Background and Philosophy
The Science Education Center of California has a large repository of fossils, minerals, science supplies and curriculum books available for sale to teachers and schools. While some of the finest natural history items are on display in the mineral fossil and gems section, there are many additional items (quite inexpensive) that are available for use as teaching tools.
The science Education Center of California features over 1,000 cut and polished slabs (500 pairs) of very well preserved fossilized ammonites. Most of the ammonites have a complete outer shell, and show in great detail each of the chambers that the living creature has occupied. Many of the chambers have hollow portions filled with calcite crystals (yellow) and iron rich impurities (red). Each ammonite is unique in its spiral detail, extent of chamber preservation, and mineral contaminants that are responsible for the vivid yellow and red colors.
Hands on Math and Science Using Fossilized Ammonites -- The spiral chambers of the ammonite are ideal for introducing counting and area related math problems for elementary school children. The teacher can do the following to help introduce various math concepts:
Each child (or group) will be handed a 100-million year-old ammonite slice to study. They will be asked to determine the number of chambers in the ammonite. They will then draw the growing pattern of the spiral by placing the ammonite on a piece of paper and continuing the pattern of the ammonite on paper after the actual ammonite spiral has ended. The class will find the area of the ammonite and determine the area of the ammonite for 10 chambers, 20 chambers, etc. and plot chamber quantity Vs area on graph paper. This will help illustrate whether the pattern of growth is linear or non-linear.
Ammonite Fossil Prices -- Our smallest ammonites available (most economical in price) are about ½ inch to ¾ inches across and are currently priced at $2/slice. Larger sizes are available and are priced at around 10 cents a gram, or around $100/kilogram. Based on these prices, museum quality items (as nice as those pictured in textbooks and several inches in diameter) can be purchased for around $30 - $75 dollars per slice. Occasionally we will have even larger ones (well crystallized and almost a foot in diameter with spectacular colors) for around $200 per slice. The largest ones are used in the science museum on wheels presentations and are occasionally sold as we obtain duplicate material.
Petrified Wood -- The Krawitz Collection of Petrified Wood features over 4,000 pounds of perfectly preserved petrified tree stumps. Most of the tree stumps have complete fossilized bark around the entire perimeter of the tree, and show in minute detail their growth rings, central tree core, and exterior fossilized bark.
These petrified tree stumps were discovered many years ago on private land to the south of route 180 and a few miles south of what is now the Petrified Forest National Park. The petrified wood ranges in size from a few pounds to about 1,000 pounds.
Prices: With the exception of three petrified trees, all tree stumps are priced at $3 per pound.
Color: Mineral impurities (especially iron) are responsible for the attractive colors (purple and red) and interesting patterns.
Quality and availability: The petrified stumps at the Science Education Center of California are almost exclusively museum quality and are available to the general public in their raw uncut state. This is not the common practice with museum quality material. The finest quality petrified wood is usually transformed into slabs, bookends, spheres and a variety of other products.
Museum quality: Many of the museum quality minerals available for sale are on display in the mineral fossil and gem section. There are also some items in the collection that are not listed on the website. A few of these are in the permanent collection at the Science Education Center and are not for sale. The rest of the items are available for sale and have not yet been posted on the web site.
Minerals for the budget conscious: The Science Education Center of California also has a number of common minerals with educational value for less than $20 dollars. While these specimens are not museum size or quality, they still will get the job done when the earth science unit comes around the corner. We have a large variety of crystallized minerals, ores, metallic minerals and native elements that can be used to fulfill the needs of an earth science unit.
Fluorescent minerals: The Science Education Center of California has over 2,000 pounds of fluorescent minerals composed mainly of willemite (fluorescent green) and calcite (fluorescent red). Many of the specimens contain rare and colorful minerals such as zincite and the typical black franklinite.
Magnets and iron filings: Our standard classroom ceramic magnets (2 inches long; 1 inch wide and .5 inches thick) are two dollars each and come with sufficient quantities of iron filings to do an assortment of activities and labs. These magnets are quite strong and can hold up to about 20 pounds of material.
Magnetic field activities: In this laboratory activity, students will be given a magnet, dry-wipe board and a pile of iron filings. After placing the magnet under the dry-wipe board, and sprinkling iron filings over the board’s surface, students will discover that there is indeed regularity and patterns in the natural world. The iron filings will trace out the otherwise invisible magnetic field that emanates from the magnets.
The magnetic field activities are designed to demonstrate how we can use indirect observation to understand one of the large forces in nature; namely magnetism. By changing the orientation of the magnet under the wipe board and adding additional magnets, the magnetic field will change in appearance. Sketches will be made of the magnetic field generated from the strong ceramic magnets placed beneath the dry-wipe boards. These sketches will be compared for their similarities both within and between lab groups.
This laboratory is also great fun (especially the younger students) and can be combined with a magnetic separation laboratory discussed below.
The Science Education center has custom-made melamine marker boards that are ideal for individual or group based classroom use. The 20” by 15” boards are priced at $3 each. These prices are only available for existing inventory and for purchases made at the Science Education Center in Orange.
Custom made magnets
We have purchased some very strong ceramic magnets and have sandwiched several of them between steel plates. The resulting magnetic field is sufficiently strong to lift objects weighing several hundred pounds. Our largest magnets are over 50 pounds and have phenomenal lifting capability. We advise that large magnets be handled with care and kept away from computers, watches, disks and other equipment that may be damaged in the presence of a strong magnetic field.
Over the years, the director of the Science Education Center of California has developed a number of hands on laboratory activities for students in the elementary and middle school levels. Many of these labs can be done with a minimum amount of supplies on standard classroom desks. A few of the laboratory activities are best preformed outside and some labs require goggles. The 60-page laboratory books cost us about 10 dollars to make. Since the mission of the Science Education Center is educationally oriented, we would like to provide the greatest access to educational materials for as many educators and parents as possible. In order to fulfill this mission, our selling price (for those purchasing the books in person at the Science Education Center) has been set at $10. For teachers and parents on a tight budget, any laboratory book purchased can be used and returned to the Science Education Center of California in person for a $10 dollar refund. This free access policy is designed to maximize the dissemination of knowledge to schools and households regardless of ones financial condition.
The Science Education Center laboratory books contain the following labs and activities:
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