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Neighborhood Rocks                                     Search this Site

About This Website

Hi, I'm Eric Gyllenhaal, Aaron's and Ethan's Daddy.  I developed this Website for younger kids to use together with their parents.  My target audience for Neighborhood Rocks is families with kids who love rocks!  I'll know the site is a success if these families leave their computers behind and spend more time expanding, caring for -- and playing with! -- their rock collections.

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Why I created this Website

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My rules for developing this Website

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Who I am, and how my background helped me develop this site

   

Why I created this Website

My inspiration for Neighborhood Rocks came from several sources:

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Finding rocks in the neighborhood.  Everywhere we go, my kids and I look for rocks.  Because I'm a geologist, I'm able to identify many of these rocks and "read" the stories behind them.  I've long been amazed by what we've been able to find right here in our own neighborhood, despite the fact that the nearest solid bedrock is buried many feet below our home.  Now I'm get to share some of what I know.
  

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Surfing with my kids.  My kids love surfing the Web in search of the things they love -- but there aren't many rocks and mineral Websites designed especially for young kids.  This site tries to fill that gap.
  

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Reading with my kids.  My kids also love books -- and Ethan especially picture books about rocks, minerals, and gems.  These books have inspired many of the features you will find on this site.
  

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Meeting other parents.  Every once in awhile I get to talk with other parents who have kids like mine.  By using this Website as a lure, I hope to reach other parents who support their children's passionate interests in rocks, or fossils, or cars, or whatever.  If you are one of those parents, please e-mail me at Webmaster@SaltTheSandbox.org.
  

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Thinking about my parents.  My Mom died recently, and my Dad died ten years before her.  I've been thinking about the things they did to support my childhood passions, and about the ways I've grown to follow in their footsteps.  This site is dedicated to their memories.
   

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Thinking about my first mentor:  Bert Fleming.  Elberta W. Fleming started what became the Lake Erie Junior Nature and Science Center in her basement.  For more than a decade, she was my mentor as I first volunteered and then was employed at what we called "The Museum."  Bert helped shape my passions for science and collecting, and she even recommended me for my first "real" job, at the Children's Museum in Indianapolis.  As I sit here in my basement, working on my Websites, I can't help thinking about Bert!
   

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Thinking about my later mentors:  I learned from many wonderful geologists over the years.  I hope this Website does justice to at least some of what they taught me!

   

My rules for developing this Website

I don't know very much about how other parents use the Internet with their younger children, so I've based Salt the Sandbox on what seems to work for me and my kids.  Here are some rules I've been following as I develop this site:

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Tell a story.  Make it a true story, about a real person that the target audience can identify with.
  

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Tell it with photos.  Use lots of large, detailed photos, even thought they take time to download.  (In other words, make it like a children's science book!)
   

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Use words to support the photos, and not the other way around.
   

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Write to be read aloud.  That's not my natural style, so I have to work hard to get it right.  But I really want people to read my words aloud, to young children.
    

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Keep sentences short, but don't avoid all sophisticated words.  Passionate kids need a large vocabulary, so they can talk about their interests.
   

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Keep it simple, but not too simple.  Kids with passionate interests want to know the details, even if they can't always understand sophisticated ideas.
  

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Don't be afraid to go deep!  To my way of thinking, the Web was designed to satisfy people with intense interests.
    

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Connect to the real world.  Tell stories that give kids and parents ideas about things they can do in their homes and neighborhoods -- and provide background and materials that will give deeper meaning to the things they may have already done.
  

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Include activities -- especially things you can print!  My kids love to print out what they find on the computer!
    

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Help young kids surf on their own.   Both my kids want to use the computer on their own.  I've been experimenting with a simple, graphical navigation bar that will help pre-readers and early readers explore this Website on their own (but with parents reading over their shoulders and keeping them out of trouble!)
   

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Don't give advice, just share experiences.  Maybe I've read too many books and articles about parenting -- I'm just burned out on the whole concept of getting and giving advice!  I'll tell you what we did, but I don't know you, your kids, or your situation.  It's up to you decide what, if anything, you will do with what I tell you.
   

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Learn from experience.  I'm stumbling along with my Canon PowerShot S10 digital camera and Microsoft FrontPage 2000, trying new things and then trying to learn from my mistakes.  Any feedback from you would help make things better.  Again, here's my address:   Webmaster@SaltTheSandbox.org.

    

Who I am, and how my background helped me develop this site

Currently, I'm a stay-at-home Dad who works part-time as a museum consultant.  Here's some more background information:

bulletI've got lots of degrees -- including geology and paleontology.  I've got bachelor's degrees in Interpretive Work in Natural Resources and Geology, and a Ph.D. in Paleontology and Stratigraphy. 
  
bulletI'm a lifelong amateur and autodidact.  For most of my life. I have cycled through consuming passions every five years or so -- starting with reptiles and amphibians, then insects, ecology, birds, native plants, sea life, fossils, rocks and minerals, archeology, and Native American studies.  Even though I've earned degrees in some of these subjects, I still feel more like an amateur and an autodidact than anything else.  Now I get to relive my earlier passions with my kids -- and develop new ones, too!
  
bulletI've spent almost 40 years in the museum field -- which is pretty long when you consider that I'm only 50!  I started volunteering at age 11 at what was then called the Lake Erie Junior Nature and Science Center.  I've also worked at the Children's Museum in Indianapolis and the Field Museum in Chicago.  Now I consult with several different museums and zoos.  
  
bulletI've done Website evaluation and audience analysis.  My recent consulting work has included evaluations and critical reviews of educational Websites, plus analyses of the audiences who use these sites.  One reason I did this site:  I got tired of evaluating other peoples' sites, and I wanted to make my own!

   


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Copyright 2001 Eric D. Gyllenhaal                                            Search this Site
Webmaster@SaltTheSandbox.org

Neighborhood Rocks is part of the Salt the Sandbox Web. 
For more information visit the Salt the Sandbox home page.

This page was created on March 12, 2001, and it was last updated on July 27, 2002.