted – to let that creativity shine.”

Working together with teachers, Robak has created a prize package that will help teachers out while instructing on a number of geology-related topics.

“It does kind of work in with a lot of different things they learn in their science elements, because it’s not just your rocks and minerals course.”

Robak added the specimens in the package will provide an upgrade from what most classrooms are used to working with.

“They’re used to working with specimens that are about two inches across,” said Robak. “We’re going to set them up with a piece of limestone that is about two feet across. So then everyone in the class can scratch test rather than just watching the teacher do it.”

Other fun items, like big pieces of petrified wood, ammolite, quartz, an amethyst cathedral and geodes from all over the world will also be included in the package, said Robak.

She added some of the items are also included to showcase what Alberta specifically has to offer in terms of geology.

This is the first time Robak has done the Rock My Science contest, but she said she is thinking about making it an annual event. She added that the program is currently restricted to schools in Central Alberta but may expand to include other regions of the province in the future.

Submissions for Rock My Science will be accepted until Oct. 5 and will then be on display during the Rocktober Gem and Mineral Show.

Students in any grade are welcome to participate in the contest.