The Metamorphic Processes Group are intent on proving to the local population (and particularly the kids of SW Virginia) that geology is fascinating. Few subjects are as diverse or as societally relevant – but nobody cares about that if it's just plain boring! Virginia Tech's Museum of Geosciences does a great job of proving that the Earth certainly isn't dull, spearheading the Department's outreach initiatives by welcoming in the local community. In the academic year 2011-12, over 9,800 visitors participated in guided visits, public lectures, mineral sales and other events hosted by the museum. Outreach programming served over 2,500 K-12 students, with particular emphasis placed on providing teaching kits and materials to K-12 educators. The museum is doing great things, and we encourage you to pay us a visit.

Kids' Tech University

Kids' Tech University is a Virginia Tech initiative aimed at "creating the future workforce in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) by sparking kids' interest in these fields". Interactive sessions allow kids to meet with scientists and get excited about hands-on exhibits, demonstrations and experiments. In practice this is a good excuse to think up fun new ways of playing with science! The Metamorphic Processes Group got involved in January 2013, putting together experiments on crystal growth and on crystal structure. This followed “No bones about it: How are shells and skeletons formed from crystals?”, a session led by Dr. Dove.

Accompanied by videos of lava flows and a discussion of why crystals in some rocks are bigger than in others, Kristen and Victor led a demonstration of how crystals can be grown at home with just a few materials from around the kitchen. Over a hundred kids took home our recipe sheet and got into the game of growing their very own crystals (and learning why cooling rate matters!). At the same time, Kristie was showing how these crystals reflect a specific atomic structure, helping them to make their very own 'crystal' lattices with candy and toothpicks. It was great day, and we all had a bunch of fun (and candy). Whilst you look at the photos below, please reflect on how difficult it is to write something about crystal growth and crystal structure when two of your group are called Kristie and Kristen!

Fun at kids tech! 1. Victor looking like a scientist and preparing some crystals with the aid of a Guiness glass, some Coca Cola bottles, some other household items and his special recipe. 2-3. Kristen and Victor entertaining the masses and giving out crystal growing instructions. 4. Kristie explaining how to make crystal structures out of candy and toothpicks. 5. Where's Kristie (for bonus points, where's Esther too)?


Each year the Museum of Geosciences opens its doors for a GeoFair. This hosts a large mineral specimen sale and this year was supplemented by a bunch of exhibits explaining how and why Earth works, and what sort of things geoscientists actually do. The Metamorphic Processes Group were out in force, showing off methods of determining and characterizing gemstones, explaining optical microscopy, and even helping demonstrate how rivers evolve and meander! Oh, and we bought a lot of specimens, too.

GeoFair 2013 1. Jen demonstrating river meandering on the stream table. 2-3. Kristen explaining gemology to two interested young petrologists. 4. Hanna snaring a future group member.