Our 4 year-old boy has been a fiend for rocks since he's been old enough to pick them up. A visit to the lakeshore invariably ends with his gallon ziploc filled with non-descript nuggets. On vacation in Vermont, we visited a granite quarry: he completely ignored the multi-ton slabs being lifted on cables from thousands of feet below, and spent his time examining the exotic (to him) crushed granite parking lot. In fact parking lot gravel and landscaping pebbles have always been his focus. They're just the right size for putting into pockets.
Pockets full of rocks make their way home from daycare with defeating regularity. Though this tailed off briefly with the beginning of K4, it soon ramped up again with his discovery of a magical word. "FOSSIL". He didn't really know what it meant, despite my best efforts, but every piece of gravel brought home had to be examined for "fossils". Every void, every nodule in a piece of gravel was evidence that this piece, too, was one of the magical items.
When I picked the boy up today, heinformed me that he'd found a fossil today. I envisioned another hour spent staring at fists full of gravel. But today, I got a surprise! Today, the boy actually found a fossil in the gravel! It's a horn-shaped rock about an inch long with some grooves along the sides. A little web-searching identified it as a fossilized horn coral. That a web pic of horn coral fossils at right. TheBoy's looks a lot like the one in the top left corner. How cool is that?
The best part is that I'd never heard of horn coral before, so I got to learn something new today, too! According to wiki, these little guys lived in the seas that blanketed this area 250 to 350 million years ago. They would have been attached to a solid surface at the small end with, possibly, a ring of poisoned tentacles surrounding the wide end. Poisoned tentacles score double points for K4 kids (and middle aged geeks, too), FYI. Now that I know what they are, I'm sure I'll be seeing them everywhere... and all thanks to my little rock hound!