TCD’s Geology Department issues 60,000 Rock Samples as a Teaching Resource to Every School in Ireland

Posted on: 21 February 2008

Trinity College Dublin’s Department of Geology has put together sets of Six Common Kinds of Rock from Ireland and distributed them, free of charge, to nearly 5,000 schools in the country – primary and secondary, North and South. Over 60,000 rock samples (10 tons) have been distributed which is the equivalent of two skip fulls of rock.

The initiative which aims to encourage the study of rocks in schools through hands-on experience was co-ordinated by Dr Ian Sanders and his students at the Department of Geology. “It is hoped that this resource will inspire teachers and children alike to explore and understand the workings of the planet, especially in an era of fast depleting natural resources and an impending energy crisis,” commented Dr Ian Sanders.

“This project is Trinity College ‘s main contribution to the UN designated International Year of Planet Earth. It is an excellent example of our outreach mission in action. Every school in Ireland will benefit from this valuable teaching resource,” stated TCD Provost, Dr John Hegarty.

Each rock set contains at least two pieces each of six different kinds of rock (sandstone, mudstone, limestone, basalt, granite, and schist) which have been dabbed with a spot of coloured paint to help in their identification.

An accompanying booklet, authored by Dr Ian Sanders, explains their origin, and how they relate to Ireland ‘s geological past. The booklet was written with teachers at all levels in mind, whether they are teaching Leaving Certificate geography classes, or talking about rocks to junior infants. The text and diagrams were edited by teachers with no science background, to ensure that ideas are explained in everyday language.

The project began in 2005 when a core component of geology was included for the first time in the new Leaving Certificate syllabus in geography. This change led to an urgent need to assist teachers who had few practical resources. At that time about 800 sets were sent to secondary schools in the Republic. Subsequently, a strong interest in rock sets came from the Primary Curriculum Support Programme in the South, and from many teachers in the North. This interest led to the ambitious goal of expanding the project five-fold to reach every school in Ireland . This goal has now been achieved.

From the outset, the project has received positive encouragement from the Geoscience Committee of the Royal Irish Academy . The 2005 phase of the project was funded by Whelan’s Limestone Quarries Ltd. The current expanded phase of the project is funded by a Griffith Award (funded by the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources through the Geological Survey of Ireland) and Tullow Oil.

Six Common Kinds of Rock from Ireland was officially launched on Thursday 21st February at Trinity College Dublin, by Eamon Ryan TD, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.