Irving School's Nature and Science Club
Salt the Sandbox

 

  
Specimens from the Salted Sandbox

On September 11, 2004, the Nature Club had a booth at the South East Oak Park Renaissance Festival.  Among other things, we helped visitors dig and sift for shark teeth and other treasures and pan for gold.

If you want to learn more about the rocks, minerals, fossils, shells, and sea life we put in our salted sandbox, please click on the specimen names listed below.

If you want to learn more about the salt-the-sandbox tradition in the Fisher-Gyllenhaal family, please go here.

  

Fossil shark and ray teeth from Africa

These tan and light-brown fossilized teeth came from the phosphate mines of Morocco (a country in northwestern Africa).  They are 50 to 70 million years old.  The oldest ones came from sharks that lived during dinosaur times.

We haven't found a kid-friendly Web site about these fossil teeth, but here's an online fossil shop that has photos and information about common types of shark teeth found in Morocco:
   < http://www.megalodonteeth.com/html/moroccan.html >
This online fossil shop also has lots of photos of Moroccan shark teeth (although it's kind of hard to use):
   < http://www.buriedtreasurefossils.com/Morocco_Shark_Teeth_Catalog.htm >

In the Chicago area, you can small plastic boxes with 25 to 30 of these teeth in many museum gift shops and at Dave's Down to Earth Rock Shop in Evanston:
   < http://www.davesdowntoearthrockshop.com/ >  

You can buy Moroccan shark teeth by the pound from online fossil dealers like Sharky's Shop or on EBay.

 

Fossil shark and ray teeth from Florida 

The dark-gray and black fossils of shark and ray teeth were collected in Florida.  The most common fossils found in our gravel were sharp, slicing teeth from sharks and flat, crushing teeth from rays.  Some children also found stingray stingers, bits of bone and shell, spiral-shaped snail fossils, teeth or bones from bony fish, like barracudas or drum fish, or from alligators.  

Some of these fossils were from fish that lived during Ice Age times (from 10,000 to about 2 million years ago), and some were even older than that.  However, none are as old as the dinosaurs.

We bought the fossil-rich black pebbles from FossilWeb.com, where they are called "Paleo Pebbles."  You can buy Florida shark teeth by the pound from online fossil dealers like Sharky's Shop or on EBay.

  

Crinoid stems from Indiana  

The small, reddish, bead-like fossils are 350-million-year-old sea animals.  We collected the reddish fossils in south-central Indiana on hilltops and along the shores of Lake Monroe.  The most common reddish fossils were pieces of stem from crinoid animals:

Crinoids are sometimes called sea lilies, but they are actually animals related to sea stars.  Broken stems of crinoids look like beads.  

Here's a Web page with more information about fossil crinoids:
   < http://www.uky.edu/KGS/coal/webfossl/pages/crinoid.html >

To learn more about the reddish fossils, please go to this web page:
   < http://www.saltthesandbox.org/campfire/FossilHunt.htm >
  
   
To learn more about fossil collecting, please go to one of these websites:
http://www.saltthesandbox.org/ESCONI/#Learning  http://saltthesandbox.org/cicada_hunt/StoringCollections.htm#CollectingFossils

  
  
Shells and sea life from India

Most of he salt-the-sandbox shells and sea life are from ocean beaches in India.  They include many types of snails and bivalves (clams).  We bought them in big bags from one of these online shell shops:
   < http://www.seashellcity.com/seashells/shell_mixes.html >
   < http://www.seashellworld.com/bulkshells.htm >
   < http://www.seashellworld.com/sealife.htm >

  

Polished rocks from all over the world

The salt-the-sandbox polished rocks were collected from many different countries and then polished in large rock tumblers.  Some of the types of rocks are identified on this Web page:
   < http://www.saltthesandbox.org/rocks/namespolished.htm >

In the Chicago area, you can buy rocks like this in many museum gift shops.  The best selection of polished rocks in our area is found at Dave's Down to Earth Rock Shop in Evanston:
   < http://www.davesdowntoearthrockshop.com/ >  

We sometimes buy polished rocks by the pound at Dave's and online through EBay.  Most of the polished rocks bought for Nature Club this year came from Multistone International 
   < http://www.multistoneintl.com >

  

Copper from Michigan

The salt-the-sandbox copper came from a copper mine in northern Michigan.  It was rounded and polished up in a rock tumbler.  Go here to learn more about copper:
   < http://64.90.169.191/education/c-facts/homepage.html >

We bought the salt-the-sandbox copper at Dave's Down to Earth Rock Shop in Evanston, Illinois:
   < http://www.davesdowntoearthrockshop.com/ >  

  

Pyrite from Mexico

Pyrite is often called "fool's gold," because it looks like real gold but it's not -- it fools you.  The small salt-the-sandbox pyrite was broken off of much large chunks of pyrite crystals.

You can find lots of information about pyrite on this Web page:
   < http://mineral.galleries.com/minerals/sulfides/pyrite/pyrite.htm >

You can buy pyrite at many museum gift shops and at Dave's Down to Earth Rock Shop in Evanston, Illinois:
   < http://www.davesdowntoearthrockshop.com/ >  

  

Fluorite from Illinois

The glassy-looking, clear to purple crystals in our sandbox are broken pieces of fluorite.  Fluorite sometimes breaks naturally to make triangular crystal faces.  Go to this page to learn more about fluorite in Illinois:
   < http://www.isgs.uiuc.edu/servs/pubs/geobits-pub/geobit4/geobit4.htm >

We bought the salt-the-sandbox fluorite by the pound at a rock show sponsored by the Earth Science Club of Northern Illinois (ESCONI).  If you go the the ESCONI Juniors Web page, you can find information and links about upcoming rock, mineral, and fossil shows in the Chicago area, plus more information about buying and collecting rocks in our area:
   < http://www.saltthesandbox.org/ESCONI/#Learning >

  

Apache tears

These rounded, black lumps of glassy-looking rock are a type of obsidian that amateur rock collectors call "Apache tears."  The ones that are whitish on the outside are freshly broken from the volcanic rocks in which they formed.  The shiny black ones were polished in a rock tumbler.  Apache tears come from the mountains of the western United States.  The following link explains how Apache tears got their name:
   < http://pr.tennessee.edu/ut2kids/rocks/apaches.html >

We bought the salt-the-sandbox Apache tears by the pound at a rock show.  If you go the the ESCONI Juniors Web page, you can find information and links about upcoming rock, mineral, and fossil shows in the Chicago area, plus more information about buying and collecting rocks in our area:
   < http://www.saltthesandbox.org/ESCONI/#Learning >

 

    

Panning for Gold 

Some treasures are much too small to sift for, including real gold dust that's buried in the sand.  To find the gold, you have to pan for it -- just like prospectors have done for more than 100 years.  Nature Club members helped visitors learn how to do it.  When they were done, they found real gold dust (just like in the photo below).
 

To make it look bigger, we put the gold dust in a tiny glass jar.  

The buttery-yellow goldis mixed with: 

  • white quartz sand
  • black magnetite sand
  • maybe some bits of silvery-yellow pyrite (also called fool's gold) or copper (the color of a shiny penny).

You can learn more about gold by downloading this pamphlet from the U.S. Geological Survey (requires Adobe Acrobat, written for adults and older children):
< http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/gold/gold.pdf >

  

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Questions or comments?  E-mail Eric at NatureClub@SaltTheSandbox.org

This page was last updated on September 11, 2004