Before we get started on the next leg of our Burke Museum visit, I've got to announce exciting news: we got a GINORMOUS T-rex skull! And it's a rare, nearly complete one! It'll be on display in its plaster cast through October 2nd, and then it'll be behind the scenes for cleaning until 2019, so hie thee down to the Burke ASAP to view it.

So. Things got a little explosive the last time we visited the Burke Museum, didn't they? Let's cool it down and chill with some hands-on geology. The Burke has a fantabulous section for the kids called the Discovery Room. If it's not in use, you're welcome to go handle the specimens and see if you can solve a few puzzles. You'll even get a chance to solve one in this very post!

Double image showing the children's area from the right and the left. The play area is oblong, with curving walls, cabinets, and counters. There are crescent-moon shaped tables in the middle. The counters are full of rocks.
The kids' area at the Burke Museum. Credit: Dana Hunter

Step into the well-lighted area with the adorable dinosaur clock and the tables fit for wee humans, and you'll find counters full of fascinating rocks and fossils. This leaf fossil is just lovely - look at the veins!

Image shows a tan rock with a large leaf impression.
Detail of a leaf fossil. Credit: Dana Hunter

I'm sure there's a little laminated card that tells you which plant this came from, but I was in a hurry to get to the shinier rocks. You know me. And there was this bit of basalt with a lovely crystal-filled cavity, and I just had to go drool over it.

Image shows a pyramid-shaped piece of basalt with a large, crystal-filled cavity on the top and side.
Basalt with crystal-filled vug. Credit: Dana Hunter

There are many more intriguing rocks, and a magnifier on a tripod, and little informational placards telling you all about them.

Image shows the basalt from the previous photo, along with a magnifier set in a wooden tripod, a migmatite rock, and the corner of another rock.
Basalt and friends. Credit: Dana Hunter

This is fantastic for kids (and adults who never actually grew up, not that I'd know what that's like or anything). Getting hands-on is a magnificent way to learn. And with geology, getting your hands on the rocks is pretty much the only way to learn. If you've ever tried to get a geologist to identify a rock from a photo alone, you'll know what I'm talking about.

So. Speaking of identifying rocks from photos, here's your chance to try your hand at it! This is a pretty easy one. Ready?

Image shows a laminated yellow-beige rock with a cream-colored center. It looks a lot like pastry dough that has been folded over - like a turnover. Beside it is a laminated card asking,
Is this petrified wood? Credit: Dana Hunter

Here's a close-up for your inspection. Click on any of the larger sizes to enlarge it. I know you can't touch it, so I'll describe it: it feels like flint or chert, so you know it has a lot of silica in it. The white center is a bit chalky, but doesn't come off when you rub it like chalk would. The layers all look like individual layers, but that could be the way it's weathered.

Okay, got your answer? Click on through to En Tequila Es Verdad and enter the password Reveal to find out if you're right!

Whether you were right or wrong, you got the gold. See? It's got actual gold in it!

Image shows a golden rock with large pieces of quartz. Beside it is a laminated card that says,
Gold! Well, small amounts. Credit: Dana Hunter

It's nothing we could get rich from, but it sure is pretty!

Getting back to fossils, there are some really fantastic teeth you can get your hands on. There's a mammoth, mastodon, and saber tooth!

Image shows a mammoth tooth, which is huge and black and has a crinkly surface. My hand beside it is actually smaller than it is! Beside it is a smaller black mastodon molar, and the tippy top of a saber tooth fang, which is ivory and slender but about as long as the mammoth tooth..
This tooth is literally bigger than my hand. Credit: Dana Hunter

Click here to see the full saber. You can get an idea how huge it is just from comparing it to the ginormous teeth beside it. You wouldn't ever want to get bitten by that cat!

Speaking of, here's one of those lovely felids right here.

Image shows the skeleton of a small saber-toothed cat walking on a log, snarling at the viewer.
A saber kitty! Credit: Dana Hunter

This one's a wee little thing compared to some, but you know what? I still wouldn't want to make it mad. I've suffered enough from the wrath of my house kitty's fangs (she's Bitey McBiterson, lemme tell ya). I can only imagine how it would feel to get chomped by one of these kitties!

There's a lot more neato stuff in the Discovery Room, but it's mostly in cabinets. If you've got a class full of kids, schedule a trip to the Burke Museum and reserve time in that room! They'll learn so much science and they will love it immensely.

Next: we'll shiver our way through Washington's Ice Age!