Friday, July 25, 2014

Pebble Pups Conserve Cripple Creek's Mineral Collection

     The Pikes Peak Pebble Pups are taking turns this year to work on the mineral collection displayed at the Cripple Creek District Museum. The museum is located in Cripple Creek, Colorado on 5th and Bennett Avenue in what was the Midland Railroad depot.

Figure 1: Ben Nemo, who is in 5th grade, spent a day at the museum
working on conserving one of Colorado’s most important
mineral collections. Photo credit: Steven Veatch.
     The mineral and rock collection is from the historic mines of the Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mining District. Gold tellurides make up the majority of the collection. Pebble pups take turns working a shift with three scientists where they learn the procedures involved with conserving and cataloging this remarkable collection. The pebble pups learn and then perform a number of steps while working at the museum. First, the specimen is imaged in a photography light tent. The specimen is then examined with a microscope. During this examination Dr. Bob Carnein describes the specimen.  A museum technician types Dr. Carnein’s description in a computer. John Rakowski, a geologist, also writes the description in a lab notebook. Next measurements (in the metric system) are taken and recorded.

Steven Marquez will be starting 8th grade. Steven measured specimens,
learned how to take photos through the microscope, and painted labels
on each specimen. Photo credit: Steven Veatch.
     The second step it to brush a strip of archival white paint on the specimen; after the paint dries an archival pen is used to write a unique catalog number directly on the paint strip. Steven Veatch, the project leader at the museum and the pebble pup leader, creates in the final step a photomicrograph—or an image with a microscope—of the specimen. The pebble pups, who range in age from 10 to 16 years old, work on all steps of the cataloging and conservation effort. The pebble pups, at the end of their work, receive a certificate of training from Kathy Reynolds, the museum director.

A microphotograph of a crystal of gold-bearing calaverite.
Photo credit: Steven Marquez. 

     The Pikes Peak Pebble Pup program (PPPP) includes students K-12 who explore the geosciences in the Pikes Peak region of Colorado. The program participates with the Future Rockhounds of America under the American Federation of Mineralogical Societies. The PPPP is composed of the youth of the Lake George Gem and Mineral Club (Teller County), and the Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society (El Paso County). A number of students from the United Kingdom participate in the program through the Internet. The goal of the program is to teach pebble pups to become rockhounds. Teen members of the group are called earth science scholars. The program focuses on communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. Communication is achieved through a blog site ( where merit badge assignments, lessons, and pebble pup written work or art work is posted. The PPPP use Facebook™ as a method of communication within the group. Collaboration is through local and regional museums, the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, the Science Olympiad, and Cool Science.
     Accomplishments of the PPPP include first place and third place awards in the National Park Service’s art contest for National Fossil Day; monthly articles published in the Ute Country News; and researched articles are published in an international magazine. Two pebble pups entered a poetry contest sponsored by the Library of Congress: one pebble pup was a finalist in the nation and received a medal from the U.S. Poet Laureate while another pebble pup won first place in Colorado. A book of collected poems on geoscience by the PPPP has been published with all of the books sold within weeks. A teen PPPP presented a paper at an Ice Age symposium last year at the Colorado School of Mines campus. Several PPPP were coauthors on papers presented at the University of Denver and the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro, New Mexico.
     The pebble pups meet monthly during the academic school year. As there are so many ways for the PPPP to express their creative energies; the retention rate is very high. The informal setting allows for a more complete understanding of geoscience due to a more focused learning environment. The informal setting also allows for more personal and meaningful interaction between the informal educator and student. Students engaged in informal education are benefited on a personal level more than they would be in a formal setting. The informal education of the PPPP has proven to be more supportive to the development and growth of a student both intellectually and emotionally compared to education in a strictly controlled, formal learning environment. For more information on the PPPP contact Steven Veatch through his email at: