How to start

Identifying Rocks

Rocks can tell you a lot about the place where you live or play — all you have to do is know what to look for.

Step 1

Head out to a forest — or step out into your backyard.

Step 2

If you’re in a forest or any kind of nature preserve, don’t take the rocks home with you unless you’ve made sure that rock collecting is allowed. Make sure you leave the rocks where you found them.

Step 3

As you hunt for rocks, think about how they look or feel. Are they grainy? If so, they might be sedimentary rocks. Do they have tiny crystals? They might be igneous rocks — or metamorphic rocks, if the crystals are in bands.

Step 4

When you get home, do some online research to learn about common rocks in your state. Did you find any that matched the descriptions? Check out this website to learn more about rocks: DK! Find Out. You can also reach out to your local State Geological Survey to find more about the geology of your area.

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Exploration Ideas

  • Explore different locations

    The rocks you find near a river might be different from the rocks you find in a forest. Try visiting a few different spots nearby and comparing the types of rocks you find. How are they different? Are there more rocks in one place than another?

  • Create a rock garden

    Gather a few rocks from a green space near you. Clear a patch in your flowerbed (you might do a little weeding while you’re at it). Arrange the rocks in the soil — create a pattern using different sizes, shapes and colors. If you like, you can add some tiny gravel or moss.

What to Bring

  • Plenty of water, even for short hikes — a gallon per person per day is a good guide
  • Snacks such as fruit or trail mix and empty bags to collect any garbage
  • Sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Lightweight rain jacket

Safety Tips

  • Be mindful of the sun. Use sunscreen, seek shade, and drink plenty of water — even in the winter.
  • Animals have their own natural food supply so please don’t feed them.
  • Fruits and mushrooms can look tasty, but some are poisonous. To be safe, do not eat anything you find growing in the forest.
  • Railroad tracks are for trains only. Keep to the side and stay off the tracks.
  • Remember to be mindful of cars when you’re in a park near a road. Wear bright colors for extra visibility.