The children spent most of the morning extracting 8, polished, stones from the chalky brick of the Smithsonian Rock and Gem Dig kit, they received for Christmas.
I can't actually tell you if the stones they unearthed are rocks, minerals, or gemstones, at least not with any confidence. Because, despite a beautiful, color poster, and a handful of scientific looking tools, such as a scratch plate, magnifying glass, and safety goggles, in addition to the excavation tools of a hammer, chisel, and brush, this kit, like the last Smithsonian science set we reviewed, is more toy than science tool.
That being said, it is a very good toy, and the children enjoyed it very much. In fact, they've already asked if we can get another one.
We've tried similar dino digs, and treasure hunt sets, that they've lost interest in after a few minutes of chiseling. But, in this case, the brick was just soft enough, and the "jewels" just pretty enough, to keep them engaged for over two hours of digging.
I would like to be able to identify the stones included, but even the enclosed poster consoles, that professional mineralogists, with proper equipment, and chemical tests, sometimes have difficulty identifying rock samples, so not to lose heart.
This is very different from the experience we had in the past with a mineral kit from The Young Scientists Club (click here, for our previous review of the club). That kit arrived with 5 mineral samples, labeled for the parent's use.
After numbering them, to keep them straight, the parent then turns them over to the children to test - streak, hardness, and content using magnets, and acids (vinegar, mainly). Everything needed was provided with the kit, except for the vinegar, a couple of grains of salt, a small bowl, a magnifying glass (which had come in a previous kit), paper, and a ruler.
The children recorded their results from each test, and used their findings to determine which mineral was which. We used our kit several years ago, but I saved the pieces, and directions, which I pulled out today, to supplement, and complete the Smithsonian kit.
So, if you're looking for a nice, boredom buster for your children, and don't mind a little dust (maybe a lot of dust), the Smithsonian Rock and Gem Dig is terrific. You'll need to provide your own eye protection. The safety glasses included are for play purposes only, but everything else, for a fun couple of hours is included.
Do be aware though, that while the wooden mallet pictured on the box is actual size...
...the gems are not. We were prepared for this fact ahead, after reading other parent reviews, and so the children were not disappointed, and were actually quite thrilled with the little stones.
But, if you're looking for an actual science kit, to teach your children about mineralogy, my suggestion is the to check out The Young Science Club. When we used the kits, it was through a mail order subscription, where a new kit came every few weeks. But, now I see the kits are also available through Amazon (listed for ages 5-12), in sets of three.
They aren't paying me for my recommendation, they simply earned it with a good product.
It's great to be a homeschooler.